Global staffing brings network problems, says Silver Peak CTO

Each week we ask high-profile technology decision-makers three questions.

This week it is David Hughes, chief technology officer (CTO) of Silver Peak Systems.

Image caption David Hughes feels we've yet to see where virtualisation might ultimately lead

Silver Peak develops network appliances that maximise WAN (Wide Area Network) performance. The company's NX devices help with backup, replication and recovery of data between data centres, and help businesses to rapidly move large amounts of data across long distances.

Their WAN optimisation platform is used by businesses around the world to help with big IT projects, including data centre consolidation, data migration, disaster recovery, server centralisation, and global application/desktop virtualisation.

Founded in 2004, Silver Peak is privately held and headquartered in Santa Clara, California.

What's your biggest technology problem right now?

I think one of the biggest technology problems we see is customer's networks becoming more and more distributed - because their people are based in more and more places.

At the same time, to save money they are trying to centralise their IT.

So they have servers, and fewer and fewer data centres. This means that users are further away from the data and the applications that they run. So there's a lot of problems with making these distributed networks work well.

People also need to make sure that their data's protected from a disaster recovery point of view.

If you put it all in one place that's a lot of data to lose. You need to copy that to another place.

Essentially at Silver Peak, we're helping people address that problem of data movement.

So a lot of people think that if you have a network, or if you're on the internet then the data problem is solved. But there are a lot of problems with moving data very consistently or reliably every day.

If you're trying to back something up, or replicate something reliably, you can't have any time where you can't get that data moved.

If you've got people in working in a remote location, if they can't access the network they can't get their jobs done. What we do is help people move vast amounts of data very consistently from A to B.

What's the next big tech thing in your industry?

For this one I pick virtualisation.

A lot of people talk about it, and it's been a buzzword for a while, but I think we're just at the beginning of what virtualisation can do to help companies build more efficient infrastructure.

Virtualisation is used in a number of different ways. It's used at the server level in a data centre so that people can adjust how servers are used by different applications.

It's also been used on the desktop, so that people have virtualised desktops, and it makes them much easier to manage and provide a consistent service to the end users.

In Silver Peak's own area, there's been a big rise in the idea of using virtual appliances.

Traditionally we've sold physical appliances, physical machines that are used in data centres and get connected by wires. With virtual appliances we can install as software on almost any hardware. This opens up a lot of interesting opportunities in terms of where and how our technology can be used.

What's the biggest technology mistake you've ever made - either at work or in your own life?

Back in the early 1990's I was involved with an exciting new technology called ATM, which stands for Asynchronous Transfer Mode [a switching technique for telecommunication networks]. This was supposed to be how the whole world was networked.

Around about 1994 the web browser came along. The internet had been chugging along fine but it began to really take off.

I stuck with ATM and continued to work with ATM standards, and ATM switches and so on for another eight years before I finally realised that the internet had really taken over everything.

Although it was a lot of fun, and there were plenty of people who wanted to buy ATM equipment, I was a little bit slower in realising how drastically and dramatically things were changing.

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