Bluecube: A private cloud – James Hawker
Cloud solutions are becoming increasingly popular. In a business environment dominated by flexible working arrangements, the cloud concept brings office culture bang up to date. Furthermore, offering scalability, disaster recovery and business continuity, cloud-based applications boast advantages that few companies can afford to be without.
That said, for many clients, a basic public cloud offering will not suffice. Suited mostly to small start-ups that need something low-cost and powerful, or very large corporates that can use it as a test platform, the public cloud is less valuable to everyone inbetween.
"Many corporates have bespoke requirements, and a public cloud does not fulfil those needs," says James Hawker, chief executive of Bluecube. "People often say they want to use Office 365 for their email - that's a public offering delivered by Microsoft. But then the moment they put their accounts application alongside it, the two can't talk unless they've got a cloud offering that integrates both - that's where the private hybrid cloud comes in."
With the private cloud, the client can define everything, determining which users can access which data and ensuring physical separation from other customers. While its pure form is somewhat restricted in scope, the majority of companies can benefit from the hybrid variety. Here, the main cloud solution joins up with other cloud offerings and local infrastructure, pulling everything together in one place.
"When we started delivering cloud solutions in 2004, everyone wanted to go cloud-only or hosted-only, but the way everything's going is 'hybrid cloud'," says Hawker. "It's the best of both worlds: allowing increased flexibility and more control over data."
Bluecube works with a variety of organisations, ranging from small service-led companies to large multinationals. Offering private cloud solutions, 80% of which are hybrid, the company has invested heavily in its platforms over the last nine years. This has fostered year-on-year growth and an extremely high client-retention rate.
The sky clears
As Hawker sees it, the growing adoption of cloud computing is related to a heightened understanding of it as a solution. As clients gain familiarity with the cloud, any associated fears melt away. One such concern is data ownership. Any reputable provider will respect the client's intellectual property rights, and the contract should include a clause to that effect. Furthermore, the only other people who can see the cloud data are the engineers providing tech support.
Security also remains a priority. Because the cloud operator offers economies of scale, clients can benefit from expensive firewalls without having to purchase them directly. Regarding physical security concerns, Bluecube stores all its data in a leading tier-4 facility.
"In more traditional set-ups, someone can just walk into your office, pick up your server from your comms room, and walk out," says Hawker. "We provide 24/7 security - it's all locked down so that nobody can physically get to the servers."
Of course, disasters do occur, and in these instances data is well protected. Geographic redundancy is provided through a daily back-up to a facility in the Netherlands, and the company maintains several niche back-up solutions. In each instance, the precise offering is dependent on the level of resilience required.
One final area of concern is compliance - to what extent do cloud platforms tick the appropriate regulatory boxes? Although Bluecube's provisions are all compliant with ISO 27001, it is impossible to build a platform that will match all clients' compliance needs. Customisability is imperative.
"If you are in a medical field and you have patient data, there are certain requirements around how that's managed, accessed, archived and retained," says Hawker. "That's very different to an aviation company that has to be able to track faulty parts when an aeroplane breaks down. This is where the hybrid cloud comes in. You sit down with the customer, you understand what their requirements are and you make sure the solution meets those needs."
Cloud solutions have not changed fundamentally since Bluecube began business, but as popular perceptions begin to shift, the company is seeing a renewed wave of client interest.
"Over the next 12 months, we will see more of an uptake in cloud solutions, without a doubt," says Hawker. "The future lies within private hybrid clouds. This is where I'm putting my money."