Back in 2009, John Treadway predicted there would be a great cloud shakeout that would leave us with two categories of cloud service providers or CSPs (not to be confused with Microsoft’s Cloud Solutions Provider partner program): commodity and niche.

  • Commodity CSPs are the pile it high and sell it cheap stores.
  • Niche CSPs offer better support, tools, performance, or other differentiators.

Spin forward to the present day and we have three big commodity cloud providers: Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. (Read Treadway’s 2015 look back at his 2009 predictions.) Why would customers around the world pick a niche cloud provider, rather than one of these big three?

A niche provider’s global appeal

ElasticHosts is a niche CSP based in the UK — a rainy island on the west coast of Europe — and is a global supplier of cloud infrastructure. Jonathan King, Head of Marketing at ElasticHosts, described how they manage to differentiate their cloud provision from the big three and appeal to customers around the world.

One of the ElasticHosts differentiators is customer support. King described how support works in ElasticHosts. “We have 24/7/365 email and phone support by using a close-knit team in 3 different time zones, with a remote sales and support model.” King added, “Since we run our own ElasticStack platform rather than OpenStack or similar, if you ring our support line you’re instantly talking to one of the engineers that helped build and maintain the entire platform.”

ElasticHosts have 10 data centers in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. King said ElasticHosts places data centers around the world because “demand for cloud is high in all countries, not just the easier, saturated, rich-world markets. Cloud is good for emerging markets — it means world-class compute services are available to buyers in any country, even if there is no local supplier.”

North, Central, and South American customers

ElasticHosts has four data centers in the US to satisfy customer demand for classic cloud requirements like instant scalability and low latency.

Some customers, worried about compliance issues, use their data center in Canada. “We opened Toronto many years ago because we saw there were a lot of American customers that wanted to serve The Lakes and North East US but were worried about US data laws and wanted some protection from the trigger-happy wielding of subpoenas like submachine guns.”

Their most recent data center launch was in Florida. “The opening of our DC in Miami was to improve links to our customers in Latin America as well as increasing coverage across the US.”

Data compliance in the EU

ElasticHosts run two data centers in the UK and one in the Netherlands. King said, “There are some customers that appreciate our Amsterdam DC since it keeps data beyond the grasp of the UK (and, by extension, whatever Westminster allows the States to get away with), but keeps it still within the EU.”

The network requirements of Hotspot Express in India

Hotspot Express is an ElasticHosts customer in India. This huge country has the third largest internet consumer base in the world (after China and the US). Hotspot Express provides Wi-Fi solutions to hotels, cafes, malls, and other locations.

Manickam Murugan, founder of Hotspot Express, said they chose ElasticHosts because other providers hesitated to open specific ports required by RADIUS servers (for network access management). The company tried cheaper providers, but their services were not as reliable.

Flexibility and support for Azapi in South Africa

Azapi is a digital agency and hosting solutions provider in South Africa since 2004. Gerrit Giliomee, Azapi’s Technical Director, said they worked their way through four local providers up to 2012. “Everything ran great, with low latency as a result of the reduced distance that packets need to travel. However, we found that the level of support from local companies did not match that of European or US suppliers.”

Giliomee swapped to ElasticHosts for the “flexibility in terms of tweaking memory, disk usage, and CPU independently” and found “great support over the years.”

Giliomee would like to see more dedicated cloud hosting providers in Sub-Saharan Africa to meet the growing demand.

Space for niche providers

The big cloud commodity three are all based in the US. Since these big providers and their big enterprise customers are usually the ones hitting the headlines, it’s easy to assume the cloud world is US centric.

While commodity is valuable, customers around the world have many different reasons for choosing a niche provider. The global customer base of ElasticHosts has a range of requirements, from flexibility to networking, to a more personal customer service.

The cloud computing landscape is still changing. Although it is unlikely the big three commodity providers will change, there is space for niche providers to make a difference.

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