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Islands want clouds: Overcoming remote cloud-user concerns

Geographically remote businesses face difficulty in leveraging cloud. Cloud providers, with the help of carriers and VARs, can bring remote cloud services to remote users.

The last thing that vacationers on a tropical island want to see is a cloud. But geographically isolated businesses -- whether located on an island or in a rural area -- are not seeing enough remote cloud offerings.

Many cloud providers have been focusing on serving highly populated areas where large enterprises and prominent businesses are located. However, businesses in less populated locations, as well as remote branch offices of large enterprises, are potential consumers of cloud services, too. Cloud providers can fill this niche market by solving the latency, connectivity and reliability issues associated with cloud adoption in remote areas.       

Remote cloud offerings: Not just for the mainland   

Latency is a main concern for customers trying to access a mainland-based cloud from a remote island location. DRFortress, a Hawaii-based colocation provider, recently launched DRFcloud -- a local, pay-as-you-use cloud service geared toward cloud resellers and customers in Hawaii and the Pacific Rim.

DRFcloud is the result of a partnership among DRFortress, cloud storage provider Nirvanix, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider Appcore, whose IaaS technology is used within the DRFortress data center. DRFortress resells the California-based Nirvanix's cloud storage offerings by deploying a node of Nivanix's public cloud storage within its Hawaii-based facility, and works with Appcore by deploying the company's disaster recovery offerings behind the DRFortress firewall. 

The local cloud service is a first in Hawaii, allowing customers to quickly launch and spin up their cloud environments, said Fred Rodi, president of DRFortress. "[DRFortress] has tried to stay in line with what was happening on the mainland, and cloud adoption has been slow in Hawaii as a result of the latency that the users were experiencing." 

DRFortress, with the help of its resellers, has a customer base that includes hospitality, financial institutions and hospitals. "We have different customers using the cloud services for different things, like storage and disaster recovery," Rodi said. Customers have appreciated having greater control over their cloud environments and the very low latency that comes with local services.

Knowing the needs of the customer and where the company's users are geographically located is critical for cloud providers in expanding their offerings to remote locations, said Sam Barnett, directing analyst of data center and cloud for Infonetics Research.

Remote cloud customers: Know what services they need locally

Remote businesses may not need the same speed that centrally located businesses do, said Amy DeCarlo, principal analyst of security and data center services at Current Analysis. "Rural companies are not looking for the same lightning speed connectivity that perhaps a financial trading firm located in a city would require," she said.

"[Cloud providers] are willing to provide these services where they seem to make sense for their customers," Barnett said. "Even though a business may be located on an island, it may make sense to host traffic on the mainland where the traffic and, ultimately, the end user is."

Remote cloud storage serves an important purpose for disaster recovery, DeCarlo said, noting that customers like the option of having their data backed up in a cloud located in a remote location, out of the way of potential disaster scenarios.  

"DRFortress has the ability to back up data locally, but also on the mainland. Customers want their backup done in a different geography in case of disaster that could potentially discontinue their business," she said.

More on remote cloud offerings:

Should providers imitate public cloud models for remote cloud offerings?

How to remotely monitor your cloud environment

Managing your remote data center for disaster recovery

Carriers, VARs can roll in remote cloud

Hosting a remote cloud is a niche play for a cloud provider, but an important one, said Barnett, noting that cloud adoption has lagged in remote areas because of the lack of connectivity.

One way that cloud providers can bypass connectivity issues is by partnering with a local carrier, said Lauren Robinette, principal analyst at ACG Research. 

"It is very important for the cloud provider to have a good relationship or partnership with service providers in remote locations," she said. "In order to have the high-speed access ability, most clouds will have to run on connectivity of the local provider."

Remote customers looking to leverage the cloud may be turning to their local service provider for connectivity, but will be relying on value-added resellers (VARs) for support of their remote cloud environments, DeCarlo said.

"The sales and support for [remote customers] can be a problem," she said. "Some advanced cloud services are not necessarily sold in these areas because they are underrepresented in rural locations or islands."

Cloud providers have an opportunity to partner with rural-oriented service providers and VARs to further cloud adoption in these areas, she noted.

But latency issues are a deal-breaker for any remotely located business looking to adopt a cloud strategy, noted Robinette. "Most businesses can't afford a delay -- applications must render in seconds or it's not acceptable. How cloud providers handle access speeds and reliability affects adoption."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.

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