Manchester-based cloud services provider UKFast is poised to grow faster than ever after transforming its infrastructure. The company’s Director of Enterprise Technologies, Christopher Folkerd, speaks about UKFast’s long relationship with VMware and some of his favourite cloud use cases.
Serving some of the world’s largest companies, and with nearly 20 years of experience providing the Ministry of Defense, UKFast is the largest privately-owned hosting company in the United Kingdom. Serving thousands of enterprises with a significant focus on the cloud, the company’s expansive portfolio of services touches nearly every facet of IT.
Following a massive upgrade to its network last year, including the expansion of its international infrastructure, UKFast is poised for even greater growth. Simultaneously, the Manchester-based company marked another milestone – being named one of the top Tech Great Places to Work in 2019.
We recently spoke with Christopher Folkerd, Director of Enterprise Technologies, to learn more about UKFast’s cloud services, its long relationship with VMware, what sets the company apart, and the cloud use cases that excite him today.
“When someone asks what the secret to our success is, I think it comes down to two key aspects of our DNA,” says Folkerd. “One is our absolute commitment to make the cloud simple for our customers even if they want to use it to do very complex things. The other is our focus on customer satisfaction and customer service, and the unique way we engage and treat our customers.”
As Folkerd notes, both differentiators are related, something that becomes readily apparent when one considers that UKFast’s customer base spans national government agencies and single-proprietor shops – all of which contribute to a Net Promoter Score that is one of the highest in Europe.
“Our customers recommend us because of our technology acumen and the approach we’ve taken to scale the business,” says Folkerd. “We run on something called the ‘pod system,’ which means we maintain a small business feel for our customers no matter how big we get. Our engineers work with a small subset of customers, so that every time a customer phones, they always deal with the same engineers. That means they build a relationship, and it also means that our technical experts get a much deeper view of the customer’s solution, which is bespoke to address their needs.”
It’s a philosophy that’s codified into UKFast’s guarantee that customers will not only enjoy 100% network uptime, but that if they need assistance, their call will be answered in three rings or less. And it’s a philosophy that also aligns with UKFast’s longstanding and close relationship with VMware.
“VMware’s technology helps us make the cloud simple, and a large portion of our infrastructure is based on it,” Folkerd says. “Our customers trust VMware, and all of our data centers and cloud services are VMware Cloud Verified, which is really important for us because it shows our commitment to technology and engineering excellence – and that we have industry-leading architecture behind our clouds. We’re also involved extensively in a large number of beta projects with VMware and sit on many of their advisory boards, feeding back into products and services at an early stage. The key to our relationship is that we are working together to give our customers a great experience.”
Transformative Use Cases
Folkerd sees customers enabling a number of new, transformative use cases. One is a large project transitioning to a DevOps, containerized platform and way of working.
“One of the big powers of the cloud is that all of this can be done in one location very simply that will lead them to a much more agile business process,” he says. “Containerization is really allowing people to do a lot more things with their applications than they were able to do before. And the speed that you can get products to market by bringing out microservices is just amazing.”
Folkerd is also seeing a lot of innovation in artificial intelligence. UKFast has been working on AI for years, but he believes its use is still very nascent in the marketplace.
“Lots of people are using it for very basic functionality, but it’s becoming a lot more prevalent and there’s a realization that the power is now there to handle it,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we have launched both a field programmable gate array (FPGA) and a graphics processor unit (GPU)-as-a-service offering.”
“We’re enabling our customers to quickly write very, very flexible code,” adds Folkerd. “It’s a fantastic enablement for the cloud, because the equipment itself is very expensive and we’re able to bring it to customers for pennies on the pound. It’s a huge cost savings for them that also enables them to exploit the data rather than having to worry about hardware.”
Learn more about UKFast and its partnership with VMware here.