Loudcloud makes MSP bid for enterprise-class customers

Looking to increase its appeal to enterprise-class users, Internet infrastructure provider Loudcloud Inc. last week announced an upgrade to its flagship Opsware technology and introduced a multiarchitecture data-exchange service called Smart Cloud.

Although Loudcloud's latest services are intended to entice enterprises, satisfying that market -- given its varied audiences -- will be an arduous task, according to industry observers.

MSPs (managed service providers) such as Loudcloud are moving toward large enterprises because their initial customer base of dot-com and ASP (application service provider) companies is shrinking, according to industry observers.

This turn of events has given enterprises the leverage to require MSPs to develop new technology and partnerships that provide the services and offerings needed to resolve expanding and complex infrastructure problems, industry experts say.

Toward that end, Loudcloud intends to focus on the plethora of in-house corporate datacenters operated without the aid of a third-party co-location facility. The Opsware 2i upgrade will plug users and their Web site operations into Loudcloud's Network Operations Center.

Opsware 2i builds on the vendor's Opsware automated monthly service model by extending Loudcloud's outsourced infrastructure management service to customer-owned and third-party datacenters, said Ben Horowitz, CEO and president of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company.

The Opsware 2i subscription-based service is still in beta-testing mode, Horowitz said.

Loudcloud's Smart Cloud service will enable the real-time transfer of data between different types of computing platforms, thereby helping customers integrate applications that must be extended as e-business pushes systems to new limits.

Based on message-queuing technology, Smart Cloud will support the messaging middleware products of EAI (enterprise application integration) and business-to-business integration players BEA Systems, Tibco Software, and webMethods.

The Opsware service could be embraced by potential Loudcloud customers who might have been "stopped cold" by the need to work out of the co-location center, said Bill Martorelli, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based Hurwitz Group.

"One of the challenges is that people in the enterprise class will be entertaining these services for a bunch of different reasons," Martorelli said. "You can't provide a highly managed and automated service without constraining the [infrastructure] elements. [Users] may feel that's inflexible."

To bolster its new product efforts, Loudcloud is signing up consultancies. The vendor has followed up its recent alliance with professional services company Accenture with a new partnership via the iFormation Group. The agreement will allow Loudcloud's enterprise customers to have access to iFormation's business-building expertise.

Forging partnerships to enhance service-delivery capabilities is de rigueur for MSPs vying for the affections of customers, said Stephen Elliot, e-services leader at Bedford, Mass.-based InteQ, a Loudcloud competitor.

"Users are beginning to want a lot more," Elliot said. Enterprises want vendors and service providers to "better partner to meet their needs," he said. Otherwise, enterprise users will be "going someplace else."

Last week, InteQ revealed that online coverage vendor Vigil selected InteQ's InfraWatch IT infrastructure management service to monitor its system and Web site operation. The deal was consummated through Exodus Communications, which hosts Vigil's Web site infrastructure at its co-location facility.

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