Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Harry Trott, James Carlini

Related Topics: Cloud Expo

Cloud Expo: Blog Feed Post

Independent Cloud Providers: Introducing Brightbox

Of little clouds and big clouds, local clouds and global clouds

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.

Image: NASA

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.

Related articles

More Stories By Paul Miller

Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database.

He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
There's no doubt that the Internet of Things is driving the next wave of innovation. Google has spent billions over the past few months vacuuming up companies that specialize in smart appliances and machine learning. Already, Philips light bulbs, Audi automobiles, and Samsung washers and dryers can communicate with and be controlled from mobile devices. To take advantage of the opportunities the Internet of Things brings to your business, you'll want to start preparing now.
DevOps Summit, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developmen...
In a world of ever-accelerating business cycles and fast-changing client expectations, the cloud increasingly serves as a growth engine and a path to new business models. Dynamic clouds enable businesses to continuously reinvent themselves, adapting their business processes, their service and software delivery and their operations to achieve speed-to-market and quick response to customer feedback. As the cloud evolves, the industry has multiple competing cloud technologies, offering on-premises ...
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the...
Over the years, a variety of methodologies have emerged in order to overcome the challenges related to project constraints. The successful use of each methodology seems highly context-dependent. However, communication seems to be the common denominator of the many challenges that project management methodologies intend to resolve. In this respect, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be viewed as powerful tools for managing projects. Few research papers have focused on the way...
As the world moves from DevOps to NoOps, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. However, applications have been architected with a much tighter coupling than it needs to be which makes deployment in different environments and migration between them harder. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, Netflix and so on is at the heart of CloudFoundry – a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS...
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises a...
Hybrid IT is an approach to delivering IT services that matches business requirements and application needs with different IT deployment modalities. In their session at 16th Cloud Expo, Jeff Katzen, Director of the Cloud Practice at CenturyLink, and Gary Sloper, Area Vice President, Sales Engineering and Operations, at CenturyLink, will go into more depth around those different modalities and how customers have made decisions to choose between them. They will talk to some of the challenges t...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect...
The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential. The DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo – to be held June 3-5, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City – will expand the DevOps community, enable a wide...
Enterprises are fast realizing the importance of integrating SaaS/Cloud applications, API and on-premises data and processes, to unleash hidden value. This webinar explores how managers can use a Microservice-centric approach to aggressively tackle the unexpected new integration challenges posed by proliferation of cloud, mobile, social and big data projects. Industry analyst and SOA expert Jason Bloomberg will strip away the hype from microservices, and clearly identify their advantages and d...
With worldwide spending on cloud services and infrastructure growing by 23% in 2015 to $118B, it is clear that cloud services are here to stay. Yet, the rate of cloud adoption varies by companies and markets around the world. With thousands of outages and hijacks across the Internet every day, one reason for hesitation is the faith in quality Internet performance. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Michael Kane, Senior Manager at Dyn, will explore how Internet performance affects your end-user...
With SaaS use rampant across organizations, how can IT departments track company data and maintain security? More and more departments are commissioning their own solutions and bypassing IT. A cloud environment is amorphous and powerful, allowing you to set up solutions for all of your user needs: document sharing and collaboration, mobile access, e-mail, even industry-specific applications. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Shawn Mills, President and a founder of Green House Data, will discus...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to DevOps Summit 2015 as Conference Chair. The 4th International DevOps Summit will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited to help the great team at ...
Organizations today are confounded by an avalanche of data that needs to be processed and managed on a daily basis. Through relevant use cases and a thought-provoking dialogue on an organization’s ‘Data to Decisions’ journey, Andrew Clyne, Chief Data Officer at CenturyLink Cognilytics, will reveal in his session at Big Data Expo how your organization can monetize data as a strategic asset. State-of-the-art Big Data and Advanced Analytics capabilities provided as a managed service can enable da...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner is Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., will discuss the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and co...
Move from reactive to proactive cloud management in a heterogeneous cloud infrastructure. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Manoj Khabe, Innovative Solution-Focused Transformation Leader at Vicom Computer Services, Inc., will show how to replace a help desk-centric approach with an ITIL-based service model and service-centric CMDB that’s tightly integrated with an event and incident management platform. Learn how to expand the scope of operations management to service management. He will al...
There is no question that the cloud is where businesses want to host data. Until recently hypervisor virtualization was the most widely used method in cloud computing. Recently virtual containers have been gaining in popularity, and for good reason. In the debate between virtual machines and containers, the latter have been seen as the new kid on the block – and like other emerging technology have had some initial shortcomings. However, the container space has evolved drastically since coming on...