Canberra's Cloud Central plans to remove the beta label from its enterprise compute-on-demand service on March 8 after a short three weeks in public beta.
Cloud Central's 150-odd beta customers have today been notified that as of March 8, they will begin paying for the service, which offers clusters of compute, memory and storage on demand from racks housed within the TransACT data centre in Canberra.
The service offers bundles of compute power, memory and storage from between $0.03c per hour and $0.96c per hour plus GST, plus network traffic fees ($1.50 inbound GB and $1.00 GB outbound) and third party software licenses.
Cloud Central took in 100 private beta clients as of late 2009, adding 50 public testers February 15. Most were in Australia - among the largest was Canberra-based Calvary healthcare. Founder Kristoffer Sheather said there was also interest from US-based resellers of Amazon and Rackspace's cloud computes that were seeking an international disaster recovery option.
Sheather said he has received commitments from several customers that wish to stay on for the paid service.
He said that most of the beta customers consumed clusters based on memory of between 256 MB (RAM) and 1GB (RAM), the smaller using the cloud compute for simple web sites or test and dev at prices that would have amounted to little over $20 a month should billing have been switched on.
Several chose a 4GB RAM bundle (with one dedicated CPU core, 256GB SAN storage) to run applications such as hosted [Microsoft] Exchange, he said.
Larger clusters would be made available at launch, Sheather said.
Cloud Central customers can choose a software template to run on these clusters - with options including Windows Server 2008 R2 (with IIS), the same again with IIS and SQL Server 2008 Express, SQL server 2008 Web or SQL Server 2008 standard.
Customers can also choose a Linux cluster based on Debian Linux 5.03, CentOS Linux 5.4 or Ubuntu 8.04, with an Apache web server image and either MySQL database or PostgreSQL, or a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Python/Perl/PHP).
Preparing for growth
Sheather expects to add a data import and export service once the billing system kicks into gear - via which customers wanting to launch services on the cloud can ship physical media to Cloud Central to have it uploaded to the virtual machine. This saves customers' considerable sums on traffic charges.
Sheather said Australian customers are "prepared to pay more" for on-demand services launched from within Australia than the same launched from the United States or Europe.
With Australia's broadband charges being so much higher than the rest of the world, network traffic is where Australian customers can expect to pay the premium.
He said his beta customers found Cloud Central's connectivity pricing "quite reasonable", despite the prices being considerably more expensive than US peers.
(Cloud Central charges $1.00 per GB inbound and $1.50 per GB outbound, Amazon EC2 charges U.S. customers between US$0.08 and uS$0.15 per GB for outbound and US$0.10 for inbound, Microsoft Azure charges U.S. customers US$0.30c for inbound and US$0.45c for outbound ).
Sheather said he was "quite happy" about the decisions of Microsoft, Amazon.com and Salesforce.com to build their cloud computing data centres in Singapore rather than Australia, providing his business a great point of differentiation.
"If they did come here, it wouldn't concern me too much - but I'd prefer they didn't," he said.
Sheather said he should be able to survive with five staff and his current data centre tenancy at TransACT whilst heading into a commercial model.
"We can increase as required," he said.
He acknowledged that some existing customers will "drop off and free up some capacity" once Cloud Central begins charging for the service. But he nonetheless is in discussions with data centre operators in Canberra and Brisbane for expansion of services.
The portability question
Sheather said Cloud Central is a member of the Open Cloud Computing Interface group (OCCI), which is working on a freely-available open infrastructure API (application programming interface) - allowing developers to code their services in ways that make it easier for customers to shift data sets and applications between service providers.
Sheather said Cloud Central's implementation of this open interface would in fact make it "a differentiator to other clouds at the market."