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What’s your cloud battleground?

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Tony Lucas of Flexiant advises service providers to differentiate in order to compete on the cloud battlefield on their terms.

Until now, cloud washing has been the talk of the town. But that’s all changed. The public cloud market is growing and to compete in the market, you must enter the cloud battleground. And the lines have been drawn. Some service providers are commoditising the market, while others fall foul of the giants. So, what about you? If you’re entering the cloud battle, why not win it?

Flexiant put together a short playful video on what’s happening on the cloud battleground. Maybe you’ll be inspired to win the cloud war!

An inspired title, Ahead in the Clouds is a great resource for everything cloud. This video speaks to exactly that message for the service provider. You need to get ahead in the cloud! With all this in mind, we thought we’d take a step back and provide a quick question and answer session on Flexiant so you can assess how cloud orchestration solutions can help you win the cloud war.

What is Flexiant all about?
Flexiant’s heritage in the service provider and cloud industry stretches back to 1997. Originally developed for its own customers, Flexiant’s technology was designed specifically with the needs of service providers in mind and enables them to build and sell cloud services.

Spending on public IT cloud services will grow five times faster than that for the IT industry as a whole from 2013 to 2017, according to a new report from IDC.

Why the service provider?
We all know the public cloud market is growing substantially. The switch to public cloud is happening with increasing momentum. In fact, spending on public IT cloud services will grow five times faster than that for the IT industry as a whole from 2013 to 2017, according to a new report from IDC. With this in mind, we cater to the service provider because that’s where the cloud is moving. Service providers  need a solution that’s going to let them be more than a commodity and instead an external source of cloud expertise with all the infrastructure and application solutions available in open place easily.

What is cloud orchestration?
The cloud actually exists – there is compute, storage, network, cables, racks and all of that needs to be managed. There are also applications that need to be deployed on this hardware. Cloud orchestration lets you manage all that from one single platform. To put it another way, it is the ability to instantly manage, automate and streamline all elements of a cloud platform including the management of physical and virtual resources.

How did you develop your cloud orchestration solution?
Tony Lucas, our founder, faced a number of challenges and saw a lot of change during his time at the helm of the hosting company XCalibre, which specialised in solving some of the world’s most challenging web hosting problems. However, as new technologies emerged and old problems were solved, the two problems that always remained were flexibility and scalability.

He alongside his team, put together a cloud orchestration solution that solved his business problems when we were a hosting company. Effectively, we wanted to maximize our internal resources while delivering against the customer needs.

With that in mind, we realised we had a solution that really did solve a business problem for host providers, service providers and telcos. It helps these businesses overcome the technical challenges of building a truly scalable IT infrastructure while delivering on cloud computing’s promises of on-demand, self-service provisioning of computing services with granular metering and billing for customers. It is here that Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator, built on the foundation of Lucas’ hosting company’s years of practical development, comes in.

With cloud orchestration in place, service providers gain an end-to-end Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform, fully loaded with over a decade’s experience and problem solving built in.

Why is your cloud orchestration solution different?
Because Flexiant was built to solve an existing hosting company’s problems, our heritage means we’ve kept the business requirements in mind in every new version. Our software lets you orchestrate your infrastructure and applications, but it also lets you differentiate against competitors. You can meter and bill based on your business needs. You can expand to new geographies with the correct language. You can deploy pre-configured applications based on what verticals or industries you specialise. You can also expand your business through resellers by supporting complex sales situations. The cloud orchestration handles all the intricacies of all this and of course more.

You can meter and bill based on your business needs. You can expand to new geographies with the correct language. You can deploy pre-configured applications based on what verticals or industries you specialize. You can also expand your business through resellers by supporting complex sales situations.

What is the cloud battleground?
We believe there is a battle out there to win the cloud war. You have private clouds, hybrid clouds, public clouds and vendors all supporting these. You have customers that want to protect the empire and others that want all the benefits of public cloud. You have industry giants like Amazon with huge stakes in the market, while giants are quickly trying to catch up. How is it then that you are going to differentiate and win business? That’s the cloud battleground.

So then, how exactly do you start to win?
Service providers, telcos and hosters need to be armed with a platform that helps turn innovative ideas into revenue generating services quickly and easily. We know from our customers that there is a lot of creativity in the market. But when technology doesn’t support this innovation, you might miss a market opportunity. Worse yet, a competitor might have a similar idea and get to market fast.

We believe you need to lead the market through innovation and to do this you need a solution that can be customized, easily, to adapt to the services you want to deliver your customers. You also need to compete more effectively by developing your own unique services to differentiate and here again, you need the ability to customize your platform. Lastly, you need to generate more revenue and growth. Speed to revenue and revenue from new streams, such as resellers becomes essential.

