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Q&A with Flexiant on Trends in European Providers’ Cloud Provisioning Solutions

By June 10, 2013Article

Editor’s note: As cloud adoption increases, cloud management software solutions are becoming essential. After XCalibre Communications launched Europe’s first cloud platform in 2007, it spun off Flexiant in 2009 to focus on developing a cloud orchestration software solution for other service providers. Jim Foley, Flexiant’s SVP, market development, discusses trends in European cloud provisioning software and how cloud capabilities will evolve over the next two to three years. Please explain the industry developments/trends in cloud provisioning software over the past 12 months and how it has changed during that period. What are the business challenges/drivers that are driving companies to turn to providers such as Flexiant? 
Jim Foley: When we launched Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator in May 2012, the cloud-provisioning market was very immature. Service providers, hosters and telcos were coming to the realization that they needed a way to offer on-demand provisioning of cloud services but weren’t really sure of the path to take. 
They were slow to commit to a strategy and many were investigating options or seeking cloud management solutions that could help them commercialize the cloud to rapidly gain additional revenue, improve margins and offer additional routes to market. However, they weren’t pulling the trigger. 
Others were spending significant time and money trying to develop a solution in house with little progress in actually getting to market. Trying to get the software to provision the cloud was one thing; adding multi-level, multi-currency, metering and billing, reseller support, white-labeling capabilities, application provisioning or significant customization was near impossible. 
A lot has changed specifically around public cloud adoption. The transition from private to hybrid to public cloud is a marked sea change in the acceptance of public cloud IT services across the board. What does this mean for cloud service providers? 
Jim Foley: This sea change directly influenced those same service providers, hosters and telcos over the last 12 months. Instead of wasting any more money or time on internal projects or investigating solutions, they are now turning to third-party cloud management solutions that are proven and mature to deliver the on-demand, fully automated provisioning of cloud services that are required. These businesses are not only looking to capture this market, but they also want the capabilities to add new functionality on top so they can differentiate and not become a commodity provider competing on price alone. Why is the Flexiant solution attractive to service providers? 
Jim Foley: It’s customizable and flexible enough to be integrated into any service provider’s existing technology and business model. It’s especially popular with providers with multiple brands or countries in which they operate. 
Also, because Flexiant can be rapidly deployed, it enables providers’ customers to buy cloud services in the shortest possible time. Users can provision, de-provision, start and stop their own servers directly. Please relate a customer success story and the outcomes they were able to achieve by using Flexiant’s solution. 
Jim Foley: The customer I’m discussing is a provider of high-performance, server, storage, workstation and clustered solutions to the high performance computing (HPC), Internet service provider (ISP), military, visual effects (VFX), enterprise and broadcast markets. 
With more and more organizations looking into the cloud, our customer recognized that the private/public cloud distinction model looked set to change. At the same time the customer saw a rise in the demand for consumer clouds as well as large-scale enterprise deployments. The customer wanted to start assisting companies that were considering their cloud options by providing an all-in-one cloud platform; complementing the customer’s high-performance hardware from Supermicro with a reliable and powerful cloud infrastructure software and services provider. 
They chose Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator as the high-performance foundation for their cloud compute offering so that they could create an all-in-one cloud solution that they could highly customize for their customers. Please explain how the European market cloud trends differ from the American market, especially over the past 12 months. 
Jim Foley: Both markets have some similarities and some extreme differences. The same holds true within the European market itself because some countries are actively investing in and building public cloud services such as the Netherlands, UK and the Scandic countries, while others seem less active. 
Overall, the hosting and smaller service provider market in the American market are now making rapid decisions and entering the true cloud services market rather than just settling for virtual private server (VPS) offers. We are seeing the emergence of this sense of urgency in Europe, but it still lags behind the American market. 
Across Europe and America, we are seeing the larger organizations, such as telcos and MSPs, realizing the need to gain market traction and presence quickly. Many of these organizations are abandoning in-house development projects, often using components, in favor of getting to market faster with a commercial solution such as Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator that is able to support their complex requirements. 
These include business functionality that supports multi-currency billing and customization across multi-level reseller channels. These companies are entering the market at scale and have the potential to alter the landscape through wholesale and distributor models that will start to consolidate the market. What do you believe will be the most significant changes in cloud capabilities and drivers in Europe over the next two to three years? 
Jim Foley: Based on our market discussions and where we see resources being invested, I believe that enterprises have begun migration of production workloads to public cloud services. Indeed, I believe that over the next two to three years this will occur faster than anyone is currently predicting and that in three years, for many, this will be the norm.
I also believe that we will start to see the emergence of leaders in the cloud services market with differentiated services for target markets. Many of these operating at scale may not even have a brand presence in the market but will operate through reseller brands. 
In addition, I believe that many of the traditional IT enterprise leaders will suffer since they will not have changed their organization and propositions to support off-site, IT-centered, public clouds. We already see this with IBM, whose market valuation has lost over $1 billion in recent weeks; investment analysts believe this is due to a lack of solutions in the public cloud market. 
European players have the opportunity to seize market share while larger organizations struggle to make the transition to the new reality. 
Flexiant invested millions of pounds over more than five years to launch a solution, and we continue to lead the way in new and innovative solutions for the cloud service provider market. 
Flexiant was a collaborator in the 2013 Future of Cloud survey hosted by North Bridge Venture Partners, 451 Research and GigaOM. Click here to view the results of the survey. 
Jim Foley is SVP, market development, at Flexiant. With 30 years in the industry, has migrated from hands-on software development to running international businesses. He specializes in strategic business growth, having previously held many roles such as CEO (EMEA and APAC) at Kroll and global director of market development and innovation at BT. Foley is a catalyst for market-led innovation and strategic alliances.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of