“It’s a dream come true”

Interview with Stephan Kasulke, Chairman of ZOIS.

Stephan Kasulke, Chairman of Zero Outage Industry Standard, talks about the industry-wide quality program. He has good reason to celebrate: the newly founded association – whose members already included major manufacturers such as Brocade, Cisco, Dell EMC, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Juniper, NetApp, SAP and Suse – recently welcomed IBM and Swisscom into the fold. Hardware and software vendors work closely with system integrators to develop a set of best practices for the entire industry. Compliance with the new standard will ensure stable, secure IT.

You’re currently developing a framework for the Zero Outage industry standard to share with other organizations later on. What exactly does the framework contain and when should it be ready to use?

The framework is ready to use right now. We’ve already defined it and published the first release with extensive definitions, particularly for processes, training and security. The platform level of the initial framework still needs some content tweaks here and there. From now on, our job will be to gradually update and refine the standard as requirements change.

When will customers of the association’s members start benefiting from the Zero Outage industry standard and what concrete advantages will companies and consumers enjoy?

Here’s where it gets exciting! Customers won’t benefit until the association members start complying with the standard. It is when companies begin to base their components or system solutions on the standard that things become interesting for customers. Let me give an example: once a manufacturer like Cisco starts marketing Zero Outage versions of equipment that are significantly less error-prone because they’ve completed special maturity and testing processes, system integrators like T-Systems can begin to build solutions made solely from Zero Outage components.

Have you encountered any challenges that the association didn’t anticipate?

Things have been harmonious so far since all the companies are collaborating as equal partners despite having very different technical philosophies. All the major storage vendors have joined the association, after all. And if people have opposite views, that leads to good discussions. We expect this dynamic to pick up a little now that we’re refining the technology level.

Have other companies signaled their interest in joining?

We’re excited that IBM recently decided to come on board. The whole company joined, including its professional services, hardware and software divisions. That’s quite a coup. Right now, we’re in talks with several interested companies and will be welcoming new partners shortly.

What are the association’s next milestones?

First, we will publish Release 2 and 3 of the standard in spring and winter 2017. These releases will be fascinating from a technical perspective because they incrementally add new standards to the technology level, one layer at a time. We have a roadmap and plan to make considerable headway with each release. Our second milestone will be our new roadshows that we hope will bring even more key players on board. Also, we will be looking into opportunities to expand our offering in the access provider space.

What does it mean to you personally to be elected as the association’s chairman?

It’s primarily a big responsibility, first as its ‘midwife’ and then as its ‘father’ for the first year. People say that organizations are like newborns: the first years are the most important and most formative period in their lives. And so I now have to invest a lot of time and energy in developing our idea until it’s mature enough to run under its own power. But the chairmanship is more than a big responsibility; it’s also an opportunity. Watching the best practices from T-Systems’ internal quality program evolve into an industry standard is a dream come true. Five years ago, who would have foreseen that happening? I didn’t, to be honest.