Sirius Considers Expanding Its Power Cloud Capacity
July 22, 2013 Dan Burger
Sirius Computer Solutions launched its Power Cloud just about a year ago. It created two cloud environments specifically for small to midsize IBM midrange shops. Those two clouds are three-quarters full now, says Jay Johnson, director of managed services for Sirius, and the company is evaluating an investment in more cloud capacity. The existing multi-tenant clouds are built on Power 720 boxes. The next configuration may include a PureFlex system.
Although 90 percent of the Power Cloud workload is IBM i-based and the growth trajectory is i-based, Johnson says there are customers interested in the capability to include AIX and other multi-platform options such as Windows and Linux running on Xeon-based PureFlex server nodes. (IBM does not sell Opteron-based PureFlex nodes, and it likely never will.)
“We are running the numbers to see if PureFlex will work for us,” he says.
The number of customers that are ready to sign up for PureFlex would be the number one number in my estimation. That’s what you call strength in numbers. If that number is strong enough, a price point will come into focus that should be agreeable to both sides and PureFlex in the cloud might fly.
Sirius is a little shy about sharing specific information about its cloud environment.
“We are taking business from competitors and we hate to enlighten them on how we gained an advantage,” Johnson says.
There are only a few ways a cloud can be built, but Sirius believes it has an advantage in the approach it took.
“We spent time with IBM designing something we feel is a little unique,” he says.
Carefully avoiding the discovery of any information that I might have to be imprisoned for sharing, here are some reference points I was able to coax them into releasing. The 75 percent sold out capacity is based on the two original environments that were expected to handle a total of 70 to 80 small to midsize customers. That’s an estimate. Naturally, not all customers come in the same size and shape. However, if you play the law of averages, it indicates Sirius should have between 50 and 55 cloud customers. I’d estimate slightly less, because a few bigger customers will likely hog more capacity than is saved by a few customers using less than average capacity. It’s all very hypothetical.
According to Johnson, the original target for reaching full capacity was two to three years. Sitting at 75 percent capacity in one year and making plans to expand the Power Cloud has him pretty pleased. Can’t blame him for that–it’s great to go in the locker room at halftime with the lead.
“We are looking to make a bigger investment. It could have taken longer to fill the space, but Sirius is happy to be making this investment now rather than later and that signals better than expected growth,” he says.
In general, the most popular workload choices for the IBM i-based clouds are disaster recovery and high availability. It is no different for Sirius. However, Johnson claims 55 percent to 60 percent of the cloud customers are running some type of production workloads. Many of those production workloads have spawned from companies that have established a trusted relationship with Sirius because of a long-existing HA or DR managed environment. And for clarity, when the term production workload is used it does not mean all production workloads. Time and attendance applications are one example Johnson provided of a production workload.
The evolution of the Sirius Power Cloud customer base begins with traditional Sirius clients as early adopters. These were companies that felt at ease transitioning from Sirius’ managed services to its Power Cloud. But Sirius has more than 1,000 Power Systems customers with well over half of them running the IBM i operating system. Those companies have a choice to stay with Power i platform, which a very high percentage will, and a choice of whether to buy hardware or move to a hosted environment.
“Our clients are exploring cloud with us and with other opportunities–cloud environments built by competitors,” Johnson says. “If they were buying Power i hardware, they would buy it from Sirius because that’s the way the reseller market works. The cloud has different rules as it pertains to IBM and the VAR channel. Clients are looking at multiple cloud vendors and comparing what they see. Those are competitive situations, and we are winning more of those than we are losing.”
Johnson estimates 40 percent of the total customers in the Power Cloud come from these types of competitive wins.
In an interview in March, Johnson noted some early success with the Power Cloud and that some adjustments had to be made. Early demand for co-location space, primarily X86 servers that required close proximity to the IBM i environment, exceeded expectations and caused Sirius to reorganize its data center space to allow systems to be linked. Co-location capabilities were important to approximately two-thirds of the companies that came to Sirius for its cloud, Johnson estimated at that time. (This would seem to be a pretty good argument for a hybrid Power-Xeon PureFlex setup.)
Sirius describes its Power Cloud as being designed to accommodate a production environment that included development, quality assurance, disaster recovery, and high availability aspects. The clouds are located in Minnesota and Arizona, each within 500,000 square foot data centers.