Nick Hardiman surveys the IaaS landscape that is native to the UK. Who are the big players and what do they offer that their hyperscale competitors do not?
I live in the UK where Olympics fever is growing. The Olympics Committee marketers have stuck the label "Team GB" on the collection of British athletes, the Team GB web site is up, manufacturers are gearing up for production of Team GB trinkets, and there are even actual sportspeople being selected to represent their country.
If I wanted to find an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) version of Team GB, who would it be? Is anyone crazy enough to compete with the U.S. hyperscale companies to win global customers? What kind of medals could a Cloud Team GB win?
Cloud Harmony, a cloud metrics company (in Utah, not UK), lists about half a dozen British suppliers in their list of a hundred public cloud companies. I know some foreign companies run data centers in the UK, but that doesn't make them part of Cloud Team GB. Many Olympic Team GB athletes were born in other countries, but they do hold British passports.
The GB players have to find their USP and specialize in a profitable part of the IaaS market. Success means listening to their existing customers and easing their pain. Many GB hosters are not going down the cloud route at all because their customers don't need OSSM attributes (on-demand, self-serve, scalable, measurable).
OpenSure, a fully managed hosting provider, runs a virtualized infrastructure for its customers. Many of its customers want to remove their IT overhead, not increase it with self-service tools. Its USP is its ethical approach and green credentials rather than on-demand services and metered billing. OpenSure has no plan to roll out their own cloud offering, but has inheriting cloud administration work from some of its customers.
Bytemark has built a new cloud computing service called BigV, currently in beta. Bytemark spent many years offering classic hosting services like co-lo, fully-managed and shared hosting, and built up a good reputation as the go-to infrastructure service for geeks. Bytemark's cloud service, BigV, will probably launch around the same time as the Olympics. As you would expect from a company with sysadmin roots, build-out tasks like command line tool enhancement are taking a higher priority than web console polishing.
Brightbox launched Brightbox Cloud last year, having spent several years building a strong reputation in Europe for Ruby on Rails services. When the time came to overhaul their infrastructure, they decided to build a full cloud service with an emphasis on helping DevOps achieve agile software development by keeping things simple and flexible.
There are not many natural advantages for Cloud Team GB.
- GB infrastructure companies are relatively tiny compared to other IaaS players. They don't have billion-dollar budgets, or a daily delivery of containers full of computers, or 40 points of presence covering the globe.
- There is a governance advantage: data protection laws in Britain and the EU reassure customers that their company data is safer with a British company than it is with an American one, but fear of the Patriot Act is not exactly crippling the success of Rackspace, Joyent, or Google.
- Many suppliers fight for the same old customers. The next ten years will see Nigeria become an Internet powerhouse. That kind of revolution has come and gone in GB.
It won't always be this way. IDC found that "regions outside the U.S. will show much stronger growth as cloud services adoption accelerates". But for now, any British company that wants to carve a name in the IaaS arena has to be very careful about its strategy.
No British company is doing well enough to get the opportunity to compete for Amazon's clients. There is just no British company that can go head-to-head with Amazon because they stand just as much chance as British boxers in the 1970s, going head-to-head with the American Muhammad Ali. Ali faced opponents from all around the world during the golden age of boxing - the 1970s - and pretty much beat them all. Amazon is the new Ali.