Oper8 Global delivers data centre expertise-as-a-service

Oper8 Global delivers data centre expertise-as-a-service

Mike Andrea, CEO of Oper8 Global, talks data centre management, IoT, security, and edge, delivered as-a-service through collaborative win-win partnerships.

The global data centre and IT infrastructure landscape has changed radically over the past 10 years, and Oper8 Global has changed with it. Oper8 Global is the result of shifting customer demand in the face of an evolving data centre market, and since its foundation in 2012, has developed a unique value proposition, range of capabilities, and attitude towards its partner ecosystem that are driving its rapid global expansion. 

“Oper8 Global's core go-to-market model centres on helping organisations operate their IT assets,” explains Mike Andrea, co-founder and CEO of Oper8 Global. “We don't mind if those assets are fully online in the public cloud, in a hybrid cloud model, a private cloud model, or fully on-prem; it's about helping the customer right-size their needs, rather than have them be dictated to by whatever trend is hottest in the market at that moment.” 

I sat down with Andrea to explore the genesis of Oper8 Global and dig down into the unique value proposition and core competencies propelling the Brisbane-founded data centre services firm towards a truly globalised platform with cutting edge offerings. “We're looking at 200% growth in revenue over the next 12 months. We're looking at hiring substantially over that time, and we see ourselves bringing some great new products into the market as well,” adds Andrea. In order to trace that stellar growth trajectory, it’s important to take a better look at the company’s roots, and the series of events that led to its inception. 


Unpacking the Pedigree 

In 2004, Andrea and his business partner Chris Goldstone founded Strategic Directions, a business management consulting firm with a focus on IT. Then, around 2010, Andrea recalls that the demands of Strategic Directions’ customers changed. “Strategic Directions would help with our customers' IT strategy, vendor management model, telecommunications strategy, as well as what was becoming at that time an industry-wide shift towards cloud and various as-a-service models,” he recalls. Within the space of a single week, Andrea continues, he was approached by two completely independent customers asking for Strategic Directions to manage their IT infrastructure. “We really weren't set up to be an IT management firm, so originally we told those customers 'no' and that IT management wasn't something we were interested in doing, and said we'd help them find someone who could do that,” says Andrea. “Those customers - again, independently of one another - told us that 'no, you don't understand; if you can't do it then we'll find someone else who can do both'." 

Initially, Andrea and Goldstone tried to incorporate an element of IT management-as-a-service into Strategic Directions’ capabilities. However, Andrea explains, “we found that it really began to confuse our market and existing customers about what Strategic Directions was doing.” As a result, Goldstone and Andrea made the decision in 2012 to spin out the management-as-a-service arm of Strategic Directions into Oper8, an independent firm focused on operational management of IT. “You've also got to keep in mind that Strategic Directions already had a pretty good pedigree when it came to data centre management, project management, and IT operational strategy,” says Andrea, who adds that “We brought a lot of those capabilities across to Oper8, and the business ended up focusing on data centre management, security, IoT, and the edge.” 

Today, those initial competencies developed within Strategic Directions form the backbone of Oper8 Global’s offerings. However, expertise in data centre management, security, IoT, and edge infrastructure aren’t the only thing carried over into Oper8’s operating model. Andrea explains that the company’s consultancy heritage also plays a key role in Oper8 Global’s unique approach to partnerships and service mixing. As a result, “Oper8 Global takes a very direct and meaningful approach to working with our partners,” he explains, adding that “We don't hide from our customers that we're actively working with our key partners to facilitate the right solution for them. Part of that process is that we act as the coordinator to help the customer get the right blend of services from each of our key partners to make the overall outcome much more valuable than if they were to just pick and choose different pieces on an ad hoc basis.” 

Think of it like eating tapas as opposed to a steak and a pile of sides; there’s an emphasis on egalitarianism, collaboration, and facilitation within Oper8 Global’s ecosystem that feels refreshingly customer-focused. “We don't get precious about who's leading any one discussion with a customer,” says Andrea. “True partnership is win-win, and we don't mind who leads those partnerships.” And it sounds like Oper8’s customers and partners appreciate the approach. 


An Inverted Approach to Two Markets 

Oper8 was born out of Australia, which is where the firm still does a significant portion of its business. However, in addition to growing into new markets throughout APAC, Oper8 really went global in 2019, when the company expanded into the UK in order to better target EMEA. 

Andrea explains that “The APAC market right now is very focused on cybersecurity and helping organisations pick the right mix of operational platforms such as hardware security modules.”  That cybersecurity focus, he notes, is the driving force behind Oper8 Global’s new wave of products, including PayG8, NetG8, DataM8, and SafeG8 that it’s currently bringing to market.

