SiGMA caught up with Anton Cristina at CSL’s modern company offices, located off a busy thoroughfare in Birkirkara, to ask him what he thinks of the cloud computing revolution, the main advantages it offers to forward-thinking organisations, and how it has revolutionised the workplace in Malta and abroad.
It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to chat with an entrepreneur and business leader who, after over a decade travelling around the world working for IBM, returns to Malta in the midst of the worst economic crisis the world has experienced in recent times, only to transform a loss-making garage into a cutting-edge data services provider that turns over $10 million every year.
That’s exactly the story of SiGMA16 panel moderator Anton Cristina, owner and executive director at CSL, who took over the existing business in October 2008 and over the past six years tripled its head count, multiplied its revenues, and built a client base of 100+ companies in the Gaming and Financial Services sectors.
What is your perception of the take-up of cloud services in Malta?
“The speed at which companies are changing and transforming their way of thinking and adoption of new business models is unprecedented in Malta. Five years ago, the market doubted the Cloud as the local market has a tendency of being very cautious in embracing change. Having said that, with Millennials entering the workforce and taking leadership roles within business, we are seeing an accelerated rate of adoption of cloud computing. Millennials are changing and transforming the Maltese economy as they want services to be faster, better and cheaper, and presented to them in a simple way.
“Millennials do not over-complicate or over-analyse things—they want to work fast and be able to do more during their lifetime, and they understand that cloud computing can help them achieve this.”
What are the main advantages that cloud services offer to organisations that measure productivity against the bottom line with a focus on control, security and costs?
He elaborates further, “The sense of adventure that characterises Millennials has created millions of want-to-be Magellan’s who are excited to learn more about other cultures through travel without sacrificing their jobs. This new generation of business leaders don’t want the experience of traveling to be hindered by their bank accounts. Their goal in life is to maximize the time one is able to spend in their lives with their loved ones. Cloud-based technology is giving us all an opportunity to achieve these goals.
“Looking beyond our personal goals, there are great benefits for the organizations we serve in having this kind of flexibility. Not only does it create higher levels of engagement, it increases productivity as well. Everyone has moments during the day where their focus is at its peak. There are a few hours in the day where you’re coming up with your best ideas, and your efficiency then is absolutely insane. Having the ability to access our resources from anywhere gives us the ability to take advantage of these ‘pockets of efficiency’.”
Cristina reels off three more reasons why organisations find cloud solutions so appealing: “More than 50% of information technology will be cloud-based within 5–10 years. Moreover, companies save money on infrastructure costs, software licenses, technical support and system management by moving to the cloud, and—more significantly—they gain speed. Finally, the cloud computing industry has grown from $46 billion to over $150 billion from 2008–2014, and here in Malta we are seeing an upward trend in cloud services adoption, which is changing the way we work and live.”
As a local company that offers cloud services, how do you compete against bigger players such as IBM Softlayer, AWS, and Microsoft Azure?
“Customers today want things faster, better, cheaper, and our model delivers exactly that,” Cristina affirms.
“Three years ago I restructured the business, took over a 2,000 m2 building, and built three modular N+1 Carrier Neutral Data Centres, through which I created a private cloud services model and a shared cloud services model that I had baptised Project Laya, after my daughter.
“Today, ProjectLaya hosts 200+ VPSs and 2,000+ Hosted Exchange mailboxes at rates that are 25% cheaper than the big players. Besides being more affordable, we also provide technical support to our customers during the on-boarding stage and steady-state stage, whereas Big Cloud Players simply provide a portal through which customers can access the VMs and then they have to set up everything themselves.
“Also, our billing model is easy to understand and keeps customers in control of their monthly charge and its content, plus their data is stored here in Malta, at our data centre, so our customers know exactly where the data resides and that is in the Maltese jurisdiction, which is governed by Maltese law and offers them quicker and easier access.”
Anton Cristina will share his insights and experiences from 15 years working in the IT industry about how technology continues to change the face of the iGaming industry at SiGMA16.