European Cloud Leader OVH: very different … in a very good way (Part 2)

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Part 1 focused on the innovative industrial approach OVH has taken to develop the infrastructure required for its hosting, dedicated servers and cloud business. In a few short years this has taken OVH from being a local provider of hosting services in North East France to the largest European Cloud provider with a growing global presence. Along the way it has attracted a large following of developers, digital start-ups and savvy technicians within larger enterprises to its competitively priced and highly performant infrastructure offerings. No doubt, as it has grown, it has probably lost some small hosting customers who needed more wrap around support and services. But ironically, as OVH seeks to move to the next stage of its development, it will need to understand how to provide a greater range of services and support to a new cohort of enterprise customers seeking to understand the complexities of the new hybrid infrastructure world they find themselves in.

Following an OVH customer summit in Paris in October 2017 I wrote that I felt there were a “couple of glaring gaps” that OVH would need to address as they moved forward. The first related to the real lack of development environments, cloud management and specific use case offerings. Basically, things that make it easier for the average enterprise to buy.

On this score, good progress seems to have been made. In October 2017 they had already recently announced their tie up with VMWare which saw them acquire the VCloudAir business. It is good to report that there has been great progress in both moving all existing VCloudAir customers into OVH datacentres, but also in providing a comprehensive range of tools and services for VMWare customers. This should significantly ease the challenges of cloud migration for existing VMWare users.

February saw the launch of a Kubernetes Managed Service offering and the first stage of deployment of two Big Data Analytics platforms. Both based on Hadoop, one is a public cloud offering using Hortonworks targeted at skilled data analytics developers. The second is a data analytics service, based on a Cloudera cluster, on top of dedicated servers or a private cloud, fully managed for OVH by Claranet. This is clearly aimed at enterprises with little or no data or sysadmin skills. If you add in business continuity offerings in conjunction with Veeam and Zerto, then clearly there has been a great recognition in the importance of developing such value-added platform offerings.

However, progress on the second “glaring gap” … the lack of a coherent channel strategy has seemed less clear up to now. Enterprises, both large and small, buy solutions to business problems, not technology. How to address those business problems, either directly with vertical industry solutions, or indirectly through channel partners has taxed the understanding and capabilities of technology vendors for many decades. Whether you call it a Channel, a Marketplace or an Eco-system the need to clearly define all the elements of the solution, which includes support (the whole product), the roles of the people or organisations in delivering that solution, who leads, how the market opportunity is developed etc.etc. is critical.

OVH have, up to very recently, been a very self-sufficient, I’ll do it my way type of company. This won’t be enough to help them win in the enterprise space. It is no coincidence that Microsoft, who learned early on about the different challenges in enterprise selling, have gained ground on AWS in this area. That is not to underestimate the speed with which AWS have developed their own focus and capabilities towards the enterprise market. However, following discussions I have had with OVH CEO, Michel Paulin, it looks as though upcoming announcements will present a visible and clear channel strategy. This gives me some cause for optimism that I won’t have to revise this blog post to add a qualification to my view that OVH are “very different…in a good way”. Time will tell.