Melbourne IT plans to stop taking new registrations on its vCloud Express beta cloud computing service within months as it moves to offer a fully-fledged commercial service.
Chief technology officer Glenn Gore told iTnews that Melbourne IT would start "cutting across" customers from its beta IaaS (infrastructure as a service) program vCloud Express to a commercial service based on VMware's vCloud architecture "in the next week or two."
"We are now starting to switch across from vCloud Express to 'Redwood' or vCloud," Gore said, referring to the VMware project's codename.
"We're going to look at the vCloud Express platform and probably stop registrations through to it on the beta site, start transitioning them across to vCloud."
Gore said the cloud service beta, launched back in September, had attracted "around 500" customers, but not all of them were active or using cloud services regularly.
Two usage cases had emerged from the beta - ad-hoc users that favoured the pay-as-you-go model for compute and storage on-demand, and a second set of customers - mostly small-to-medium enterprises - that wanted "a static [cloud] service at a fixed price."
"The most interesting thing to come out of [the beta is] is not so much what the technology has allowed but actually what businesses were expecting [from] pay-as-you-go billing models," Gore said.
"Interestingly in Australia, and particularly in small-to-medium businesses, the unpredictable nature of pay-as-you-go billing and not really knowing what the dollar spend is going to be has been probably the biggest topic that has come up.
"People keep asking can they get a flat rate for usage so they just know it's going to be a certain cost. It's been a great learning experience building up a lot of knowledge and experience around how people expect the cloud to work."
However, Gore said the ad-hoc use model more commonly associated with cloud computing remained a usual entry-point to a conversation - even if not everyone who started talking about the cloud ended up buying capacity from it.
"The interesting thing is at Melbourne IT, we have the traditional hosting products sitting alongside the cloud products," Gore said.
"The cloud is often the conversation starter, yet what they [the customer] end up purchasing and going forward with is a lot more [like] traditional [hosting products]."
Melbourne IT's vCloud Express beta used VMware software and EMC storage hardware.
The company had earmarked back in September that it was considering buying Cisco's unified computing (UCS) blade servers; but Gore said that after "talking to Cisco for a while" Melbourne IT was now "looking at what's coming next" in terms of converged network and server architecture.
"For us, it's been a bit of a challenge in terms of the amount of change required for us to switch from our current server manufacturer to UCS," he said. "It's not small, it's actually quite high due to the level of customisation and tuning.
"The challenge for us has been - are the benefits delivered by UCS greater than the cost of change? From our studies, it's pretty even at the moment."