Xerox Launches IAAS Cloud for Power Systems, Intel Servers
February 27, 2012 Alex Woodie
Xerox is the latest company to roll out an infrastructure as a service (IAAS) cloud offering that includes support for IBM i workloads. Unveiled last month, Xerox Cloud Services enables small and midsized businesses to run their IBM i, AIX, Windows, and Linux applications on servers owned and managed by Xerox and its IT services arm, formerly called ACS. The $21 billion IT services and printing giant is also allowing partners to white label the cloud offering to their own clients.
Most IBM i professionals know Xerox as a printer manufacturer, but the company has a much broader array of offerings today thanks to its $6.5 billion acquisition of Dallas, Texas-based Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) in February 2010. Founded in 1998, ACS was a big provider of business process outsourcing (BPO) across several major industries, and as such it had developed expertise in managing the big servers that Fortune 500 companies have traditionally used to run their businesses, including IBM iron like AS/400s, RS/6000s, System/390s, as well as larger servers from Hewlett-Packard, the former Sun Microsystems, and others. With around 3,000 AIX images, more than 50,000 MIPS of mainframe capacity, and around 400 IBM i LPARs under its management, ACS has plenty of experience in IBM environments.
Now Xerox is tapping into ACS’ big server expertise and its multiple North American data centers to launch Xerox Cloud Services. The new cloud offering differs from ACS’ traditional BPO model in the typical way that clouds differ from outsourcing. That is, cloud customers can easily spin up new IBM i, Windows, AIX, or Linux images, and pay by the month, as opposed to the longer, multi-year contracts that are typical in the BPO world.
“It provides more flexibility,” Rob Schilperoort, vice president of product management for Xerox Cloud services, tells IT Jungle. “They can turn up and turn down capacity as they need it, when they need it, and adjust the capacity to their business needs. Customers pay for the use of that equipment as they need it, and they can also pay us to do the operating system management and the application and data management, but those are optional items.”
Xerox is hosting its cloud hardware in six data centers, with a seventh to come online soon. The company currently has two pairs of Power Systems 770s, with plans for another pair soon, which will host the IBM i and AIX environments. The Intel cloud runs on Cisco Systems‘ Unified Computing System Xeon-based blade servers. The company is also ramping up HP Superdome capacity on its infrastructure cloud, and is exploring offering IBM mainframe capacity, Schilperoort says.
Xerox’s midrange customers (i.e., those running IBM i, AIX, and HP-UX) will pay primarily by the amount of RAM they are running on Xerox’s cloud every month, starting with a minimum of 4 GB of RAM up to 2 TB; disk-based storage for customer application data (above and beyond what the OS needs) is charged at a standard industry rate, Schilperoort says. This means that customers can run as many IBM i LPARs or AIX images as they want across their memory allocation, and thanks to IBM’s dynamic virtual machine management, they can move resources around as they please. Xerox did not disclose pricing, but confirmed that customers will pay more for IBM i than AIX environments. Intel environments, which are priced a different way, will obviously be even less.
Xerox has tried to make signing up for its cloud as easy as possible. “If you’re a customer and you need a 2 TB AIX image for a month, you go to our website, say you want 2 TB of AIX, get a quote, hit the ‘buy it’ button, and you’ve got 2 TB of AIX for a month,” Schilperoort says. “That’s about as flexible as it gets. And at the end of the month, you turn it off. You get billed for that period and nothing more.”
The cloud offering has been available as a “soft launch” since last year, and Xerox already has customers who have made the jump from traditional outsourcing. On the midrange side of things, AIX is proving to be quite a bit more popular than IBM i at this point, which is a bit puzzling to Schilperoort, whose first job coming out of college was working on System/36s.
“I thought there would be more interest in that environment,” he says. “It’s not always easy to find resources to manage those [IBM i] environments, and the capital outlay is pretty expensive. And it’s of course a great way for customers to contain their costs and to drive competitiveness.”
Xerox is currently ramping up its marketing and advertising efforts, and is ready to stack its midrange cloud up against the plain-vanilla cloud providers who only do Windows or Linux. “We see a lot of cloud providers do Intel only, and we think there’s a demand for more mature or more robust systems to be consumed in that same model,” Schilperoort says.
The Xerox Cloud Service includes backup and recovery–and high availability for those who need it. Later this year the company plans to flesh the program out with more application-specific functions. And owing to Xerox’s history in the printer world, there will likely be tie-ins to the company’s bureau- and cloud-printing services, as well as a unique offering called Mobile Print.
Resellers and system integrators who service the IT needs of SMBs in certain geographies and industries will also have a role to play in the Xerox Cloud Service. “We are offering those local or industry providers the capability to white label our cloud portal and resell our services,” Schilperoort. “So maybe a JD Edwards application expert can sell our iSeries cloud services it with their own label.”
With the launch of Xerox Cloud Services, the company joins a fairly exclusive club of IT firms who provide IBM i cloud services. In fact, the list is so short it can be listed right here: Datanational, First National Technology Solutions, Logicalis, Mainline Information Systems, mindSHIFT Technologies, and NSPI.
IBM has made it a point to not compete with its partners who provide IBM i cloud services to its IBM i customers. In lieu of some kind of IBM i cloud program from IBM (or any kind of cloud program for IBM i, really), the entry of a large and trusted firm like Xerox into the ranks of IBM i cloud providers should help solidify and stabilize the marketplace–and maybe even jostle a few CFOs at IBM i shops into doing a cost-benefit analysis to see if a move to the cloud makes sense.