Published on 06 Mar 2012
"Our monthly recurring revenue has tripled twice in the last year but our operational costs have remained flat." - Martijn Van Zoeren, CEO, Dutch Cloud BV
Dutch Cloud BV
Automation, Cloud Computing, SmartCloud - Foundation, Smarter Computing, Virtualization, Linux
IBM Business Partner:
Dutch Cloud BV
As businesses demand more from their IT departments in terms of availability, security, efficiency and flexibility, more companies are turning to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers. Dutch Cloud supports sixfold increase in monthly revenue while keeping operational costs flat when it uses highly flexible and reliable IBM software, systems and storage technologies.
Margins are tight in the highly competitive infrastructure as a service (IaaS) sector, so the pressure is always on to drive costs down and service levels up.
By implementing IBM SmartCloud Provisioning software, Dutch Cloud simplified and standardized its cloud infrastructure and improved efficiencies through dynamic provisioning and self-service capabilities.
Supported sixfold increase in revenue while operational costs remained flat; reduced time to provision 200 virtual machines by over 90 percent; decreased administrative workload by 70 percent.
As businesses demand more from their IT departments in terms of availability, security, efficiency and flexibility, more companies are turning to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers. By engaging an IaaS provider, businesses can significantly reduce the cost, complexity and risk associated with running their infrastructures. And because financing is one of the biggest challenges limiting the success of small and medium businesses (SMBs) today, it’s a business model that SMBs find particularly attractive.
“Many large enterprises have the financial and personnel resources to invest in cloud computing initiatives,” says Martijn Van Zoeren, CEO of Dutch Cloud BV, an IBM Premier Business Partner. “But in the mid-market area, companies don’t have the same means. And, for many startups, venture capitalists require that companies use a monthly recurring IT service instead of using capital for their IT infrastructures.”
Based in the Netherlands, Dutch Cloud offers SMBs a range of cloud-based services from fully managed IaaS to disaster recovery solutions. In building its offering, the company needed to find the right balance between ensuring its platform was standardized enough to enable easy scalability, and offering the specific technical features best suited to different types of workloads.
“We decided from the outset to work with a few select providers and our first choice, based on our experience over the last 20 years, was to use IBM systems,” says Van Zoeren.
Working with IBM, Dutch Cloud designed an environment that separates customers on the network level versus the service layer—known as virtual local area network (VLAN) separation. This approach makes multitenant isolation at the network and presentation layer possible, helping to ensure that each client environment runs securely and in isolation. It’s an important capability that helps Dutch Cloud differentiate itself in the marketplace.
“Many IaaS providers run their client environments on the same servers, and a good hacker can go from one client environment to another,” says Van Zoeren. “We separate client environments at the network layer, which provides better security and enables us to deliver any type of architecture within our service layer.”
The fully virtualized infrastructure is based on IBM System x® 3650 class servers connected to multiple IBM Storwize® V7000 disk systems. Kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) and VMware virtualization technology are used to enable clients to run multiple virtual machines on Linux or Windows images.
“KVM is close to both the kernel and the hardware so we can optimize performance and work with cutting-edge hardware,” says Van Zoeren. “Open standards are also very important to us, so being able to support both KVM and VMware hypervisors with IBM SmartCloud™ Provisioning software enables us to offer choice to our customers.”
By selecting IBM Storwize V7000 technology, Dutch Cloud can offer clients two tiers of storage. The IBM storage array increases flexibility through both solid-state drives (SSDs) and serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives, enabling clients to choose between the higher-performing, more expensive SSD storage and the lower-cost SAS option depending on their specific requirements. Where clients opt for a combination of both, the built-in IBM Easy Tier® software automatically migrates the most frequently accessed data to the fastest disks to constantly optimize the price-performance ratio.
High-quality, low-touch provisioning
In an industry governed by tight profit margins and fierce competition, Dutch Cloud has to continually find ways to enhance service levels for clients while keeping costs low. When it launched its cloud services in 2009, the company used internally developed provisioning tools based on open source technologies. However, according to Van Zoeren, as the company grew, the staff couldn’t keep up with this approach.
“We had to keep changing our tool to support all new versions of VMware, KVM and Microsoft software coming out, and all the new storage versions,” says Van Zoeren. “It was easy to do that when we first started, but we couldn’t maintain it as we grew. We were spending 80 percent of our time maintaining the tool and 20 percent on supporting client requirements.”
Van Zoeren met with IBM representatives to discuss his requirements for cloud provisioning tools. Dutch Cloud needed a solution that would enable rapid provisioning of new cloud services with a high degree of automation. Any new solution had to also support the delivery of ‘white-label’ services, which enables resellers to apply their own branding, marketing and pricing strategies when reselling Dutch Cloud’s infrastructure services.
At the time, IBM was working on its SmartCloud Provisioning offering and invited Dutch Cloud to participate in the beta test.
“We participated in the beta and became the first commercial implementation of the solution in the Netherlands,” says Van Zoeren. “IBM SmartCloud Provisioning is very easy to install and very easy to maintain. We saw that our time spent on maintaining the administration layer changed enormously when we started using IBM SmartCloud Provisioning.”