The EMEA market, on the other hand, is a very different beast, where Andrea is seeing “a huge focus in Europe in modular and micro data centres and high performance computing” (HPC). It’s an interesting inversion between the two regions, with APAC focusing “firmly on the security and cybersecurity market” (although Andrea notes that data centre and micro modular facilities are more of a secondary consideration, as opposed to ignored entirely), and EMEA “very much focused on data centre projects with security as a supporting element with respect to how to help our customers right-size and facilitate their product mix.” However, even though Oper8’s two main markets have their priorities reversed, Andrea stresses that “it's the blended coordination between data centres and security that's really the driving factor for our operations in both of those markets for us at this stage.” 


PayG8: Keeping IT Simple and Secure 

Oper8 Global’s core competencies, data centres, IoT, and edge, are all underpinned by a wealth of security expertise. This dedication to keeping customers safer with simplified, turnkey security solutions is reflected in Oper8 Global’s turnkey HSM solution PayG8, which it developed and delivers in collaboration with Thales and Equinix. 

Oper8 Global delivers the Thales payShield Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) through the payG8 Service across the Equinix global data centre environment. 

“The heart of this product is picking the right partners that let us go to market with the right blend of capabilities and services. Our PayG8 service incorporates the capabilities of three companies, Oper8 Global, Thales, and Equinix, but we also have a monitoring capability in there that's fairly unique. We're using RF Code's technology to do real-time asset tracking and rack monitoring within the Pay8G service model,” explains Andrea. “So, we're taking advantage of an existing key partner's technology as part of our service mix to create PayG8, which is really focused around payment hardware security modules as-a-service. The heart of what we do is blending different complementary technologies and services from within our four key competencies in order to complement a business model that makes sense for a customer.” 


Filling in the Gaps 

Oper8 Global also maintains a heavy focus on R&D, and the products it designs aim to support the seamless cooperation of its partners’ products and services. “The approach we take to R&D very much centres on filling gaps. We don't have to be the best at a whole thing, just at filling in the gaps for a customer,” says Andrea. 

That ethos was the driving force behind the creation of Oper8’s SafeG8 solution, a rack-mounted safe aimed at improving the protections surrounding physical encryption keys and smart cards required to operate and manage hardware security modules. “We looked around the market and couldn't see anything that fits our needs when it comes to this kind of solution, so we're developing it ourselves,” Andrea explains. 

He continues: “It's a similar story with DataM8. We've seen an issue with cloud backup, and we're working very closely with Dell and Equinix in terms of how we can bring that product to market as a cloud-adjacent backup strategy that allows organisations to be more cyber secure in terms of how they can recover after a disruption.” DataM8, like the rest of Oper8’s product line, has been designed from the ground up to be delivered as a service. Andrea explains that the R&D team has taken great pains to adhere to this mandate, as an as-a-service model “allows an organisation to stay within the monthly subscription based model they're already using, but augment their backup and security without having to switch to a new, high-capex commercial model.” 


The Future is Collaborative, Innovative, and Delivered As-A-Service 

Reflecting on the past, as well as Oper8’s plans for the future, Andrea stresses the fact that “A lot of what we do couldn't be done without our key partners. When we find a partner who wants to really work with us towards a win-win outcome for our customers, it's fantastic, and we've been really lucky to build several of those relationships with key partners like Equinix, Thales, RF Code, enLogic, and Chatsworth. Those organisations work alongside Oper8, they communicate clearly and listen to what we need with respect to our product design and deployment in a very global sense, which means that we can replicate the same model, the same product set, and the same experience for our customers wherever they are.” 

The future of Oper8’s business model, Andrea continues, is firmly rooted in HPC and security. Over the coming year, he explains that Oper8 will continue to focus on the rollouts of its PayG8, NetG8, DataM8, and SafeG8 solutions, continuing to work with its key partners to design, build, and deploy these as-a-service solutions. “We've got new partners that we're starting discussions with right now surrounding new products that help us branch into new areas with respect to the healthcare marketspace,” he adds. “We see ourselves bringing some great new products into the market as well - particularly with regard to DataM8 and solving some of the technical challenges that arise with cloud to off-cloud backup and retrieval, as well as backup and restoration.” 

Lastly, Andrea explains that Oper8 Global is also looking at a number of acquisitions in order to further advance the company’s growth trajectory between now and the end of 2022. He adds that the process “is very much aligned to picking organisations that can enhance our capabilities across our four key areas of focus, and any acquisitions that we're looking at are going to be complementary to existing areas of the business. We've got a few things earmarked already and we very much see strategic acquisitions as part of our growth strategy over the next 12 to 18 months.