The investment in social analytics is one of several Hostworks has made since former SBS exec Will Berryman was hired as managing director to broaden the focus of the company from its legacy as a hoster of IT infrastructure into a "company that makes things."
"We don't want to have infrastructure be the primary conversation with a customer," Berryman said.
Hostworks has hired its first data scientist, built an online platform for the hosting and streaming of one-time media campaigns, signed an offshore software development deal with Indian firm Cybage and signed a joint sales partnership with a mobile application development firm in the United Kingdom.
Berryman said that only 10 of Hostworks' 120 internal staff actively produce software, and he doesn't plan to hire any more in the short term.
"We don't want to extend ourselves in a way that dilutes what we do well," he said.
The company will continue to refresh IT infrastructure at its Kidman Park data centre and colocation racks at Equinix - starting with the rollout of new networking kit from Juniper and IBM and a gradual refresh of servers and storage.
Berryman was comfortable with this investment, even in the face of huge competition for IT infrastructure services. The company would not attempt to deter efforts within Hostworks' 50+ large media customers that wished, like its key tenants ninemsn and carsales, to complement managed hosting from Hostworks with the use of public cloud services, he said.
"If a customer wants to buy an off the shelf commodity from an online marketplace, and not have an engagement with us, there are better places for that business to go," he said. “Our customers are large and when they can they will do it themselves, and when they need a consultative approach they work with us.”
He offered the example of a recent streaming of a Coldplay performance for Southern Cross Austereo, which was distributed on Hostworks' content delivery network in Australia but used the Amazon-backed CloudFront CDN internationally.
Similarly, Hostworks provided much of the CMS hosting for SBS Television's impressive World Cup 2014 coverage, while the video was delivered over Akamai's CDN.
"You don't need to eat the whole sheep to know what lamb tastes like," he said.
Even when up against CMS software hosted in global public clouds, Berryman feels there will be jobs in media that can’t be automated and require high touch. Some customers, he said, would prefer to pay a fixed fee for a high pressure job, backed by a rock solid SLA, rather than risk hosting with a commodity cloud.
“In every business I’ve been in - broadcast, internet - we underestimate the importance of people when we have conversations about technology," he said. "We think we can create a magic red button that we push, and the problem is solved. Every great problem to overcome, every great experience ever delivered, required people to design and plan it.”
While acknowledging it was "a difficult time" for all Australian hosters, Berryman is confident he has the skills on hand to reinvent Hostworks without losing sight of its core services.
"In our business there is a bit of house cleaning and reinvention that needs to be done,” he said. “There are things over the years we haven’t done well that we have to do better.
"If we can manage the reinvention - if we can not only support what we do but create a culture of making things, it will be an enormous credit to us.”