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Smaller hosting providers seek to offer public clouds of their own

Small and medium-sized data centers look for low-cost, purpose-built packages to capitalize on public-cloud markets.

New products are luring smaller hosting companies into the public cloud arena with promises of greater ease of use and more efficient technologies. Hosters and managed service providers are targeting their own customer base with cloud computing to streamline their own operations and offer low maintenance, pay-as-you-go buying options.

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Options for turning a data center into a cloud are broad, from maturing open source projects such as Eucalyptus and Abiquo to enterprise technologies such as VMware's vSphere, 3tera Inc. and Elastra Corp. These products can make a data center into a self-service, scalable, highly virtualized environment, but other companies are rushing to fill the gap in cloud offerings and selling to the public with a raft of features.

But enabling ease of use and lower-cost cloud options also raises concerns for some customers about the fate of their data.

Losing data control in the cloud
Jim Latimer, the VP of client solutions at CentriLogic cites Enomaly's new ECP Cloud Service Provider Edition as a highly targeted combination of business-friendly functionality and dubious utopian features.

For instance, the software includes an ability to link to other Enomaly clouds to provide automatic "spillover" capacity. Latimer said he liked the idea but couldn't envision customers being comfortable with the concept of their traffic being shuffled around.

"You're looking at a pretty big leap," he said, to ask a client to sign off on their application being "load-balanced across the planet". He said his clients want peace of mind and control -- and data jumping across organizational or international borders at the drop of a hat is a nonstarter.

On the other hand, "[Enomaly's software] will allow us to help clients create delineation points for where their data is stored," said Latimer. This would potentially allow him to address cross-border data security, a major client concern, since Ontario-based CentriLogic has data centers in both the U.S. and Canada.

"It's got everything I need to sell cloud computing," he admitted, saying that the built-in self-service Web portal for public users and billing features were attractive. CentriLogic is currently testing the software, and Latimer said the company is considering several other solutions.

The combination of drop-in features and the low-investment licensing scheme prompted Steve Nice, the technology director at the U.K.-based hosting firm ForLinux to experiment with Enomaly's new product .

It's got everything I need to sell cloud computing.
Jim Latimer,
VP of client solutions at CentriLogic, on Enomaly's ECP Cloud Service Provider Edition
ForLinux's dedicated hosting was the first concern, where scaling resources is a costly headache, according to Nice. "Virtualization and self-service solves both problems neatly," said Nice. He also wants to lure customers who don't host but want to turn their IT into private clouds. They may have an extensive IT investment "but not necessarily the skills or the expertise" to re-provision their infrastructure, he said.

ForLinux hopes to make money charging a premium over Enomaly's software fees, which scale with a client's use. Nice said Enomaly's fees are worth paying because ForLinux won't have to risk capital expenditure on developing its own cloud and user interface.

"That's something we're going to see more of," said Latimer unhappily. He said this is common in the managed-services world, and pointed to Microsoft's Service Provider Licensing Agreement as the flagship example. Latimer says that it's a way for vendors to tap into user revenue without offering additional value as they grow.

Reuven Cohen, who founded Enomaly in 2004, says that even though his company gives away its core product, he smelled money in the small to medium-sized data center market. By providing a bespoke offering that requires a minimal initial investment, he wants to pick up hosting companies willing to pay for the use of their own computers. "We're aimed at anyone who wants to provide a public cloud," he said.

Carl Brooks is a Technology Writer for Write to him at And check out our Troposphere blog.

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