Last call for a European public cloud?

Analyst opinion

Europe’s self-described No.1 ‘hyper-scale cloud provider’, OVH, held its 6th annual customer conference in Paris recently. Attendees got to meet the new CEO, Michel Paulin, and hear about the company’s four ‘product universes’, but there was more to it than that.

During his keynote, OVH founder and chairman Octave Klaba gave an impassioned speech about a ‘revolution’ designed to ‘liberate and innovate’. What Klaba called for is an alternative European cloud, one that can take on the might of Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But the question is, has Europe got what it takes to compete? And does it really need a home-grown offering when the giants are opening local data centres across the region?

Multiple parallel cloud universes

In the public cloud arena OVH is indeed surrounded by giants, but that isn’t going to stop it from trying to put together a compelling range of products and services. I found the ‘universes’ branding a little strange (constellations might have worked better), but customers seem to get it. Here’s what’s on offer:

OVHmarket is the ‘digital toolbox’ for small businesses and entrepreneurs, with services such as domain names, web hosting and network access services. Microsoft products are also offered here, such as hosted Exchange and SharePoint, and subscriptions to Office 365. This is all very much commodity stuff, but it’s the kind of one-stop shopping that small business seem to like, and the pricing looks competitive too.

OVHspirit is the universe of compute, storage and networking infrastructure, and it’s where OVH has its roots. The company offers customers a wide range of dedicated servers, virtual private servers and private cloud at an attractive price/performance ratio. And if you want your dedicated servers to be in, say, the UK, then ‘multi-local’ data centres make this happen.

OVHstack is the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) universe, built on open-source OpenStack. Designed to remove the hassle associated with infrastructure management, OVHstack takes up the notion of the software defined data centre. And because OpenStack is supported by a range of cloud service providers and vendors, customers should get better system portability, or ‘reversibility’ as OVH likes to call it.

OVHenterprise is the hybrid cloud universe. This cloud deployment model offers interoperability and a degree of consistency between two or more distinct public or private cloud infrastructures. This is appealing if you’ve already invested in on-premises IT and private cloud infrastructure, but also want to use public cloud to meet specific business needs.

This line-up of products and services is enabled by some 50 OVH partners, most of whom will be familiar to CIOs and IT professionals. Is it enough to tempt enterprises away from the competition, though? Is there something else of value that OVH can offer?

Would you like Patriot Act/Cloud Act with that?

OVH gained a foothold (and a couple of data centres) in the US when it acquired VMware’s vCloud Air business in May 2017, making it one of the few hyperscalers able to offer cloud services with or without the Patriot Act and CLOUD Act. But this distinction is unlikely to drive the kind of mega-growth required to catch-up with the market leaders, and I’m sure Klaba and his team realise this. So what’s to be done?

They believe the answer to this question lies within the European market itself. Does Europe need, or indeed want, a strong, local native public cloud provider? Klaba seems to think so. This is understandable, as the growth of OVH and other EU cloud providers will ultimately be determined by the region’s response. But what do European businesses, governments, institutions and individuals think?

Originally published on Freeform Dynamics’ Computer Weekly Blog – Write Side Up

Through our research and insights, we help bridge the gap between technology buyers and sellers.