|By Paul Miller||
|April 23, 2012 03:00 AM EDT||
Amazon’s globe-encircling cloud infrastructure is compelling to many. From Virginia to California, from Ireland to Singapore, and from Japan to Brazil; wherever you find yourself there’s a local instance of the same familiar set of services. And, in all likelihood, Australia will soon be added to the list. For those primarily interested in just serving both Europe and the US, the list of options grows to include Rackspace, GoGrid, CloudSigma and a few others.
And yet, despite the buying power and increasing ubiquity of these larger players, there seems to be plenty of space left for smaller entrants. For prospective customers only concerned with a single country or region, for example, the choices are almost too many to count, and choosing between them becomes a complex and multi-faceted affair.
Take Brightbox, for example. As my family know all too well, those pesky timezones mean that many of my evenings are punctuated with calls to or from the States, where so much of the innovation in this sector continues to take root and grow. Either that, or I’m creeping out of a sleeping house to catch early trains for the 150 mile journey south to London. It was therefore refreshing to talk to someone in this industry whose offices are only 50 miles away in the UK city of Leeds.
Established back in 2005 as a Ruby shop capable of hosting apps on dedicated hardware, Brightbox has evolved to place increasing emphasis upon the provision of infrastructure. In 2010, the company began to seriously explore the possibility of offering a generic cloud infrastructure environment. This was in the days before OpenStack, but Eucalyptus existed and was attracting interest. But according to Brightbox co-founder Jeremy Jarvis, 2010′s Eucalyptus lacked some key resilience features (load balancing, multi-data centre capabilities, etc) that the team believed were critical… so they built their own system from the ground up. And, at the end of September last year, Brightbox Cloud entered general availability.
The Brightbox cloud operates out of two UK data centres, with planning underway for a third. Both data centres are now owned and operated by Telecity, which acquired the two independent data centre providers with whom Brightbox had launched. Brightbox owns the racks and (Dell) hardware, and also ensures provision of redundant network access into the data centres. Customers are predominantly drawn from across Europe, but Jarvis says he’s seeing some customers coming from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. The company sees its potential growth through eventual expansion to data centres on the European mainland, but Jarvis says he’s “much less interested in setting up yet another” North American operation. The company is profitable, employs ten staff, and is seeing steady growth in usage.
Brightbox does not (yet) offer a web management console, but Jarvis describes this as a conscious decision and also something of an asset. The company has instead focused their attention upon crafting a rich, capable and intuitive API (and associated command-line interface). According to Jarvis, the developers that the company tends to target have responded favourably to the API, describing it as “nice” and “more consistent” than the various APIs offered by Amazon’s growing suite of services.
A focus upon developers (and the growing Dev/Ops movement) was also a strategic decision, and Jarvis cites examples in which ‘mere developers’ have proved instrumental in securing significant contracts with Brightbox from their employers. Corporate purchasing processes may, finally, be evolving. Despite the success of Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings such as Heroku and EngineYard, Jarvis also suggests that Brightbox is seeing growing evidence that developers are seeking more fine-grained control over infrastructure than PaaS typically offers. A platform abstracts the underlying complexity of infrastructure, making it easier for application builders to focus upon creating the specific services they wish to provide. But abstractions typically require compromises, with configuration decisions being made for everyone on the platform on the basis of ‘normal’ requirements. For developers with non-normal requirements (and they may actually be the majority of users), IaaS is more likely to offer the fine-grained control that they need.
But the cloud infrastructure world has come a long way since Brightbox began planning their product two years ago. OpenStack has arrived, and (despite a growing body of nay-sayers) is credible. Rackspace, HP, and others are on the cusp of delivering real clouds to real customers on the back of its codeline. Eucalyptus appears to have turned a corner, and pulled back from a brink that I (and others) saw them teetering on the edge of. Canonical’s marriage of Ubuntu to OpenStack is now just one of several ways to get the same cloud code, capabilities and apis onto machines running inside your own data centre. Amazon just keeps on doing what Amazon does, incrementally adding features, cutting prices, and becoming ever-harder to not choose.
In that world, surely a little cloud provider operating their own bespoke solution from the wrong end of the Leeds-London railway line, in a country on the wrong side of both the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean has no hope? Surely they should just pack up shop, and either adopt OpenStack/Eucalyptus fast… or find a new line of work?
Jeremy Jarvis disagrees, vehemently. And he’s not alone. Look at Edinburgh’s Flexiant, Glasgow’s SymetriQ, and a whole host of other companies that have built their own solutions from nothing. Others, of course, have recognised the value in taking OpenStack, Eucalyptus, Microsoft’s Windows Azure, and similarly established technologies, and making them their own. Look at Eduserv’s Swindon data centre, or the hosted desktops from East Yorkshire’s own GoCloud.
So how can Brightbox (or Flexiant, or SymetriQ, or any of the other non-conformers) compete? How, indeed, can they survive? Jarvis suggests that “Buy British” continues to carry weight here. Even without raising the scary (and often, actually, wholly irrelevant) spectre of PATRIOT Act-powered snooping, a significant proportion of UK (or European) companies like the idea of buying services from UK (or European) suppliers. They like that the documentation is spelled correctly. They like that telephone support is (more or less) in their timezone. They like that the development team shows up at local events, and that it’s a person buying the drinks in the bar, rather than the disembodied marketing budget of some far-off corporation.
