The Troposphere

Nov 16 2011   10:24PM GMT

Tata approaches U.S. cloud market with caution

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

For U.S. cloud users looking for a provider with a global footprint, Tata Communications is easing its way into the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market, one continent at a time.

The India-based telco has an IaaS offering throughout India, Singapore and the U.K., called Instacompute, but it’s taking a more cautious approach to the U.S. cloud market.  

“We have no plans to go up against Amazon or Rackspace in the U.S.,” said John Landau, senior vice president of technology at Tata. The company has data centers on the east and west coasts of North America and will stand up cloud instances in the U.S. for customers in India or Singapore who want a presence here.  But that’s it for now.

“AWS is formidable,” Landau said of Amazon’s cloud business. Tata’s Instacompute looks similar to it, as do all IaaS offerings that have popped up in Amazon’s wake; it’s multi-tenant, Xen-based and pay-by-the-hour.  Roughly a thousand companies are running Instacompute in trial installments and almost 300 are up and running in production.

The usual suspects are jumping on board with Tata’s product — users building scalable Web apps, games, portals and those running development and test operations. It’s much the same make up as the early adopters of virtualization.

Tata’s competition in India is pretty slim for now, according to Landau. NetMagic has an IaaS facility locally and companies in India are using Amazon Web Services, although its nearest hub is Singapore. “[AWS] will eventually get facilities here and they do a good job of education,” Landau said. But he doesn’t expect Tata’s enterprise customers to go for Amazon’s cloud.

For these customers –the bulk of Tata’s business — the firm is building a VMware enterprise cloud service. “The enterprise guys need VMware,” Landau said. Initially, Tata’s VMware and Xen clouds will be separate offerings, but eventually users will be able to see their VMs across both clouds through the same portal.

Landau expects the VMware cloud service to be up and running and available to U.S. customers in 2012. This will be the basis of Tata’s hybrid cloud offering, connecting private VMware infrastructures to Tata’s public VMware-based cloud. Tata has no plans to offer the Xen cloud as a hybrid solution.  

Key to the “enterprise cloud” will be the payment system, according to Landau. “Credit cards are a painful way to manage finances and spend control.” Tata’s enterprise cloud will let administrators set budgets for each project, place a purchase order and consume services off of that. It’s an enterprise governance model, but it’s still on-demand cloud, he said.

Tata’s cloud technology choices

In evaluating the multitude of cloud platform products, Tata chose’s CloudStack OS (now owned by Citrix) to run Instacompute. Landau’s onboard with Citrix’s goal to absorb OpenStack into CloudStack as the open source platform matures.

“OpenStack is still some distance from that for public cloud,” Landau said. He believes it’s at least 12 months from the functionality available from other cloud platform software like CloudStack, Eucalyptus or Abiquo, among others.  Tata originally went with and CloudStack for its multi-hypervisor support, among other things. 

Landau’s not convinced OpenStack has the muscle behind it to really succeed now. He compared it to the early days of the Linux market, before IBM and Intel got involved. “Once those companies doubled down on Linux, it became what it is today.” Dell and HP have stated their commitment to OpenStack, but it will be a struggle until these vendors really put resources behind it, he added.

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