An important differentiator, says Van Zoeren, is that IBM separates the provisioning layer from the underneath infrastructure so that migrating client infrastructures is transparent.
“Almost all of the provisioning tools today use capabilities within the hypervisor layer, which makes it difficult when migrating client environments into the cloud,” he explains. “You can’t migrate one-to-one a quad-core virtual machine to a six-core machine under this approach. What IBM did with SmartCloud Provisioning is separate the grid layer from the underneath infrastructure so that we don’t have to depend on the underneath hardware or hypervisor layer. And that makes it very easy for customers to migrate their virtual machines into our service layer.”
He adds, “KVM also saves us a lot of money, because of its lower licensing costs. We are using both KVM and VMware, so IBM SmartCloud Provisioning enables us to bring in customer environments on VMware and reduce costs by moving them to KVM. We’ve also found KVM much easier to install and manage.”
Additionally, Dutch Cloud can not only quickly deploy virtual or physical machines, it can also provision a client’s entire architecture, making a copy of an existing architecture, in just a few hours.
“Our clients are often surprised in terms of the time we need to migrate them to our environment,” says Van Zoeren. “Many think we’ll need 10 to 15 days. In most situations, we can complete the migration in four hours. For one client, we were able to copy an existing development environment and deliver the service in 30 minutes.”
Using the web portal, clients have exceptional control over the resources assigned to them, and are able to adjust these on an ongoing basis with minimal effort and zero disruption. Customers can simply log into the web portal to request one or many virtual machines from the master images in the catalog.
Previously, Dutch Cloud used a cold-standby disaster recovery (DR) strategy, keeping a second physical server on standby for each production server. This meant significant capital expenditure for zero operational benefit, as the standby systems were simply an "insurance policy" to mitigate the impact of losing a production server. Today, the fully virtualized IBM cloud automatically restarts virtual machines on one of the remaining physical servers if a server goes down for any reason. This enables almost instantaneous recovery and allows the standby capacity to be utilized more effectively. For example, Dutch Cloud can integrate its existing IBM Power® 740 servers running IBM AIX® into the environment to offer clients either physical or virtual machines depending on their needs.
Designed for Data
Dutch Cloud can accurately capture and analyze highly changeable customer requirements on an ongoing basis to better align services to client needs.
Tuned to the Task
Combining a range of different IBM architectures that work together seamlessly as a fully integrated platform, Dutch Cloud is able to enjoy the benefits of standardization along with provisioning capacity that suits each client’s workloads.
Managed with Cloud Technologies Leveraging IBM SmartCloud Provisioning software enabled Dutch Cloud to move from a static model to highly dynamic service delivery. VLAN separation makes multitenant isolation at the network and presentation layer possible, helping to ensure that each customer environment runs securely and in isolation. This was a priority for Dutch Cloud, as the company was committed to delivering true ‘private clouds’ to its customers.
Dutch Cloud can support a reseller model and brand its service delivery portal for specific customers thanks to segregation of resources. Facilitating new channels to market in this way helps the company expand into new market segments.
White-label services expand market reach
The ability to brand the portal or user interface enables Dutch Cloud to tailor services to individual clients, which helps both with sales and client retention. For example, the company can package services for use by clients with varying degrees of technical expertise, helping Dutch Cloud expand its user base. This also facilitates a new reseller model in which Dutch Cloud provides white-label cloud services to other IT service providers. In this way, the solution has opened up new routes to market for Dutch Cloud, enabling the company to expand its market share and to break into new industry sectors that it might not otherwise have been able to reach. The segregation of resources enables Dutch Cloud to securely delegate control of portions of the cloud to clients and to partners, meeting the requirements of a private cloud for some of the company’s customers.
Since deploying IBM SmartCloud Provisioning software, Dutch Cloud has seen its client base expand significantly. However, the high degree of automation built into the IBM solution has greatly reduced Dutch Cloud’s administrative workload. Now the IT team spends 80 percent of its time on client migrations and only 20 percent of its time on administration—a more than 70 percent decrease in administrative time. The business impact has been tremendous.
“Our monthly recurring revenue has tripled twice in the last year but our operational costs have remained flat,” says Van Zoeren.
With IBM SmartCloud Provisioning software, new services also can be deployed in minutes rather than hours. This places Dutch Cloud in an ideal position to respond rapidly to fluctuating client needs. “With our original tool, it could take almost an hour to provision an extra 200 virtual machines for a client,” says Van Zoeren. “With IBM SmartCloud Provisioning, we can do it in five minutes now. The IaaS market is going to continue to mature and we’ll see more competition in the coming years. Our technology choices have given us the ability to thrive in this competitive market.”
● IBM SmartCloud™ Provisioning
● IBM Easy Tier®
● Red Hat Enterprise Linux (including KVM hypervisor)
● Microsoft Windows
● IBM Power® 740
● IBM System x® 3650
● IBM Storwize® V7000
For more information
To learn more about IBM cloud offerings, please contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/cloud
For more information about Dutch Cloud, visit: www.dutchcloud.com