British datacentre owners are entering the cloud services market en masse, a move eased by developments in virtualisation management but hindered by the challenge of setting themselves apart.
At Cloud Expo Europe in London this week, several companies launched high-end public and hybrid cloud services, and all sought to put their own spin on a technology that is fast becoming a standard.
"Cloud technology has entered a utility-based model," said Lukasz Olszewski, a systems architect at UK datacentre operator Telehouse. "We want to differentiate ourselves on the quality of our services."
The growing sophistication of virtualisation frameworks from VMware, Red Hat, Citrix and Microsoft has let datacentre operators easily create clouds on any range of hypervisors, then deliver services on top of that. Clouds based on Red Hat, Microsoft, Citrix and VMware all made an appearance at the London trade show.
"The hypervisor itself is kind of commoditised," said Sam Johnston, Equinix's director of cloud and IT services. "You've got VMware, ESX, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM... that kind of low-level function is essentially commoditised."
Among those with a launch at Cloud Expo Europe was colocation specialist Telehouse, which has started selling virtual datacentre, storage, disaster recovery and infrastructure cloud services, based on its four facilities in London. On Wednesday, Infiniserv announced an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud backed by dedicated connectivity, while London-based telecommunications service provider Interoute now offers similar packages.
In addition, Gloucester-based hosting and cloud company Rise demonstrated its Microsoft-friendly IaaS cloud, which has a management portal designed for less technically-savvy customers, and Claranet showed off its IaaS hypervisor-agnostic virtual datacentre.
Standing outThe challenge for companies is to differentiate themselves to potential customers, when the service they are selling is becoming a standard, the datacentre owners confirmed. The range of services could also confuse some businesses, they said.
"In terms of competitors, there's still a lot of head-scratching going on in the industry," said James Henigan, product and IT services director at Rise. "The market growth is going to come, but we need to help the end-customer understand what they need."
The datacentre owners said their new cloud services are squarely targeted at existing customers, rather than being pitched at drawing in new clients.
"The obvious community for us is our existing connected customers — around 3,000," Interoute's chief technology officer Matthew Finnie said. "The value proposition to those guys should be a no brainer... We see it really as computing infrastructure for our big internet customers or big corporate customers."
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