How do you make cloud more compelling? This was the question facing Cogeco Data Services, which went public this past December with plans to introduce a new cloud service. Scheduled for launch in the early part of 2015, Cogeco’s next generation public cloud will feature dual hypervisors, geo redundancy and location on Canadian soil – traits that the Canadian provider of managed ICT solutions believes will set Cogeco apart from the pack in Canadian markets.
Cloud is not new to Cogeco. In fact, as the enterprise services arm of Cogeco Cable, Inc. the company currently offers a range of connectivity, managed IT, data centre, professional and security services as well as dedicated cloud infrastructure, to enterprise customers, who benefit from a single point of contact with a full service solution provider. According to Virginia Brailey, VP, marketing and product management, Cogeco Data Services, the company’s offerings are more “fully managed, flexible, hybrid services” than standalone IaaS, as it is currently delivered by some of the large, global providers, and hence Cogeco does not compete in a market that is becoming increasingly commoditized.
But more focus on flexibility is new: while the company currently offers public, private and hybrid cloud infrastructure, with its new public services, Cogeco claims to be the “first of its kind in Canada,” to allow customers to choose between Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware’s vSphere platforms for hosting cloud-based applications and workloads. Other hypervisors exist – the Citrix XenServer, Oracle VM, or Red Hat’s KVM, for example – however, Brailey explained that Cogeco will support Microsoft and VMware as these are best suited to the company’s customer base, which more typically runs these two platforms. “A lot of our customers are Microsoft shops,” she added, “and it’s attractive to them to have a provider that has that public cloud capability.” In practical terms, Cogeco will maintain separate environments, and for customers that may need Hyper-V and vSphere for different applications, remote, single-pane-of-glass management will be available via an online portal that offers real-time visibility into both.
Another unique characteristic of the new service is geo redundancy, with local high availability. Cogeco Data Services' public cloud will be hosted in the company’s tier three quality data centres located in downtown Toronto and Barrie to ensure this as well as Canadian data residency, a feature that Brailey claimed is very important to many of Cogeco’s customers. As she described the Cogeco set up, the new platform has been designed with high availability – redundant servers, etc. – but in addition, workloads will be replicated across the two Cogeco data centres, which are close enough to enable SAN replication for backup or DR applications or to circumvent potential issues with latency, and far enough apart to provide reliable backup in case of failure. Since Cogeco also owns the connectivity – the fibre optic networks between the facilities – the company has also implemented redundant links to and from its data centres. “We have three tiers of redundancy: high availability on the platform in one data centre, it’s geo redundant across two data centres and there’s redundancy in the network,” an key consideration, she noted, “because at the end of the day, connectivity is the important piece – you have to get up to the data that’s located in the cloud platform.”
“The new storage capabilities are also quite important,” Brailey explained, “as there are certain databases and applications that require certain I/O performance and storage tier capabilities.”
Depending on where they are in their migration to cloud, customers may use Cogeco’s new service to burst to additional infrastructure resources when are needed to augment existing capability or simply, stand up specific workloads on the service. Cogeco’s customers represent “a real mix” in terms of needs, but when delivered in combination with the company’s other managed IT and cloud hosting services, the new cloud service is designed to enable flexibility – a range of options for users that are at different stages along the path to cloud.
The decision to launch a new cloud offering was a response to growing customer demand and to survey research which Brailey noted shows customer satisfaction with cloud services. At a tactical level, Cogeco’s status as a full service provider should help the new cloud service capture this demand as it furnishes an established customer base with which to engage. The company’s typical customer is the organization with enterprise workloads, in the mid to large size category, which will be the target for new cloud as well. But differentiators including dual hypervisors and geo-redundancy will also be strategic, along with Cogeco’s ability to deliver complimentary services that make up what Brailey calls “the flexible, fully managed, hybrid solution, which is really resonating well with customers.”