Purchasing decisions for something like cloud infrastructure are complicated. Often, they’re probably quite illogical. Price isn’t always the deciding factor (and even if it were, smaller providers like Brightbox aren’t ridiculously expensive in comparison to their larger competitors). Having been the friendly face at a local developer event might swing that big contract. Or having a “nice” API. Or implementing niche features in firewalls, or networking, or port forwarding might each grab the attention — and loyalty — of specific sectors of the long tail. Tesco might sell ‘everything’ to ‘everyone,’ but we still have room in our lives for the SPAR corner shop, and for the upscale deli with the nice cakes.
The same’s true in the cloud, although I can’t help feeling that we’re going to see quite a rapid decline in entirely new cloud infrastructures as the next generation of niche cloud boutiques take OpenStack or Eucalyptus and mould them to their requirements. They probably won’t be making those decisions because (like we Clouderati) they agonise endlessly about interoperability or portability or the de facto standard of the Amazon Web Services stack. For most of their SME customers, those things simply don’t matter. Instead, they’ll be adopting OpenStack or Eucalyptus because the grunt work (and the marketing) has been done. It simply costs less to take something off the shelf than to develop it yourself from scratch. But for companies like Brightbox, where that investment has already been made? Well, for them there may still be plenty of prospective customers out there.
- Eucalyptus grabs $30M from IVP to push the open-source private cloud forward (venturebeat.com)
- Announcing Brightbox Cloud – the UK’s first true IaaS platform! (brightbox.co.uk)
- Platform as a service ready to rev up, says Gartner (zdnet.com)
- Hosting providers aim to challenge cloud leaders (zdnet.com)
- Joyent Brings Its Public Cloud To Europe (techweekeurope.co.uk)
- Rackspace launches OpenStack-powered next-gen public cloud (venturebeat.com)
- Ubuntu Cloud Portal: Brightbox 12.04 daily images now available, discounts for testers and Ubuntu members (cloud.ubuntu.com)
- Ubuntu Linux heads to the clouds (zdnet.com)
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at th...
Jun. 29, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,636
"We provide a web application framework for building really sophisticated web applications that run on a browser without any installation need so we get used for biotech, defense, and banking applications," noted Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit (http://DevOpsSummit.SYS-CON.com), held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York
Jun. 29, 2015 04:16 PM EDT Reads: 367
"Plutora provides release and testing environment capabilities to the enterprise," explained Dalibor Siroky, Director and Co-founder of Plutora, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 03:34 PM EDT Reads: 365
The time is ripe for high speed resilient software defined storage solutions with unlimited scalability. ISS has been working with the leading open source projects and developed a commercial high performance solution that is able to grow forever without performance limitations. In his session at Cloud Expo, Alex Gorbachev, President of Intelligent Systems Services Inc., shared foundation principles of Ceph architecture, as well as the design to deliver this storage to traditional SAN storage co...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,760
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,182
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect t...
Jun. 29, 2015 01:19 PM EDT Reads: 636
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of pro...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:19 PM EDT Reads: 550
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,500
Even as cloud and managed services grow increasingly central to business strategy and performance, challenges remain. The biggest sticking point for companies seeking to capitalize on the cloud is data security. Keeping data safe is an issue in any computing environment, and it has been a focus since the earliest days of the cloud revolution. Understandably so: a lot can go wrong when you allow valuable information to live outside the firewall. Recent revelations about government snooping, along...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,094
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,202
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,822
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not ...
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,077
"We got started as search consultants. On the services side of the business we have help organizations save time and save money when they hit issues that everyone more or less hits when their data grows," noted Otis Gospodnetić, Founder of Sematext, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:46 AM EDT Reads: 466
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,976
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,860
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,935
Malicious agents are moving faster than the speed of business. Even more worrisome, most companies are relying on legacy approaches to security that are no longer capable of meeting current threats. In the modern cloud, threat diversity is rapidly expanding, necessitating more sophisticated security protocols than those used in the past or in desktop environments. Yet companies are falling for cloud security myths that were truths at one time but have evolved out of existence.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,921
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue o...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,354
SYS-CON Events announced today that JFrog, maker of Artifactory, the popular Binary Repository Manager, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in California, Israel and France, founded by longtime field-experts, JFrog, creator of Artifactory and Bintray, has provided the market with the first Binary Repository solution and a software distribution social platform.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:20 AM EDT Reads: 542
In the midst of the widespread popularity and adoption of cloud computing, it seems like everything is being offered “as a Service” these days: Infrastructure? Check. Platform? You bet. Software? Absolutely. Toaster? It’s only a matter of time. With service providers positioning vastly differing offerings under a generic “cloud” umbrella, it’s all too easy to get confused about what’s actually being offered. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Kevin Hazard, Director of Digital Content for SoftL...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,913