Interview with Rob Coupland, Chief Executive Officer of Pulsant
When you need to process your company’s data rapidly and cost-effectively, proximity to the edge can bring significant gains. Rob Coupland, CEO of Pulsant, explains why.
It’s a pleasure to speak with you, Mr Coupland! You joined Pulsant as CEO in 2019, just when the whole world shifted upon itself. How has your role evolved since then?
It’s great to be speaking with you too! The year 2019 was an interesting time for any CEO to join an organisation. Not long after my appointment, the pandemic forced huge changes on everyone and prompted UK businesses to adapt their whole way of working.
There wasn’t a playbook on how to manage it, so it was all about listening and learning as we went along. For me, it reinforced my belief that people matter. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people to get the best perspectives on how to manage your business and clients through these crises. Communication became the priority; we set up a regular Thursday all-hands call to answer questions and manage everyone’s concerns when we didn’t necessarily have all the answers ourselves. But that honesty was important to me, as we battled the unknown together. It created a real sense of unity and we’ve kept that open house ever since. I’m proud of how we worked through the pandemic, without needing to furlough anyone and creating a sense of team spirit that’s driving us on to bigger and better things. People respect honesty and will work with you if you give them that.
As a CEO, I have to focus on the numbers and business success, but equally important to me is ensuring that our business offers our team a vision to buy into that can fuel their own professional goals and give them the opportunities to develop and grow.
Pulsant is the UK’s hybrid cloud specialist, providing trusted cloud, colocation, and networking services to help businesses reach their digital goals. Can you talk about the company’s realignment and what you’re trying to accomplish?
Pulsant has a strong heritage in the technology sector. When I joined, I realised that we had a real opportunity to thrive in the edge infrastructure space. We already had a lot of technology in place, so over the last three years we have refocused our priorities and have been making big investments in our core portfolio to really bring it in line with that strategic vision.
We started by developing our national network backbone to connect our regional sites across the UK, followed by investing in our core technology platform to create the network fabric to power application delivery, and we have delivered that with platformEDGE. I believe this focus has positioned Pulsant at the forefront of IT infrastructure innovation today. We know the market, we have focused on our strengths, and we have a unique offering that those looking to drive digital innovation can rely on. There are huge untapped opportunities around the region of the UK and the time is right to enable them to profit from the latest infrastructure to foster regional growth and regeneration. So, we have 12 data centres around the UK, which are ideally located to bring these services out to where the businesses are, and it is that combination of heritage and technology that, I believe, positions Pulsant as the partner of choice for local, regional, and national organisations looking to deploy edge solutions today. It’s taken a lot of effort, but we are now at the point where our portfolio can deliver that edge-ready infrastructure that those businesses are crying out for.
For people who may not be familiar with the concept, can you tell us what edge computing is all about? How does it compare to the cloud?
Edge computing is a game-changer, as it enables devices to compute, process, and analyse data closer to the point of use, which improves response times and reduces costs. Think about the smart city as an example. There is enormous potential to improve the way services are delivered to citizens by using edge computing. From remote healthcare to smart parking, digitising the infrastructure of a city means hard-pressed services can achieve more with less. The rising demand for real-time access to content will involve a lot of IoT devices and AI-powered compute, which will generate large quantities of data. It’s far quicker and more cost-efficient to process this data at the edge, in the city where it’s created, rather than routing every piece of data back to centralised servers far from the point of use, as we do today.
Pulsant’s platformEDGE gives them the power to do that by taking infrastructure closer to the user. And we’ve invested heavily, so that regional businesses can consume what they need, when they need it, where they need it, locally, nationally, and even internationally via our network. Let’s be clear, the world has evolved and businesses are looking for more flexible technology solutions. Our platform offers just that. A few years ago, businesses moved from their on-premise solutions to cloud, but didn’t think so much about the location of the service. Edge is distributing the cloud back towards the geographies to be hosted nearer the user. It’s a different manifestation of cloud to meet the changing needs of the market; there is no one-size-fits-all approach any more.
Many CEOs may hesitate to steer their organisations towards edge computing out of fear or lack of understanding. They may fear that it is all hype or is too costly or complex for their organisation at a time when top-level IT talent is hard to come by.
CEOs are generally looking to grow their businesses profitably. As a CEO, that’s what I’m trying to do as well. Many businesses are now finding that past overcommitment to hyper-scale cloud usage has consumed far more of their budgets than they expected, increased their staffing costs, and reduced their ability to innovate quickly. By using an edge platform that delivers access to diverse connectivity, compute, and storage, alongside a wider ecosystem of partners, businesses can access the services, technology, and talent they need in order to grow. As we focus on finding ways to drive new economic growth in the UK, technology is key to enabling the brightest businesses across the connected digital economy.
