'Other' may yet become the biggest and most useful cloud

History tells us none of the big four will dominate forever and that niches matter

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COMMENT In recent weeks I didn't write stories about Packet.net splashing down in 15 new nations to start an edge compute service, or the plans that Tata Telecoms shared with me to expand its data centre footprint by targeting partnerships with users of its submarine cables.

I skipped them both because the companies concerned are minor players in the big, big, drama that is the shift from on-premises computing to the cloud. Even if we'd loosed the crack Reg Punning Squad to work some headlining magic, I couldn't imagine many of you would click on news of either company.

But a conversation with Zerto's president Paul Zeiter has me thinking perhaps we all need to spend more time looking at small clouds.

Zeiter pointed out to me that in almost every enterprise IT category, there's a couple of leaders, a few followers and then a big pool of “other” that often accounts for 40 per cent or more of the market. And sometimes the “Others” are more interesting than the mainstream: for example, The Register has often had good responses to our coverage of niche PC vendor Eurocom becuase the company makes stuff like server-class laptops that insist their batteries are actually an uninterruptible power supply. Yes, that's a niche product, but it's useful to know such devices exist in case the mainstream players can't get where you need to go.

Analyst firm Canalys' July assessment of the cloud bears out Zeiter's belief: it finds the big four clouds – AWS, Azure, Google and IBM – account for 55 per cent of all cloud spend.

The “Others” may not be able to match the big four clouds for sheer scale of infrastructure or depth and breadth of services. But “Other” doesn't mean small or risky. The Register's cloud desk hears good things about clouds offered by global system integrators, while the likes of OVH are far from being backyard operators. Nor is Oracle. VMware has around 4,000 cloud partners willing to run vSphere-as-a-service, many of them in nations the big four can't yet find on a map.

At this point readers may point out that HPE killed its cloud and so did Cisco and VMware ran into the arms of AWS. A natural subsequent question is how a smaller player can make cloud work of global titans have already failed.

The answer is that the three abovementioned companies took on an established market with little differentiator and with an ambition to have the cloud as an adjunct to their core offerings.

System integrators, by contrast, have been tending clients' boxes for years. Putting kit from the likes of Zerto into play in multi-tenanted data centres is just what they need to do these days.

Zerto's Zeiter rates his company's software and thinks that service providers and/or minor clouds who adopt it can rival the big four at least so far as data protection is concerned. He's hardly alone: software vendors-a-plenty think their wares can make a cloud resilient, or good at crunching big data, or whatever else is attractive to particular customers with particular demands.

Small clouds that use such vendors wisely are going to make some interesting clouds for interesting niches. They won't be newsworthy every day. But they'll often be worthy of attention and for certain organisations will be as attractive and important, or sometimes more so, than the big four. Perhaps they'll even be able to defend that big slice of "Other" market share.

So here's to the Others. I, for one, will be trying to find and celebrate their differences in the hope you can profit from their diversity. ®


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