Data Center POST interview with Dr. Michael Rudgyard, Associate, Portman Partners

By Contributing Editor Sandra de Novellis

Michael Rudgyard serves as an associate at Portman Partners, the leading Executive Search firm focused on C-level leadership and senior executive roles for firms within the data center sector. Serving as an insider and guide for businesses as they grow their teams and search for ways to keep pace with digital transformation and rapidly changing business models, Michael specializes in high performance computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more. He also delivers deep experience with people management, strategic and financial planning, fundraising, growing and restructuring teams, delivering complex hardware and software projects and more.

Michael recently sat down to chat with Data Center POST about his experience in the data center industry, finding talent in a technical sphere and beyond.

Data Center POST, Sandra de Novellis (DCP-SDN) Question: The combination of experience in academia, high performance computing and entrepreneurial endeavors must provide you with a unique perspective to recruiting. Can you explain why your background is right for the data center industry now?

Portman Partners, Michael Rudgyard (PP-MR) Answer: I founded my first company, a university spin-out, in 2000 and have subsequently founded a number of other software and system integration companies in the fields of High Performance Computing (HPC) and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM). Although HPC was traditionally a niche part of the larger computing and data center markets, it has always been at the bleeding edge of technology – whether in terms of supercomputing, the infrastructure that is needed to support very high-density computing systems, or the means to deploy the highest performance compute, network and storage infrastructures in a cost-effective manner. Indeed, the ‘cluster computing’ approach that was used in HPC several decades ago now forms the basis of most modern hyperscale data centers and cloud computing environments.

Over the coming decades, powerful HPC-like infrastructure will be increasingly required in order to tackle the complex Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms that are likely to consume a significant portion of computing activity across the globe. My considerable background in HPC in academia and business provides me with both a sound technical understanding of the domain and access to a network of people with considerable skills and experience.

DCP-SDN Q: What are the most important skills leadership teams will need in the age of digital disruption and in the data center sector?

PP-MR A: If traditional data centers are to compete with the large hyperscale providers, their owners and operators will need to develop tightly-knit, multi-disciplinary teams that are able to support and deliver a wide range of complex cloud computing capabilities, including HPC and AI alongside more traditional applications, all in a highly cost-effective manner. The people and software platforms that can deliver dynamic virtualized/containerized IT applications while optimizing and automating the data center infrastructure that supports this will be crucial to competitiveness. The days where disparate teams worked in individual ‘silos’ are coming to an end, and instead, smaller teams with broader experience will be required — supplemented by emerging software tools for (current) niche areas such as HPC, DL, AI, Blockchain and more.

DCP-SDN Q: As more needs develop for talent and requirements around technical aptitude and capability grow in areas like the Cloud, SDN, AI and Blockchain (ledger technology), do you see more of a need for partnerships with academia to recruit for certain specializations? Can you speak to how that may help bridge the gap?

PP-MR A: As implied above, many areas that might now be considered niche (eg. HPC, AI and Blockchain) are expected to see very significant growth. Much of the expertise in these areas can currently be found in research, academia and within academic spin-outs — this is true with regard to the development of the applications, as well as the deployment of the computing environments that are suitable for these applications. As such, it is likely that the data center industry will need to foster closer links with the research community, not only to access suitable talent, but also to understand both the limitations and the state-of-the-art of these new technologies.

DCP-SDN Q: What are the biggest challenges you have encountered around company culture in the telco/digital transformation sector?

PP-MR A: When seeing the increasing dominance of the hyperscale cloud-computing data centers, both in technical and commercial terms, the biggest challenge facing the industry is that of adopting the changes that are required in order to play catch-up. In many cases, this requires a complete reimagining of how services should be delivered, the people, software and systems required, and in some cases, the business model under which current businesses operate.

DCP-SDN Q: Thanks so much for giving us these great insights, Michael. To learn more about Portman Partners, please visit or follow us on Linkedin at