CTO Sessions: Robert Neave, Nlyte Software

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? "Hybrid datacentre landscape, automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the use of augmented reality"

Name: Robert Neave

Company: Nlyte Software

Job title: CTO and co-founder

Date started current role: September 2009

Location: USA

Rob Neave is Co-founder and CTO of industry-leading Nlyte. Prior to his current role, Neave has had an extensive, 15-year career in the data centre industry; most notably, his work with UBS Investment Bank (Perot Systems Europe) meant that he was a key player in the design and operation of the company's data centre procedures. In addition, Rob has overseen the rollout of datacentre management function to facilities across EMEA, the Americas and Asia.

What was your first job? Construction industry

Did you always want to work in IT? No, in the early 90's I could see that IT was going to be the right place to be as everything was moving to a digital platform: Home Internet, TV, radio, personal music, mobile phones etc.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they?  I left school when I was 16 with basic qualifications and started work the next day. In the early 90's I went back to school at nights and weekends to identify what parts of IT excited me. I have Diplomas in AutoCAD for architectural design; computer engineering level 1,2, and 3; office products; and visual basic.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. After getting a good portfolio of qualifications I used the Yellow Pages phone book to call every company in East and Central London that would have an IT need to see if I could get a start there. I was lucky enough to talk to an asset tracking company called Equitrac that were looking for a field services engineer to support installing a hardware keypad to photocopiers and fax machines that would link to a database to support legal companies' financial tracking of customers costs for paper copies - and change back. While at Equitrac I embraced the Y2K project and created a database to predict the resource needs and times to update all existing customers to compliant hardware and software. The business used this to implement their customers changes.

I then moved to Perot Systems/ UBS who were going through an aggressive acquisition programme and data centre consolidation / modernisation as they headed towards Y2K. This was a great time for me as I was involved in almost every IT project and started working with Perot Systems/ UBS to create a basic asset management system that could be linked with Excel for data centre capacity forecasting.

It was at this point that I started thinking about the needs of the wider data datacentre industry and the need for a visual rich assessment system that supported device and rack layouts, and floor plans linked to a simple to use drag and drop workflow system. We already had CMDBs and an asset management system but they were all missing the critical information for the management of a datacentre's capacity. And providing simple visual instructions to engineers to install equipment, to use the maxim "one picture is worth a thousand words," and in the physical world of the datacentre this is so true.

What type of CTO are you? I am a team player and lead from the front. I am committed to understanding the customer's pain points, and creating solutions that address the pain and provide value to all.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Hybrid datacentre landscape, automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the use of augmented reality for instruction and remote management of people.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? The smart power strip, if you have branch circuit monitoring why waste the money on something you are going to have to change after five or six years. And RFID: If you have barcodes and you incorporate scanning these codes in your IMAC change processes you save on all the RFID tags and readers that also need changing every five or six years.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? Datacentre infrastructure management (DCIM) automation utilising agentless discovery to push data into DCIM for asset reconciliation, asset creation, data population, and network connectivity management - and this is just the start.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? DCIM automation to reduce manual effort costs, and to create a central system of record that can be used to bolster other asset management systems within an organisational ecosystem.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? The main two are colo datacentres using DCIM as a platform to support charge-back and asset management to their customers. And physical network capacity and connectivity management through DCIM automation.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? Simple like the song, "ears, eyes, and then mouth". Listen for the need or pain, then look and understand the pain or problem - and then propose the solution.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No, service in its delivery cycle always follows product. And I always try and ensure as much knowledge transfer to service through the product development and release lifecycle as possible.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Document the features that will address customer pain, and features that will address product hygiene and improvements; features that will address market growth opportunities and changes; and then create a six to 12-month roadmap to address the needs and be flexible to change the plan.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? They will continue to work in collaboration with the CEO, CFO, CMO and the board.

What has been your greatest career achievement? The industry recognition or movement from the dark computer room called the datacentre to the now globally recognised DCIM market and Nlyte Software as a leader in the space.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have created a product that already had an established market, to build a new product and a new market has posed its challenges over the years!

What are you reading now? The California Native Landscape. I love gardening and the colours of the plants and landscape of California.

Most people don't know that I… Love gardening and cooking on the grill with family and friends while listening to Neil Diamond's greatest hits!

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with family and friends and at the local gym and in the garden.

Ask me to do anything but… Watch sport! I just don't get the excitement over seeing people hit a sphere back and forth...