Flexibility and security without restrictions: The 'cloud of clouds'

ITProPortal this week chatted with Rob Coupland, the UK managing director of TelecityGroup, about all things cloud. The all-encompassing service has really taken off in recent times, so much so that it is difficult to imagine the world of technology without the cloud at its heart. TelecityGroup is after a piece of the action, recently launching Cloud-IX, and we fancied taking a closer look.

What exactly does your role as UK MD entail?

I oversee all of the key operational and business-related aspects of TelecityGroup UK. Customer service is a particularly key area for us, so a really important part of my role is to spend a lot of time connecting with customers to make sure our service is meeting their needs on an ongoing basis. By understanding our customers' requirements, we can anticipate future needs and then deliver appropriate services – such as Cloud-IX. Additionally, because 80 per cent of our staff is customer-facing, it's very important that I constantly engage with them to make sure they understand the TelecityGroup proposition and how they can ensure customers get a premium service.

Is the cloud just a passing trend or is it really the future of technology?

We view the cloud as an extremely important part of the landscape today, but it's not the whole story. It's important to distinguish between the hype that surrounds the cloud, and the fact that many companies are using it to do some truly exciting things. For some companies, it makes sense to retain solely private infrastructure. But for others, public cloud services are allowing the elasticity and flexibility which is enabling some real innovation. In particular, they are able to focus on developing new services and applications, rather than spending all of their time on server maintenance. It's really about having the option to make intelligent choices about your IT infrastructure – we believe we're delivering this with Cloud-IX.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle slowing the spread of cloud? Can Cloud-IX overcome it?

Cloud-IX will enable businesses to make more sophisticated choices around the deployment of their key applications, removing many of the headaches associated with moving services into the cloud. In the past, many have seen obstacles around vendor lock-in, availability and data sovereignty. Cloud-IX removes the vendor lock-in concern, as it allows enterprises to seamlessly connect to, and between, cloud providers – enabling them to instantly switch between cloud providers based on their needs at the time.

In terms of availability, many enterprises have been concerned about questions around the resilience and availability of hybrid cloud solutions where private infrastructure is connected to cloud service providers over the public Internet. The direct connections available via Cloud-IX remove this issue. Finally, the issue of data sovereignty is solved as enterprises will gain control over exactly where their data is located throughout Europe – easing compliance and auditability concerns.

How does Cloud-IX stand out from the competition?

We believe that Cloud-IX is a unique proposition in the market. The richness of the ecosystems evident in our data centres means we can now enable customers to execute private, hybrid and public cloud deployments in a really flexible way, through direct connections into leading cloud and IT service providers. This service is unique in that nobody else owns the underlying assets like we do – in particular the data centre and the highly-connected ecosystem that is within it.

What do you think will appeal to customers about Cloud-IX?

Cloud-IX will provide the flexibility for customers to be a lot more sophisticated about how they roll out cloud applications and services. The real value of the cloud can be leveraged when you are able to consume it in a very flexible way. Previously it has been difficult to achieve this. One cloud provider might be best suited for one kind of application for example, while another may be better for a second application. You need to buy or lease the connections between all of these applications, and it can all get very complex very quickly.

Cloud-IX will help to take away these headaches – you are in effect getting access to a 'cloud of clouds' where you can seamlessly connect to, and between, cloud providers, physical systems and networks as part of our vibrant digital ecosystem. This will be a really simple process - both from a provisioning point of view, as well as from a commercial perspective. Cloud service providers will also benefit from Cloud-IX due to the premium, highly-connected and secure environment that we are providing. Moreover, the TelecityGroup ecosystem provides an extremely rich variety of customers that they can sell their services to.

Do you see this as the next major step in the world of cloud computing?

We view Cloud-IX as a natural evolution of TelecityGroup's highly-connected data centre ecosystem. Cloud-IX isn't changing the cloud itself, but it is changing the way you are able to use and consume it. In particular, Cloud-IX will enable customers to maximise the efficiency, flexibility and security of the hybrid cloud by establishing dedicated network connections from their private or managed infrastructure into any of the cloud providers that are part of the platform, without restrictions around data sovereignty and vendor lock-in.

Can businesses still operate effectively without deploying the cloud? Why?

The simple answer is yes. For some organisations it makes sense to retain a wholly private infrastructure. However others may want to virtualise their infrastructure in its entirety. With Cloud-IX, we are letting our customers consume the cloud in a way which makes most sense for them.

With the NSA dominating the headlines with its high profile hacks on the likes of Google and Yahoo, how safe is it to hold sensitive information in the data centre?

The focus on an organisation's security has significantly increased in recent times, and security in the cloud is clearly a primary issue. Cloud-IX is of course covered by the security accreditations we already have in our facilities, such as the ISO 27001 standard for security management. In addition, we are giving organisations a lot of control about where and how their data is located and stored. By connecting to the cloud via dedicated, private connections – rather than the public Internet - you are removing many potential security issues. In addition, enterprises will gain control over exactly where their data is located throughout Europe – easing compliance and auditability concerns.