Optus launches cloud computing beta

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Optus launches cloud computing beta

Subsidiary Alphawest signs up Curtin as first customer.

Optus has launched a beta cloud computing service, naming Curtin University among a half-dozen enterprise-class customers to sign up.

Optus said today that it would offer this cloud computing service commercially (in production) before the end of 2010 - sending a clear message to rival Telstra that the SingTel-owned carrier intends to become a major force in IT services.

Optus IT services subsidiary Alphawest built the cloud computing platform on Cisco switches and Unified Computing blade servers, EMC storage and VMware virtualisation software. It is housed in a data centre in Sydney and connects customers via Optus' private 'Evolve' IP MPLS network.

Over time, Alphawest plans to build out the same infrastructure in its data centres spread throughout Australia.

As a beta customer, Optus will provide Perth-based Curtin University compute on-demand from Alphawest's Sydney data centre.

Alphawest, which first announced its intention to launch an enterprise cloud computing service in September 2009, said Curtin is one of "between five and ten" enterprise-sized customers signed up to trial its cloud computing platform.

Scott Mason, director of enterprise fixed marketing at Optus Business said Optus and Alphawest were in a "unique" position in that they can provide "the full kitbag" of IT and data centre services over enterprise-class networks.  Alphawest already provides Curtin University with a disaster recovery capability over the same network and data centre.

Alphawest data centre technology practice manager Andrew Vranjes said Curtin administrators will be able to log-in to Alphawest's cloud compute interface, which is based on VMware's 'Redwood' product, to achieve a number of tasks.

Curtin will, for example, be able to remotely spin up virtual machines in configurations chosen from an object library, provisioning a new service "in a matter of minutes."

Administrators will also be able to complete "moves, adds and changes" in software rather than configuring new hardware.

Vranjes said the University might also use Alphawest's on-demand capacity to dynamically add compute power, memory, I/O and other attributes to a given application during seasonal peaks such as during enrolment or when examination scores are posted.

Curtin's strategy

Curtin University CIO Peter Nikoletatos told iTnews the institution is looking to move most of its IT infrastructure to a "lease or utility model" over the coming years.

It is already leasing much of its new IT equipment to reduce capital expenditure, with a view to eventually adopting a "pay-as-you-go" model for as many services as practicable.

The university is currently consolidating 16 computer rooms spread across its campus into two highly-virtualised computer rooms.

"Do we want to be an organisation that builds data centres? No. Our core business is education and research," Nikoletatos said.

Curtin is leasing several Cisco Nexus switches and two chassis worth of Cisco Unified Computing blade servers (each with eight blades), deployed on-premise to connect to Alphawest's external cloud.

Cisco's Unified Computing system is a consolidated server and network appliance boasting large gains in terms of memory, a resource in high demand when operating in a highly-virtualised environment.

Nikoletatos said the company already runs several hundred virtual machines following a large server consolidation project and expects this number to be "several times larger" by the time the Optus cloud computing service is in commercial use.

With VMware's vCloud operating system installed, Curtin's internal systems should be able to connect to similarly-architected systems at Alphawest's Sydney data centre over the Optus network link to accommodate the 'compute-on-demand.'

Nikoletatos is as yet unsure which applications will burst onto Alphawest's cloud. He said the university is still classifying its applications and data according to what best fits the cloud model.

The university runs some 180 applications, nearly all derivatives of three core applications (HR, Financials and Student Administration systems) based on software developed by Australian software success story, Technology One.

Nikoletatos said the Technology One-based applications are likely to be "the last frontier" of those hosted in the cloud, but he is nonetheless in discussions with the vendor as to how it might be made possible.

"I think what we'll end up looking at is a PaaS (Platform-as-a-service) approach," he said. "We might end up keeping the data from those applications on campus."


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