Can cloud computing help regional providers compete for customers on a national basis? That's among the ambitions for Hosted Solutions, which today is introducing the Stratus Trusted Cloud, a cloud platform with a "four nines" service level agreement (SLA) designed to attract enterprise production systems.
Hosted Solutions started life as a local provider focused on the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, with headquarters in Cary and a data center in Raleigh. The company expanded into Boston in 2006, and was acquired by ABRY Partners last year. The new ownership has helped Hosted Solutions expand or upgrade its five data centers, setting the stage for today's announcement of a cloud computing service.
"We believe this is a product that helps us expand beyond the typical data center managed hosting offering," said Kip Turco, the Chief Operating Officer for Hosted Solutions, who said he expected the Stratus Trusted Cloud to expand the company's customer footprint. "This makes it much easier for us to sell at a national level."
The Stratus Trusted Cloud features a "massively scalable, multi-tenant infrastructure ... with built-in high availability and automated resource balancing," the company says. The platform will be supported by Cisco's new Nexus switches as well as hardware and software from VMware, Sun, EMC, F5 and Juniper.
99.99 Percent Uptime SLA
"This environment is very robust," said Turco. "For our cloud, the differentiator is a four nines (99.99 percent) SLA. This is not a developer cloud. We are an infrastructure as a service provider and are used to dealing with production systems. That's what we do well."
The Stratus Trusted Cloud will allow customers to scale their resources up and down and bill customers based on resource usage. The platform will run in Hosted Solutions' Raleigh data center, with additional sites to be added later. But it won't be fully "self-serve," with instant management through a web portal, as seen in many new cloud services.
"We actually go through a process where we require customers to interact with our staff," said Turco, who said the company chose this approach to address enterprise customers' concerns about staffers making mistakes with online management tools.
The first customer using the Stratus Cloud is Digitalsmiths, which helps content companies monetize video. "Working with major Hollywood studios, media companies and advertisers requires us to work with large amounts of video data," said Matt Berry, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of DigitalSmiths. "As part of our work, we need to be able to rapidly scale up our access to more storage space and processing capability. Trying to do all this in house can take time, money and detract us from focusing on our core capability. By introducing the Stratus Trusted Cloud, Hosted Solutions will enable us to simply and automatically get the resources we need in less time and at a fraction of the cost."
Specialized Clouds for Vertical Markets
Turco said he expects cloud computing will soon focus on developing specialized clouds for vertical markets. "A production-level cloud will need to be based around compliance requirements, such as a PCI-compliant cloud, or a pharma or biotech cloud that would be HIPAA compliant," he said. "I don't think a lot of enterprises are going to jump into the cloud until there's been a switch from the developer cloud to a production cloud."
Turco compares the development of cloud computing to the evolution of virtualiztion, which got its foothold in the enterprise in test environments and was later adopted in production. Hosted Solutions is leveraging its experience hosting production environments for customers such as the Atlanta Falcons, Channel Advisor, Lowe's Motor Speedway, Sony Ericsson, Motricity and and more.
More Growth Ahead
"For nearly a decade, we have built our business around delivering best-in-class service at every level for our customers," said Rich Lee, Hosted Solutions’ founder and Chief Executive Officer. "The Stratus Trusted Cloud continues that tradition. It is a cloud platform that provides the benefits of strategic IT infrastructure support – enabling our SME customers to run their production environments, even as they realize the cost, time and efficiency advantages that are increasingly associated with cloud computing."
While the Stratus Trusted Cloud may allow Hosted Solutions to expand its virtual geography, it's thinking about physical expansion as well. "The company is really positioned well to expand and grow," said Turco. "We've been very methodical when it comes to expanding. We've been actively looking at companies and markets to look to expand the company beyond its current three markets."