Capgemini is stocking up on petabytes of EMC storage capacity to support a planned roll out of various new "IT-as-a-service" offerings to its corporate customers.
The company has offered private cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) based on IBM technology for a number of years, and also partners Amazon Web Services (AWS) for hybrid cloud deployments.
It is now poised to deliver "storage-as-a-service" and plans to offer hosted messaging applications in the future. Capgemini also said in July that it would work with Microsoft to deliver platform-as-a-service (PaaS) based on Windows Azure in 22 countries across the world.
Capgemini's move into cloud-based storage comes in the same month that Forrester Research published a report estimating that outsourcing file storage to the public cloud is 74 per cent less expensive than IT departments doing it in-house.
"We will say storage-as-a-service, we do not believe this exists today on a multi-tenant platform and that is the direction," said Capgemini CEO of infrastructure services, Patrick Nicolet. "There are lots of requirements for a multi-tenant environment, provisioning and so forth, but we are committed to invest and develop what is needed to deliver an extended portfolio of services with EMC."
Nicolet acknowledges Capgemini is just the latest company to expand its activities in an increasingly crowded cloud services market, but says the company can differentiate itself by offering cloud as a value-added service to its traditional management and consulting expertise.
"The rules [of IT service delivery] are changing – you can find a cheap mailbox service or get access to network resources with a credit card, but that does not solve the needs of the corporation. It is about how you manage it," he said.
Multi-tenancy within a cloud environment defines the level to which different services, applications or customers share the underlying software and hardware resources on hosted servers within cloud service provider datacentres, levels that vary significantly between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, and according to individual customer requirements around performance and security, for example. Public cloud environments rely most on multi-tenancy, private clouds the least, but there is a whole spectrum of service models in between.
The Forrester report estimates that running basic file storage "as a service" in the public cloud is at least is 74 per cent less expensive than running the same workload in-house on average, though it acknowledges that there is likely to be significant variation from one organisation to another depending on individual circumstances.
"It costs close to $1m per year to store 100TB internally, with a significant front-loading of the capital costs. The cost of storing the same 100TB in the cloud drops to somewhat more than $250,000 – a 74 percent cost reduction," wrote Forrester principal analyst Andrew Reichman, though he urged IT departments to carefully evaluate service level agreements (SLAs) and specific application and file access requirements before taking the plunge.
"You can fantasise about tearing down your datacentre and rising into the sunset on a cloud, but in reality that cloud is just another way to deliver IT services and it has limitations, both operational and financial," he said.
Latency can be a big problem for storage given the distance between the application and the datacentre, though less frequently accessed information typically included in backup and archiving operations are less sensitive to the problem.
Nicolet would not reveal the financial terms of the five-year EMC alliance, and it is likely that Capgemini will need other partners, particularly on the network and telco side, to bolster any large-scale cloud service provision. To a certain extent, Capgemini has been forced to upgrade its storage infrastructure to handle the different demands associated with providing cloud services. Nicolet estimates that infrastructure-based IT services currently account for more than 20 per cent of the company's revenues, and as a consequence it has a lot of capitalisation in equipment that is not necessarily suited for cloud services.
"We have a very heterogeneous technology landscape but we are now facing virtualisation and cloud demands that require standard, homogeneous platforms to smooth data migration from one platform to another and one application to another," he said.
Capgemini operates around 25 datacentres in the UK, France, North America, China, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, leaving it well placed to overcome geographical restrictions on data privacy by hosting information within regional jurisdictions.