Leveraging data centre capabilities for edge leadership

At Pulsant, Coupland saw a new opportunity and a company that was quite uniquely placed to be successful in the future
Rob Coupland, CEO of data centre provider Pulsant discusses the company's history, mission, edge computing impact, and future industry trends

UK-based digital infrastructure provider, Pulsant specialises in cloud, colocation, and connectivity services. The company operates a network of 12 data centres across the UK, providing secure, scalable, and resilient infrastructure solutions for a wide range of businesses. 

In an interview with Data Centre Magazine, Coupland tells us a little about his career history to date and his current role at Pulsant. Touching upon the company's history and mission, Coupland explains what sets Pulsant apart from other data centre operators, how edge computing can impact IoT, AI, and other advanced applications, and what key trends he is seeing in the industry.

Please introduce yourself and your role and give a brief career history.

“My name is Rob Coupland, and I joined Pulsant as Chief Executive Officer four years ago. Before that, my career revolved around telecommunications and cloud and data centre services. I am an engineer by training but spent the first half of my career as a product leader. 

“I think that role helped me better understand how best to balance what technology can do, with the challenges clients are trying to solve. I also think that awareness helped inform the strategy we now have at Pulsant to take the great capability that we've got, which is this unique combination of regional data centres across the UK, and position it at the heart of the emerging edge computing opportunity.”

What attracted you to the data centre market and then to Pulsant?

“I've been involved in the data centre industry since 2007 although my first encounter with data centres was a little earlier as the market was tidying up after the .com, boom and bust. At that time, there were fewer DC sites around, but they were a little too early to market and saw more limited success. 

“When I joined Telecity in 2007, the market had shifted, and the growth opportunity was arriving. Broadband rollout brought the access networks that enabled streaming and other similar technologies to become reality and that’s when my real data centre journey began. I have never looked back. 

“I joined Pulsant in 2019, as I saw a new opportunity and a company that was quite uniquely placed to be successful in the future and the opportunity excited me.”

What does Pulsant do?  

“Fundamentally, we're here to provide digital infrastructure distributed across the UK. Our data centres are very close to where people's businesses are located. Connecting these sites is a high bandwidth, low latency network and distributed compute capability. Together, we call those things platformEDGE. 

“Our edge infrastructure enables us to bring the opportunities of digital transformation out to the regions of the UK. Clients can run their applications closer to where they live and work. I truly believe that business is regional, and technology should go to where the business is. 

“Regional differences and cultures matter because the way businesses operate in Gateshead is different from how they work in Manchester, something that’s often overlooked. As commerce becomes more global, I think that we are seeing regional identity become increasingly important.”

What sets Pulsant apart from other data centre operators? 

“Pulsant has operated in the UK technology sector for nearly 30 years, successfully serving businesses across the UK. Today our strategy is more focused in terms of our capability but remains based on that strong heritage in serving regional businesses which has driven our growth over the years.  

“That regionality sets us apart and the fact that we are focused on delivering edge infrastructure there. That’s equally true for the global players, but within the UK, many other businesses that operate colocation data centres do that as one part of a wider portfolio. We're clear that our mission is to deliver digital infrastructure services, combining the data centre, compute and the network that joins it all together.”

How do you see edge making an impact when it comes to the likes of IoT AI and other advanced applications?  

“We live in a world where there's lots of interesting innovation going on with AI, IoT and other applications. In particular, AI will drive more businesses to think about how they can digitise and optimise their processes and that’s where technology like platformEDGE will provide the infrastructure to drive this opportunity forward. 

“What’s exciting for me is that some of those applications and services in this next technology wave will come from startup businesses that haven't even been founded yet. It’s important that we as an industry help create opportunities to allow those businesses to prosper.”

Are there any key trends that you think are interesting at the moment and why?

“One of the things that comes with the grey hair of experience is the realisation that change tends to take longer than people think. High-speed networks, both 5G and fibre, are enabling applications that we've been talking about for quite a long time. 

“When I think about the opportunities of smart cities, content in areas such as virtual reality gaming, and the emerging application of AI, the possibilities are endless. It’s exciting to think about the changes many of these technologies will make to our lives in the next five to ten years, but equally, for the industry.”

What do you envisage the future of Pulsant and the wider edge sphere as a whole to look like in the next 12 to 18 months?  

“For us over the next 12 to 18 months, we will be continuing our investment in our data centres, networks, and in our distributed compute platform. Edge is our focus and we will continue to invest because we believe that the opportunity is real, and we're seeing that coming through in terms of our business growth.

“I think digital infrastructure is an area where the UK has led the way and we have a thriving market opportunity. So we all need to work together to ensure the next generation of engineers and technologists can see and hear about the opportunities that exist.”

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