Datacom’s Cloud X, a hybrid-ready cloud platform where private cloud security and performance intersects with public cloud features and scale, is picking up market momentum.
Cloud X consists two parts. Cloud X Flex is shared cloud platforms that are sovereign to New Zealand and Australia, which currently has around 200 customers throughout the two countries.
The second part, Cloud X Dedicated, is private cloud platforms dedicated to the customer. Datacom says there are customers currently being onboarded to this service and anticipate that 5-10 customers will join in the short term.
According to Jon Waite, general manager of cloud technology at Datacom, Cloud-X addresses challenges faced across the industry surrounding shifting legislation, privacy concerns, and data sovereignty.
Cloud X is one-to-one with the customer, meaning it is a dedicated platform generally hosted at one of Datacom’s data centres in Australia or New Zealand for a single customer, rather than being a multi-tenancy or shared cloud.
Waite shared the advantages of this type of private cloud, saying “it means customers can extract all of the performance and value out of their hardware.
“A lot of the concerns of the shared cloud go away when it’s a complete, dedicated hardware stack for customers, particularly around sovereignty.”
Waite shared that interest in Cloud X has exceeded initial expectations, demonstrating market interest and emphasising the need for a product that guarantees security as well as sovereignty amid changing legislative environments.
“Since we launched and have been talking to customers in market, it's kind of surprised us how much interest there is for a sovereign platform, but also for something which is demonstratively private to them.”
Understanding the difference between data sovereignty and data residency is critical to recognising the need for sovereign cloud services, particularly in New Zealand.
"Data sovereignty is a broad legal concept that determines which country’s laws apply to data," said Ross Delaney, director of cloud services at Datacom. "The goals of data sovereignty are to protect the original owners of data and the privacy of the people that data may be about.
"Data residency, however, refers to the physical or geographic location of an organisation's data or information."
Organisations needed to be aware of the fact that even if they store data in local New Zealand servers, if the servers were under the control of an overseas organisation, the data may still fall under another country’s legislative rules.
The best example of this was US law which compelled US-owned organisations to provide US agencies access to their data, regardless of where in the world it resides.
"While encryption can help in limiting the risk of third party access to data, this can impact platform functionality and the value an organisation receives from the platform," Delaney said.
"An example of this is platform indexing and search capabilities which cannot function if the platform does not have the keys to decrypt the data to perform its search and indexing functions. Backup capability can also be significantly limited.”
Reflecting shifting legislative and cultural environments, an emerging key focus for Datacom surrounds indigenous people’s data – Aboriginal data in Australia and Māori data in New Zealand.
Waite explained that there are conversations being held with these groups to “make very sure the data concerning, or about, their people remains safe and secure and in the geography where they would like it to be held”.
On Māori data sovereignty specifically and honouring customer obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, of which article II promises tino rangatiratanga [absolute chieftainship, or sovereignty] over taonga [treasures], which includes Māori data, Waite said that Datacom is engaged with a number of stakeholder groups.
“Part of the offering of sovereign cloud is making sure that if a requirement exists, the data is guaranteed to reside in New Zealand shores on New Zealand equipment, without any jurisdiction or legislative control from outside New Zealand,” Waite said.
While the biggest current market for Cloud X lies within both Australian and New Zealand government and public sector, Waite noted there is a lot of interest now coming from the commercial market, particularly where protecting intellectual property (IP) forms part of their values or a critical part of their business.
There is also growing interest in the tertiary sector and within research organisations, who also have an interest in protecting IP as their main source of value generation.
While Waite identifies these three main areas of the market – government, commercial, and research – he also notes that interest is coming from “all over”.
“With the 2018 cloud act coming into force for the hyper-scale public cloud, it’s focused a lot more of the conversation from customers about ‘what does this actually mean and what could happen?’” Waite said.
The technology partnerships that make up Cloud X include Dell Technologies on the hardware side, while running “almost exclusively” VMware technology. Third-party integrations also come into play, particularly back-up vendors such as Veritas, Veeam and Commvault.
“One of the things we allow in Cloud X is for customers to bring their own back-up provider,” Waite said.
“We don’t dictate ‘you have to go this way if you want this solution’. We let them [customers] know that if they’ve got an existing relationship, we let them bring that in and connect it.”
Waite also noted that they are looking at direct customer enablement to avoid unnecessary steps for assistance on standard software.
“We’re looking at working with training organisations, so customers can actually subscribe their own training requirements," he said.
“As part of that, we’re looking at what does and entry level, intermediate and advanced set of certifications and training and enablement look like with those training partners?”
Waite said there was a “huge amount” of enablement for its own internal teams, with Cloud X bringing in a lot of new components such as VMware’s Aria Automation (formerly vRealize Automation), that Datacom staff were “less familiar with” than other virtualision technologies brought in over the last 10 years.
“What we’ve actually done is a huge program with VMware and Dell to put over 100 people onto effectively an unlimited learning subscription with VMware,” he said.
This learning agreement includes online instructor-led training and has been expanded out of the cloud business unit to allow wider Datacom staff to up-skill in this area.
“We’ve really been focusing on making sure our people have the skills to help customers through that journey of using the tools,” he said.
Future growth plans around Cloud X and wider Datacom cloud initiatives include bringing existing capabilities into the shared platform and uplifting current multi-tenant shared clouds to feature parallel levels of privacy and security with the sovereign cloud offering.
“The positioning and talking to customers around the dedicated [cloud offering] is ongoing, but we’re now really gearing up around enabling the shared platforms to be brought up to the same level,” Waite said, emphasising that this will be a key focus over the next 12 months.