Interview: Inside the Leighton Group's cloud factory

By Brett Winterford on Dec 30, 2010 6:57 AM
Filed under Communications

Infoplex to launch cloud computing portal in February.

Leighton Holdings-owned managed service provider Infoplex has pegged a February release for an online portal by which customers will be able to spin up server instances with the same ease as the world's largest cloud providers.

The managed services company, which counts some of Australia's largest banks and retail companies among its customers, has provisioned customers with virtual private servers from racks housed within three data centres run by fellow Leighton group Metronode since 2006.

But to date that service hasn't featured the rapid provisioning customers have grown used to using public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services.

Matthew Madden, general manager at Infoplex said he hoped the February launch of a new customer portal would offer customers this ease of provisioning, but with an "intense focus on security."

Customers will be trained to "self-provision" the most basic of services using the portal rather than Infoplex staff taking a call to complete a move, add or change (spin up a new VM or add more storage, for example).

Infoplex is taking its cloud computing plans one step at a time with existing customers, Madden said, to ensure it remains relevant to their business and doesn't commoditise its own services.

The company formed in 2006 to host management software used by Leightons Group in its various construction projects - specifically the Leighton-developed Insight application - which is now also resold to other construction companies as a hosted service.

Being part of the Leighton Group gives Infoplex access to highly secure Metronode data centres in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, plus fibre optic connectivity via Nextgen Networks and its rollout partner VisionStream - both also Leighton-owned entities.

Madden said the availability of IT infrastructure at Infoplex's disposal gives it significant competitive advantage. Metronode has substantial scale available - hosting for Australia's largest outsourcing providers as well as pitching for whole-of-Government contracts, whilst Nextgen networks owns fibre in most of Australia's business parks.

Infoplex is one of Dell's largest Australian server customers, predominantly uses Cisco switches and has invested in a substantial storage upgrade with EMC. Madden said the company has over a petabyte of tier one storage under management.

"We have the advantage of owning infrastructure end to end," he said. "It's one throat to choke - you'll never hear us say that something isn't our problem because it's not our data centre."

The company was wary of competing with public cloud providers on price, wanting to avoid "becoming the kind of commodity product Amazon offers."

"We are not in the market for ones and twos," Madden said, with most customers being in the corporate mid-market space - between 500-4000 seats.

"We offer differentiated value via our skills base. We think of managed hosting like outsourcing any other part of your business. We hold the organisation's hand through the outsourcing focus."

That would include - if necessary - going on-site with the customer to help migrate their enterprise environment, he said. "Something like Active Directory migration can take up to three hours per PC," he said. "These projects still take a lot of man hours."

Madden said there was still concerns among CIO's that moving to the public cloud amounted to "giving away the family jewels" and opening opportunities for reductions in staff.

"Part of our view is to assist companies with managing that," he said. "We want to be an extension of their IT environment."

 
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