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British firms link up to sell cloud services to SMEs

The UK Cloud Alliance is a 'cherry-picked' group of 15 companies that plan to pitch small businesses with a portfolio of mutually compatible cloud software, infrastructure and services
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor on

A group of British cloud companies have joined forces to pitch their products to small businesses, promising local responsiveness and end-to-end service-level agreements.

The UK Cloud Alliance (UKCA), launched on Tuesday, is led by Reading-based cloud-hosting provider Star and includes IT consultancy Glasshouse Technologies, backup specialist Redstor and others. All the members are UK based and plan to sell cloud services, with infrastructure provided by Star.

"I don't think it is our place to go up against major vendors' alliances. What we definitely are not is an alliance of vendors and we have no aspirations to be," said Martino Corbelli, the UK Cloud Alliance's community officer and marketing director for Star. "The purpose of [it] is to source UK services to support medium-sized UK businesses."

The UK hosts a spread of competing cloud alliances, ranging from Orange, Cisco, EMC and VMware's Flexible 4 Business alliance, to the Rackspace-backed OpenStack initiative, which provides open-source infrastructure management for businesses, to single vendors such as HP selling services through their datacentres.

Corbelli said the group, which has been in development for 18 months, will aim to provide end-to-end service level agreements (SLAs) to customers. However, he admitted that Star and UKCA's direct competitors in selling cloud service to SMEs, such as Computacenter and telecoms companies, have found this incredibly difficult.

"There are very few organisations out there, Star included, that can get [SLAs] right. You need real, specialist support in order to help you get there," he said.

Criticism

UKCA has already come under criticism from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), a two-year-old British alliance of cloud companies dedicated to agreeing common standards and to public disclosure about service provision. Andy Burton, chairman of the forum, described the group as a set of non-competing businesses pushing a pick-and-mix selection of compatible products, rather than a true alliance with a common utilitarian purpose.

We have no issue with people wanting to build more integrated partnerships to provide an end-to-end solution, what I disagree with is adding more confusion to the language of the market.
– Andy Burton, Cloud Industry Forum

"If the only purpose is to serve the commercial success of that partnership, then it's not necessarily helping the end user make a [purchasing] decision," said Burton, who is also chief executive of Star's competitor Fasthosts.

"We have no issue with people wanting to build more integrated partnerships to provide an end-to-end solution, what I disagree with is adding more confusion to the language of the market," he added.

Corbelli told ZDNet UK that the members of the UKCA were targeted for participation. They were "cherry-picked to provide the right mix of... professional services", he said.

At the moment, none of the companies in UKCA are also members of CIF. "Star is looking to change that by joining the CIF and would advocate any organisation to join the CIF," Star said.


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