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Virgin Media launches cloud service for businesses ... eventually

‘Last to the game, but best dressed,’ network company claims

Virgin Media Business has finally launched its first cloud service, the Virtual Private Data Centre (VPDC), in partnership with web hosting and services provider Savvis.

The new product will allow businesses to access virtual computing power on a pay-as-you-use hourly basis, without entering into any minimum-length contracts.

Although Virgin admitted to being late to the enterprise cloud market, it claimed to have the most established technology.

"Even though you could argue we are quite late to the market, we are last in, but best dressed," said Andrew Barron, COO of Virgin Media Business.

"The technology in the network and data centres is sufficiently mature for the benefits of cloud to be delivered," said Mark Heraghty, managing director of Virgin Media Business.

The company added that one of its selling points was its simple user interface, which will help IT managers to design and deploy their own private data centre that will go live within 90 minutes.

"In a market that has traditionally been subjected to hype, jargon and unsubstantiated claims, we're giving organisations across the country clear and simple advice, backed up by the most user-friendly and effective technology available," Barron said.

Business customers already using Virgin's VPN to connect multiple offices will be able to use the new cloud service without any initial set-up costs.

Although Virgin refused to disclose the price range, users of the cloud VPDC will be charged according to whether they opt for the Essential, Balanced or Premier service. The price will vary according to the amount of servers, storage and computing power used.

Premier will be the most expensive, and will have more functionalities, such as discrete firewall and load balancing, while Essential will be cheaper and is more likely to be used for less critical activity such as testing and development.

All the cloud data centres are hosted by Savvis and based the UK.

Ovum analyst David Molony said: "[This offering] makes a big statement about VMB's intentions to be a significant player in the UK business telecoms market and will be a big challenge to BT and Cable & Wireless, both of which have already launched virtual data centre services like this.

"It's timely, because the cloud services business is getting some momentum. Ovum surveys with enterprises show that the proportion of enterprises trying out cloud-based network and IT services has increased from one-third to nearly half in the past year."

Meanwhile, analyst Georgina O'Toole at TechMarketView said that Virgin's decision to partner with Savvis was a "smart" move in its efforts to win more public sector contractors.

"While it is not unusual for telcos to partner with IT service players or vice versa to bid for contracts, the 'cloud' is making these type of strategic partnering arrangements more common.

"With a strong desire to grow in the UK public sector market, it looks like a smart move to have wed a large global player [Savvis], which already has a foothold in the UK government 'cloud' market. If you remember, Savvis was selected by the Ministry of Justice as its IaaS [Infrastructure-as-a-Service] provider in March this year," she said.

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