French services company opts for private cloud approach

Why did managed services provider Zetark decide to build its own infrastructure to host its private cloud service, using IBM technology? The answers might surprise you.

I receive a steady stream of pitches from most of the biggest high-tech companies in the business, often multiple communiques in the same day. Many of them are inappropriate for what I cover, but a recent IBM one caught my eye.

The content was pretty straightforward: a relatively new managed services provider (MSP) from France, Zetark, had decided to build out the infrastructure for its new cloud storage services using the IBM PureFlex and SmartCloud platforms. Created in 2012, Zetark is a subsidiary of Groupe BECI, a real estate management company.

What intrigued me was the question of why Zetark had opted to build out its own cloud infrastructure to support its services, rather than developing them in collaboration with one of the public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) companies like Amazon, Google or Rackspace.

I was expecting a tirade about security when I interviewed one of the company's executives. The explanations, from Maxime Aernout, general manager of Zetark, were far more interesting — and they should give something for other cloud integrators to think about. Here are the three themes we discussed:

  1. French companies prefer local business partners. France may be more provincial than other countries (pardon the pun), but the fact is that many small businesses prefer to give other local companies their business. "There really were no public clouds in France when we created our data center," Aernout said. This is less of a security argument and more of a business policy argument. Although, certainly the whole U.S. government surveillance program — which has touched many high-profile Internet companies — suddenly lends this consideration more weight.
  2. Private can be greener. Zetark did consider public cloud infrastructure as an option, but found that it wouldn't be able to control energy efficiency or consumption in the Amazon stack as well as it could by opting for the PureFlex servers from IBM. Using PureFlex, on the other hand, Zetark is consuming just 750 watts per petabyte of storage. Wait a minute. Isn't that kind of counter to what everyone has been telling us about the public cloud providers? That bigger make for better energy efficiency?  
  3. Control, control, control. OK, so this answer probably doesn't surprise you. But it's a good reminder that unless your company is a very high-level partner of a given public cloud service provider, your technical team won't necessarily have deep access to certain configurations. There may be limits on what an application can do. One example is the number of times that certain services will allow third-party backups of data. "I do what I want in my infrastructure," Aernout said. Zetark can get a virtual server up and running in about 30 seconds.

He added: "SmartCloud Entry enables us to respond to customer needs and gives us the ability to do granular billing based on their precise usage of memory, disk and processing resources. Our primary offering is centered on storage, but we also have the flexibility to offer a broader range of IaaS solutions."

Does this mean that private cloud infrastructure is better than public cloud infrastructure or that we're going to see more integrators build out their own? Not by a long shot, but it underscores yet again why both approaches will exist side by side for a very long time to come.