European-based infrastructure removes a major obstacle to cloud adoption, say analysts
Hosting company Rackspace is hoping to allay customer concerns about where their data is held with the launch of a UK-based cloud infrastructure.
With businesses subject to strict regulations about where data is held and how it is moved, cloud computing has been off the agenda for many organisations because most services are hosted outside the UK.
Rackspace has operated European-based datacentres for their hosting services for some time but has lacked cloud capabilities based in the region. The company has more than 100,000 customers using its cloud services globally.
By locating cloud infrastructure in the UK, Rackspace will provide cloud-based storage and processing to customers without data leaving the country, something analysts believe is an important move.
"Geographical location of data is important. A lot of the US vendors don't appreciate that having a cloud-based infrastructure that's located geographically in the US means that almost all European countries have data that they can't possibly shift there legally," Freeform Dynamics analyst Tony Lock told silicon.com.
Lock added that the UK-based cloud infrastructure is "an essential first step" for Rackspace if it is to attract more customers from within the European Union.
"It makes it easier to get over some of the inhibitors that people put up there. It's definitely good from that point of view. There are lots of inhibitors to cloud adoption - this removes one of them for UK-based organisations," he said.
Quocirca analyst and director Bob Tarzey agrees that the launch is important for Rackspace, as it will give it an advantage over rivals.
"Rackspace is positioning itself as a global cloud service provider. To do this effectively, it needs to have global infrastructure and offer service-level agreements that data will be managed and stored within certain geographic limits. Its ability to do this will give it another value-add over the wholesale cloud infrastructure vendors, like Amazon and Google," he told silicon.com.
However, Tarzey added that Rackspace will face stiff competition from local hosting providers, such as Attenda and Savvis, which already have proven cloud-based systems in the UK.
The services available in Rackspace's UK cloud infrastructure include the Cloud Files storage service and Cloud Server computer processing technology, which can support Windows and a number of Linux distributions.
With management an important element in cloud computing, Rackspace has integrated the Cloudkick infrastructure-management dashboard technology into these cloud services, allowing customers to...
...manage applications run in both the US and UK on a single interface.
"Our UK offering allows companies to avoid offshore data issues and weighty upfront capital investments, which helps them become more strategically agile from a business perspective," Rackspace president and CEO Lanham Napier said in a statement.
He added that the UK-based cloud infrastructure will reduce latency for European companies using Rackspace cloud services compared with when the services were hosted in the US.
However, Rackspace and other cloud providers still have issues to overcome to drive uptake of cloud services.
Freeform Dynamics' Lock cited the need for businesses to know if data stays in Europe in the event of the UK-based cloud infrastructure's failure, and whether it could be released as part of the Patriot Act, to which Rackspace would be subject as a US-based company.
The company will also need to inform customers about how they can extract data from cloud services if they decide to move to another provider or bring the data back inhouse.
"Getting into cloud is easy; getting out of cloud could be difficult. Therefore Rackspace has got to show people that it's got a way to move off if you want to. People want to know, 'If I move to a particular supplier, how do I move out again if I want to change?'" Lock said.
Another potential improvement is for the service-level agreements for cloud services to be brought up to the same standard as hosted services, which would build business confidence in the reliability of cloud computing.