Of course, with pleasure. Stone is a Staffordshire-based IT services company that sells into both the private and public sector, but is probably best known as a major supplier to the UK schools and education sector. We have a heritage as a PC systems builder for that market, which is where I think many 24n.biz readers will probably recognise the name from. Some great recent wins for us include Orleans Park, which you guys covered, of course, as well as Portsmouth University and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
Clearly, deficit reduction has been identified as the guiding principle. That is translating to a big drive for efficiency, but the thing is that the fat has all been cut out of the system now, so you have to take the next step - to look at real transformation of services, real change. People are having to really look closely at their processes to do that and Cloud is clearly emerging as a central factor in those service transformation plans in the data centre. I'd say this is true right across the whole public sector, not just education, though.
We recently went in and deployed wi-fi as a service for a council, for instance. That means that they won't need any kind of in-house expertise to run that, we are doing it all for them. New 802.11 standards are part of that, as is the Cloud; the point is that this is a way to get a service in place at really minimum cost.
We think that's where the real innovation is happening in educational ICT, to be honst. Some great work's happening with making school data centres really, really efficient, with some deployment of software defined everything wherever possible - to get away from separate servers and SANs and move more and more to appliances, so you have fewer and fewer moving parts to worry about from the IT manager point of view. You also have some very clever things happening around de-duplication, compression, data-tiering - that's where we're seeing a lot of activity, all helping to transform service by making it cheaper and a lot more efficient.
I think we have a real chance to move our school sector to be truly server-less environments - which is getting less and less of an issue for the infrastructure part of the equation and more a pressure point for the ISPs and the wide area network providers. If we can get there, I think we'll have much cheaper schools ICT as a result - which is good for everyone.
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