An Interview with Jason Andersen, Vice President, Stratus Technologies
At the 2020 ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida, Jason Andersen, Vice President, Strategy and Product Management at Stratus Technologies, spoke to ARC’s Craig Resnick, Vice President of Consulting. In this interview, Jason talked about some of the products and solutions that Stratus offers, not only regarding continuous availability and edge hardware and software but also about delivering hybrid solutions that incorporate the edge and the Cloud. This blog focuses on the highlights of the interview. The full interview can be viewed here and/or on YouTube.
About Stratus Technologies and Its Role in Connecting the Edge to the Cloud
Stratus has built computing systems now for 40 years. It has always put a focus on mission-critical reliability. Over the last 10 years or so, Stratus has been working diligently in the process and manufacturing spaces, and over the last three years, it has started to see the shift toward industry for its technology. Stratus’s new computing devices are being built for either machine-based or edge-based computing. Since many applications require leveraging both edge devices and the Cloud in a hybrid architecture for additional storage or data processing, Stratus makes it easy to connect its edge devices to the Cloud. In some applications where data is being processed both locally and remotely, Stratus leverages a solution around a technology from one of its partners, AVEVA, which is container based and can do both local and remote processing simultaneously. So, according to Jason, Stratus provides a very effective and a very robust bridge solution between edge applications and the Cloud.
What 2020 Holds for Stratus Technologies
In the interview, Jason said there were a couple of trends that should have a positive impact on Stratus in 2020. First, various companies that are building machines or process skids are showing a lot of interest in Stratus’s edge technology. With this in mind, Stratus is planning to release a lot of new edge functionality, and maybe even new edge product configurations, to help these companies leverage its new edge technology and get those products in the market to meet the demand of the shift in computing from the Cloud to the edge, keeping the data as close to the machine as possible.
Second, there have been some new trends around data management. As more and more edge computing devices get deployed, IT is becoming increasingly influential in terms of managing data, the edge device lifecycle, and all the new devices out in the field. Companies looking to have good collaboration between the OT user and the IT user have approached Stratus to build in enterprise-like features that are built around the needs of the edge solutions. Stratus has planned new features for its edge devices, which include system cloning and configuration management, in its springtime release.
Stratus’s Cybersecurity Offerings
Throughout the entire ARC Forum, cybersecurity was a key topic of discussion, and Jason Andersen was appreciative of this. Jason discussed, at length, the cybersecurity solutions Stratus offers its partners and clients. He said the company had built a lot of embedded cybersecurity capabilities into its products in 2019 and is finally starting to see its customers really reap the benefits of those changes. These benefits are not just about the functionality of Stratus’s software but also about allowing customers to perform audits on its software or penetration testing on its equipment. So, when a customer finds something during the test or audit, Stratus is prepared with a plan to respond to it in a timely fashion.
Jason said that as Stratus concentrated on functionality last year, this year it will be concentrating a lot more on the process and easing the friction of incorporating the functionality. This is mainly because IT audits are becoming more frequent, and it makes a lot of sense to smooth out that process, which is a little bit of a different approach.
On the partnership front, Jason said that a lot of Stratus’s go-to market is built around working with companies, such as Rockwell Automation or AVEVA, or a large distributor, such as Rexel in the US. These companies already have security solutions, so Stratus is working with its go-to market partners to determine if its configurations will work with their solutions.
What’s Stratus’s take on disruptive technology?
Disruptive technology creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, which displaces established firms, products, and alliances.
Jason mentioned that they are seeing new technologies come to the forefront. To add to this, he said, “A good example is, we have a long-standing relationship with Rockwell Automation, and we're seeing the effect of the Rockwell–PTC alliance, in terms of solutions we're bringing to market and customers we're working with. So, I'd say that is disrupting technology, but I would actually take it one step further and say there's also not just technology disruptors happening in the world of edge but also what I'll call business model disruptors.”
Jason also added that Stratus was now working more with companies, such as Inductive Automation, that are doing things differently on the software front. There has been more disruptive activity lately, be it a technical or business model, and Stratus is keeping a tight watch on it because it's a fluid market, which means that it's rapidly changing. Stratus is keen on staying on top of things where disruptive technology is concerned, particularly in the control space, which is an area where mission-critical reliability is essential, and that's really where Stratus’s core interests lie.
IT/OT Convergence and Its Effect on Stratus’s Future Plans
Historically, Stratus has been mostly dealing with personnel from OT. However, with IT/OT convergence occurring at a rapid pace, Stratus plans to increase its dealings with IT personnel, and its focus for the next 12 to 18 months will be on improvements in this area. IT personnel in many industrial companies are only familiar with Stratus from 20-plus years ago and its older equipment. Stratus has been observing that its excellent reputation in fault tolerance and mission-critical applications sometimes becomes a bit of a barrier because companies tend to think that’s all Stratus can do. So, to counter that, the management at Stratus is spending a lot of time talking about the value the company can add to an overall solution. This has led to increased efforts by Stratus on product marketing and content marketing, which brings about a realization that the company needs to continue to educate people on what it can offer today.
How is Stratus handling the issue of redundancy in its products and managing lifecycle costs?
Stratus is positioning its ztC edge device as a product that doesn't require redundancy, the first time in 40 years Stratus has had a non-redundant product. The ztC edge device is also positioned as a product capable of local serviceability, which is a huge cost driver when it comes to edge computing. As with any new product or machine, every company wants to know how it is going to service the machine throughout its lifecycle and the skills needed to service it. This has brought about a change in the way Stratus wants its partners and customers to perceive the company because a system that is not going to experience downtime has an enormous amount of value. Though a non-redundant system has high value, the cost of managing the lifecycle of that system is also a major driver in terms of selecting a technology.
Stratus Leverages ARC and the Forum to Re-educate the Marketplace about Its Current Offerings
Concluding the interview, Jason emphasized to Craig Resnick the role of ARC in helping Stratus reach out to people about what it does today and the opportunity to come to the ARC Forum with several of its customers presenting Stratus case studies. He also said that the ARC Forum was a real game changer for Stratus because it allowed people to see Stratus in an entirely new light, which will help the company with IT and with companies that may not be aware of Stratus or may only be aware of something they did with Stratus a long time ago but haven't been fully re-educated about the company’s offerings today.