So, I think CEOs will start to overlook the hype and see there is new revenue to be found at the edge, and the opportunity is there to manage down costs whilst improving client experiences. My vision for Pulsant is to help them achieve this.
Pulsant brings the advances of edge computing within reach of 95 per cent of the UK population. How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
We are already seeing the reality of edge on the UK high street. From autonomous vehicles for smart transport in Edinburgh, to gaming in Newcastle, media companies in Manchester, and logistics companies in Milton Keynes, digital strategies are gaining momentum and already delivering technology innovation across the UK.
I believe that the use of regional data centres will continue to grow in line with the rise in data volumes fuelled by these opportunities. We are moving away from a “cloud only” approach to digital transformation, into a more balanced approach, placing the right workload in the right location. An edge platform that has colocation, alongside access to multiple cloud and network services, can help orchestrate workloads to achieve maximum efficiency and retain control over costs.
My vision to help UK businesses develop, produce, and distribute new services and applications lies in fostering regional ecosystems, to support wider business collaboration and help improve the commercial agility of our clients and partners. By maximising connections between businesses, service providers, and suppliers, we can support faster, more efficient and secure development of new applications and services to drive regional regeneration. Our data centres are well positioned to foster those ecosystems that will make accelerating future technology innovation possible.
Pulsant currently has 12 UK data centres stretching from London to Scotland, which makes you the UK’s largest and only truly nationwide edge colocation services provider. Do you have plans to expand soon?
Yes. We are always looking at future opportunities to expand our network. To date, we have invested more than £100 million in building our edge infrastructure platform, acquiring additional data centres, and implementing high-speed resilient connectivity and building our own IaaS platform to take compute and storage out to the edge. It is clear that regional infrastructure requirements will continue to expand; a ResearchAndMarkets report last year indicated that regional data centres outside the M25 and Slough are adding 20,000 m2 annually. The report predicted that overall data centre revenue will grow by 36 per cent up to 2025. We intend to keep pace with that regional demand, giving organisations a new level of flexibility to prosper in this new data-driven economy.
Ongoing investment is key in order to ensure that we continue to serve the needs of innovative new start-ups, scale-ups, and local authorities as, ultimately, edge is all about locality. We are a local business ourselves and the client businesses we serve are mostly local to that region, so we feel that connection to those local communities and economies. We took the decision a few years ago to relocate our service centre to the North East in order to take advantage of the great skills available there. Edinburgh is the connectivity hub of the north and Manchester is our fastest-growing market, so there is a lot of the UK outside of London and the South East where we can see growth potential in the future.
As the CEO of Pulsant, what are your three biggest priorities next year?
My strategic goal remains unchanged as we work to build our business as an edge market leader in the UK. We will continue our investment in infrastructure to extend our national distribution network, alongside continuing to expand our partner ecosystem.
People are a priority. I feel confident that we have the right people and technology in place now to deliver on our strategy. With our edge ambitions, we have a pathway for growth that our people can benefit from. I believe in nurturing talent and giving people the opportunity to develop and grow, so my team and I will be focused on ensuring that everyone has a real opportunity to grow within the business. Equally, we’re hiring graduates and apprentices around the UK to ensure that we find and support tomorrow’s talent as well. We’ve a great track record in this space, one that I’m really proud of.
And finally, priority three is a regional one. I want to see Pulsant become the partner of choice for regional edge innovation. As the opportunities from 5G and the focus on delivering smart cities continue across the UK, our edge platform is uniquely positioned to enable the brightest businesses to truly benefit from the economic growth potential that technology has to offer.
This article was originally published in The European Business Review on 25 July 2023. It can be accessed here: https://www.europeanbusinessreview.com/why-it-doesnt-always-make-sense-to-keep-away-from-the-edge/
Rob Coupland – Chief Executive Officer, Pulsant. With almost 30 years of experience in the industry, Rob has a wealth of leadership expertise in the telecommunications, data centre, and cloud managed services markets. Rob joined Pulsant in 2019 to guide the company along its growth trajectory and improve its position in the market. He is also committed to enabling customer transformation – and improving Pulsant’s quality of service and support.
With experience spanning almost three decades, Rob began his career with Cable & Wireless in a range of positions, most notably product group manager for applications. He also spent 10 years at Telecity Group in a variety of roles, including chief operating officer (COO) and managing director. As COO, Rob led the company’s data centre expansion programme and significantly grew the business.
In his most recent role before joining Pulsant, Rob was managing director EMEA of Digital Realty, a data centre and colocation business headquartered in San Francisco, USA.