Customization and extensibility sounds good to get you to market and make more money, but can that really make a difference?

To illustrate how important it is to differentiate based on customization, extensibility and an ecosystem, you needn’t look further than Apple vs. Nokia.

Nokia was the world’s largest vendor of mobile phones from 1998 to 2012. However, over the past five years its market share declined as a result of the growing use of touchscreen smartphones from other vendors—principally the Apple iPhone.

Whereas Apple created, first and foremost, a device that can be summed up as ‘cool’, they also did something genius. They created a product that could be customized to the end users requirements by making it easy to create apps for it. As a result, they created an ecosystem of all sorts developing apps that end users wanted. They extended the use of the iPhone to others and as of October 2013, the App Store has more than 475,000 native apps by Apple and third parties.

Consider the difference in share prices. Apple stock increased 332.47% from the day Apple launched the first iPhone up until today whereas Nokia has dropped 74%. Put another way, if you owned $100 of stock in both companies on the day Apple launched the iPhone, your apple stock would now be worth over 13 times your Nokia stock.

Applied to the cloud service market the same holds true. If you can offer a differentiated cloud service that allows you and your end users to customize it to meet their needs, plus create an eco-system of technologies that integrate, you’ll be primed to win the cloud war.

Illustrating this point demonstrates the difference between both companies in creating business value, and also of enabling easy integration with third parties. When you do this, you allow customization by the end user, and also create an ecosystem of partners primed to make money themselves, all while increasing revenue for you.

Applied to the cloud service market the same holds true. If you can offer a differentiated cloud service that allows you and your end users to customize it to meet their needs, plus create an eco-system of technologies that integrate, you’ll be primed to win the cloud war. Back to Apple vs. Nokia – one has thrived, while the other didn’t survive on its own. 

How will Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator allow you to do the same?
Our cloud orchestration solution supports both an individual business, but also extends to reselling cloud services and includes:

  • Internationalization so it is easy to on-board customers based on their geography and billing requirements.
  • Granular multi-level metering and billing that supports complex billing scenarios, multi-level master billing entities and customers, applies differing rates of billing and pricing structures for different entities. This should include subscription billing capabilities so you can bill according to your business.
  • Payment provider plug-ins to interface with payment provider systems to allow different plug-ins to be created for handling merchant transactions.
  • An intuitive and customizable user interface so end users only see relevant information, resources in use and capabilities available which will help to reduce the workload on the IT team. It includes brandable and whitelabelled context sensitive help to change the languages, descriptions and terminology used; important when you want to differentiate services.
  • Chef configuration management tool for single click complex application deployment involving multiple servers, networks and resources all from a friendly user interface.
  • Cloud blueprint technology to allow service providers to graphically select all of the elements required to build a standard virtual workload package and save this as a re-usable and re-deployable template.
  • Scalability assurance at every layer of the stack and across multiple clusters and locations so service providers never need to worry about scaling the business.

How is this all customizable?
Our solution is a fully customizable platform to meet a service provider’s unique needs. You can customize the user interface (UI), the billing system and now apply customization based on business logic and additional plugins to enable ecosystem partners. Flexiant has introduced new trigger technology within Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator to allow external systems as well as users to receive notifications or requests when customizable ‘trigger’ events occur within the platform.

What is a plugin?
One of the key challenges for service providers wishing to differentiate is the choice between using an off the shelf solution with limited differentiation capabilities, and building something themselves that can take far longer than expected and require skills not always available in house. We believe there is a third way, which is having a solid and mature core platform, with a series of plugins to then modify that platform to suit you and your customers requirements.

Short and simple plug-ins can be written to apply logic to cloud management. Service providers can easily establish rules that trigger activity such as notifications that an event has occurred, automated provisioning of resources, applying workflows, etc.

A plugin enables you to tightly integrate our platform with other solutions, and/or change the way our platform itself behaves. We have a range of off-the-shelf plugins for integration with third party technologies to choose from, or you can create a bespoke plugin to meet your individual requirements.  This makes it quick and simple for either Flexiant or our customers to develop customizations, with a few clicks through our intuitive UI and in a matter of days.

Short and simple plug-ins can be written to apply logic to cloud management. Service providers can easily establish rules that trigger activity such as notifications that an event has occurred, automated provisioning of resources, applying workflows, etc. Plugins can also be applied to other systems within a service provider’s infrastructure so, for example, using a trigger; you can easily write plug-ins on top of the management platform for back-up infrastructure, billing systems, data center infrastructure and customer management or monitoring.

<!– What’s your final words for the reader?
If you are a service provider, visit our website, have a look around and get in contact. We know we can help you differentiate based on a cloud orchestration that can be up and running in days, and then customized and extended to support your complex business.–>