Orange, Cisco, EMC and VMware form cloud alliance

A quartet of companies have formed the Flexible 4 Business cloud alliance to provide four varieties of pay-per-use cloud products, with Orange Business Services acting as the service provider
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Orange Business Services, Cisco, EMC and VMware have formed an alliance, dubbed Flexible 4 Business, to offer enterprises four cloud services with tiered end-to-end service-level agreements.

The alliance will offer a private cloud that can be deployed either on customers' sites or on Orange Business Services's (OBS) network, along with data backup, security-as-a-service and unified communications services. Cisco, EMC and VMware already have links as part of their tripartite Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition, which offers Vblock infrastructure services and products to enterprises.

Vblock will form the basis of the private cloud offering within the Flexible 4 Business product package, while Cisco will offer cloud security and unified communications. The Flexible 4 Business alliance forms a part of the VCE coalition's offering, but also represents a level of collaboration that is "working beyond VCE", executives from the four companies said in a conference call on Monday.

"What is really new with this alliance with OBS is that this is no longer an outsourcing model, it is a pure cloud model, which means you can address the market or company or users and say that this is a cloud, because you can have a pure [operational expenditure] based on consumption," Jean-Yves Pronier, EMC France's marketing director told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

The service-level agreements (SLAs) offered to Flexible 4 Business customers will come from OBS. "The SLA starts where our service starts, so it includes the private network and also the managed local area network, so it can really be as close as possible to the end user," Alex Rigaldo, head of cloud for OBS, said.

He added that the data backup, security-as-a-service and unified communications services will come through OBS's network. The private cloud offering, meanwhile, will use either OBS's network or the customers' own datacentre.

OBS has 10 datacentres worldwide, with three in France, two in the UK, two in the US, one in Poland, one in Singapore and one in Australia. The company also uses co-location facilities in the US and the Middle East. When data is held in a co-location facility or in a customer datacentre, Orange will be able to 'pop' the facility to make it a 'point of presence' within the OBS network, Rigaldo said. This will allow the data to be tracked as part of OBS's overall network.

This ability to understand the data flow across the whole network means the alliance will be able to offer SLAs that will let a customer know if and when their data is to be geographically migrated. This will help comply with individual countries' data protection laws, Rigaldo said.

The private cloud product was made available to specific OBS customers on Monday, with general availability expected for the beginning of the first quarter of 2011. The unified communications product is "in pilot mode" with three customers, according to Rigaldo, and will undergo a general launch in the same timeframe. The data backup service product is currently being deployed to one customer, and will go into general availability in the first half of 2011. Security-as-a-service was launched by OBS to customers in 2009, so has been available for some time, Rigaldo said.

OBS's intention to make inroads in the cloud was announced by the company at the end of 2009, when chief executive Barbara Dalibard declared that "the network is the cloud".

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