Virgin Media Launches Business Cloud With Savvis

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Virgin adds its network to cloud provider Savvis, and offers it with no set-up fees

Virgin Media Business is offering a virtual cloud data centre service on its fibre network, with hourly fees and no set-up charges.

The virtual private data centre (VPDC) offering uses cloud services from Savvis‘ data centre in Slough, which already serves customers such as the Ministry of Justice, and will be provided over Virgin’s fibre network, which is marketed to business customers as Big Red Internet. Virgin expects to reach mostly companies with around 250 to 1000 users, and will compete with rivals on price as well as on terms and conditions.

Last to the party, but best dressed?

“We are last into the party, but we are best dressed,” said Virgin Media chief operating officer Andrew Barron. Without actually naming the competition, he promised to outperform long-established rivals such as BT’s Virtual Data Centre, and offer more flexible terms.

“You can start at 9am, and build a data centre in 90 minutes,” said Barron. “If, God forbid, you want to shut it down at lunchtime, you would pay no more than your hourly fees. Something that would have previously takebn up to three years, acn be done in one morning.”

As with Big Red Internet, Virgin wants business customers on its network because they operate at different hours to its largely consumer user base, and have a mostly empty network to play with.

Customers build their data centre by dragging and dropping virtual servers, and selecting parameters such as the operating system, CPUs, RAM size and storage. At any point, the user can ask for a quote, and be told how much the set-up would cost for a month.

Figures are hard to pin down, because of the number of variables, said Virgin Media Business managing director Mark Heraghty.  However, in a demonstration, eWEEK Europe saw a virtual data centre with six servers (both Linux and windows) priced at £1600 per month. Two more servers were added, and the price went up by £500 per month – but Virgin assured us that the user of such a data centre couild give back those two servers at any time, and only pay for the hours of use (we make that about 70p per hour) .

Virgin offers three levels of service –  Premier has a service level agreement (SLA) guaranteeing  99.995 percent availability, Essential offers 99.9 percent, and Balanced offers 99.99 percent.

To start with, most customers will be existing Virgin VPN users, Virgin spokespeople said, and many will try out a number of servers.  “People will be taking their first step into the cloud world,”  said Matt McCloskey, head of applications and services at Virgin Media Business, describing described one trial customer, which ran multiple aplpications on windows 2003, and wanted to test Windows 2008. Having b uilt a temporary virtual data centre to run its tests on, the company was now considering moving wholesale to a VPDC, said McCloskey.

McCloskey and Heraghty emphasised that their offering would take the fear out of cloud by offering high levels of security and reliability. The combination with Virgin’s network will also address the other main concern with the cloud – physical access to remote services – said Virgin spokespeople.

Bursting the bubble

Virgin provided journalists at its press launch with a helium balloon attached to a cardboard box, looking much like their marketing images above. Unfortunately, both balloon and box disintegrated on the journey back to eWEEK Europe’s offices. Happily, the box only contained a paper press release, and everything we needed was in the cloud.

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