1. Please can you provide some background on the company’s history and successes to date?
Zenith Infotech Europe is the European division of the international group Zenith Infotech Ltd. The European headquarters are based in Belgium and is focused on providing standardized and scalable managed IT services via a reseller channel. The service is oriented exclusively to the SME segment.
Managed services and support operations are offered through the network operations center in Mumbai, India, where about 700 people support the global customer portfolio.
The services include backup and business continuity solutions for SMEs, Monitoring and Management services for desktops and servers, and more recently the management of an overall SME IT environment via SmartStyle Office, an innovative cloud computing solution for infrastructure provisioning. We work with a community of 5000 resellers who use our products and services to manage over 60.000 sites.
For more information, please visit http://www.zenithinfotech.eu
2. What are ZI’s USPs in the managed services market?
- Very price sensitive to the SME budget.
- Focused on small and medium business
- Channel centric sales model
- Fully owned and proprietary technology
- Fully owned network operations centre in Mumbai, India
3. And, more specifically, the BC/DR sector?
- The economies of scale offered by our NOC and fully owned technologies give us one of the lowest priced BC/DR solutions in the marketplace.
- 15 minutes data & server recovery
- Off the shelf, hardware-software-services packages
- Unique node architecture allowing to “grow with the customer”
- Integration possibilities with private cloud platform
4. How has/will the virtual world change the BC/DR approach for managed services?
- Offsite storage over IP networks is now seen as normal with the arrival of low cost and highly reliable broadband. More critical and archive data will be offloaded to data centers.
- More desktop and server functionality will run on virtual clients.
- More flexibility in how and where BC/DR as machines can be deployed without requiring modifications to business processes. This flexibility will lead to much higher RTOs and RPOs than have been possible in the past.
5. And what impact will The Cloud have – more than just managed services – and how does ZI fit in?
- The Cloud offers scalability and availability as well as removing the dependency on local hardware
- ZI has developed a full hybrid cloud solution that connects both on-site private cloud platforms with data centre operated public cloud environments for primary production or off-site storage.
- Many vendors are looking at selling direct to the end user but we feel that a white-label offering that can be packaged by channel with our centralised management is a better option.
6. Why are Cloud and managed services successful now, when they failed in the early 2000s?
- Application Service Providers were arriving at a time when broadband infrastructure was still immature and many applications were not written to take advantage of emerging technology such as virtualisation.
- However, I do not agree that managed services failed in 2000s. If you look at server hosting, managed firewalls, managed antivirus and spam protection – these are all areas that have grown steadily since 2000.
- We developed our own Managed Services business in the 2000s to the level where 60.000 sites are currently managed by 5.000 IT resellers. We were not alone, firms like RackSpace is another example of a very big and successful managed service provider that has been operating since 2000s.
- A number of cloud vendors Google and SalesForce have proven successful at attracting customers to generate profitable business models. The complexity of today’s infrastructure has lead to a willingness amongst customers to simplify their entire infrastructure, which is generating constant demand. Worries over capital investment and integration pains however block customers from switching overnight, and the channel still has to provide answers as to their added value in this new era. This exercise will lead to a clear consolidation in the SMB channel market, but will also allow for a faster acceleration of developed service platforms.
7. Do you think that end users are comfortable with the direction that virtualisation and The Cloud is taking them?
- Yes. As long as the security and reliability concerns are being addressed!
- In the SMB segments, customers will fall back on a recommendation from their trusted, local service provider.
8. Do you have any thoughts on how the Public/Private/Community/Hybrid cloud landscape will develop over time?
- Different market sectors will gravitate towards different cloud platforms depending on factors like cost, availability, security and specialisation. The distribution of all types of clouds will grow over the coming years and channels will form to help bring these different schemas to market.
- We see the most potential for growth moving from Private to Hybrid to Public
9. What services does ZI offer right now?
- Backup and business continuity for new and existing IT infrastructure
- High availability and scalable IT infrastructure capacity
- Managed Services of existing IT infrastructure
10. Please give details of the most recent offerings
- SmartStyle Office: SmartStyle Office (SSO) is an on-premise, private cloud solution, which includes all the hardware, software and virtualization hypervisor to run both servers and desktops. With inherent business continuity and expandable node-based architecture, SSO can virtualize a couple of desktops, a server or two, or the entire office. With SmartStyle Office as your business grows you can continue to add resources and expand to your virtualized desktops and servers.
- SmartStyle MirrorCloud is an add-on technology to the SmartStyle Computing platform, which allows to provide business continuity and data restoration functionalities for existing physical or virtual Windows servers or desktops. MirrorCloud is a lightweight software agent, which when installed on a Windows server or desktop, mirrors the contents of the Windows machine to a SmartStyle on a near real-time basis. Both SmartStyle MirrorCloud and SmartStyle office can replicate to remote datacenter services.
11. And what can we exepct from ZI in 2011?
- Our focus for 2011 will be to formally launch SmartStyle Office and Mirror cloud through our channel. Both products have just reached general availability for our channel partners and our first customers will be announced over the next few months.
12. Is it fair to say that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are becoming more crucial in the cloud/managed services world?
- Yes, but the question is who owns the SLA… The channel reseller or the vendor? This is a thorny question and both sides need to be realistic and honest about what exactly a service can provide and what the value add from the channel needs provide. To deliver on the SLA, a clear responsibility split between vendor and reseller is crucial.
- At the moment, the SMB needs to be shown more transparency in what a cloud offering really means in terms of service, responsiveness to issues, contract terms, onboarding and eventual offboarding. As the market matures, this will lead to discussions around providing higher/lower SLAs versus higher/lower service pricing.
13. How does ZI work with any partners?
- Partner intimacy is crucial. We have focused on extending our business development and support organisation to encompass our entire channel. We cannot dictate to our channel in such a highly competitive marketplace, we need to have cooperation for mutual benefit rather than an old-fashioned vendor-partner relationship.
14. And what about the company’s relationship with the Channel?
- We have matured over the last year and our efforts are clearly appreciated in the Channel. In the last 12 months, we have doubled both our revenue and number of active partners.
15. What markets and regions are strong for ZI, and which are the areas you’d like to grow?
- Our current strongest markets are Belgium, UK, Netherlands
- We are growing quickest in the UK & Netherlands
- Our next big target is Germany & the Nordics
16. Can you provide a couple of recent customer success stories?
- See http://zenithinfotech.eu/nl-be/Partners_section_zie/Partners_zie.aspx and http://zenithinfotech.eu/nl-be/Partners_section_zie/Testimonials_zie.aspx
17. What advice would you give to someone looking at managed services and The Cloud right now?
- Start now before your customers find somebody else to help them! The startup costs are reactively small so explore the opportunity and find out about the technology. There are many different business models so you need to look at different ways of selling and generating revenue.
18. How do you see the managed services and cloud services market developing in 2011?
- Early adopters are exploring the opportunity, but it’ll take a few years before critical mass is reached. I’d estimate 5 years.
19. Any other comments?
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