Hutchinson Networks: If You Can't Beat the Cloud, Join It

Faced with a competitive threat from cloud providers, UK-based Hutchinson Networks decided to become one.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

May 31, 2016

5 Min Read
Hutchinson Networks: If You Can't Beat the Cloud, Join It

Enterprise transition to the cloud could be a big problem for Hutchinson Networks, a UK systems integrator and professional services provider. Enterprises won't need systems integration and professional services if they shut down their IT operations and move to the cloud.

So Hutchinson is launching a public cloud infrastructure. If enterprises move from on-premises computing to cloud, Hutchinson wants a piece of that action. Or, as the saying goes, "if you can't beat them, join them," Hutchinson CTO Stephen Hampton tells Light Reading.

Hutchinson, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, serves small and midsized enterprises -- organizations without specialist skills. Hutchinson steps in to help out with projects that recur every three to four years and helps deploy and run those projects. The SMEs it serves previously had their own mini data centers with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Exchange, Active Directory, Sharepoint and phone services. Increasingly, those businesses are going to Office 365, and don't need on-premises computing, Hampton says.

"If this continues to accelerate, the need for in-house skills reduces further, and the need for our services starts to erode," Hampton says.

Implementing its own public cloud provides other benefits for Hutchinson. In a services business, revenue runs in peaks and troughs, but cloud provides recurring revenue.

And standing up a cloud service is the best way to learn emerging cloud technologies. "You can read the white papers and run the labs but the best way to learn it is to stand it up," Hampton says. Hutchinson can then take those skills to other communications service providers looking to develop cloud offerings.

Hutchinson's traditional service offerings start with lowest level "racking, stacking, cabling," access point and wireless gateways, all the way to architecture consultancy. Hutchinson will put a solutions architect onsite with a large customer long term, as well as provide architecture review, design and implementation, Hampton says.

Hutchinson provides traditional switches, unified communications, wireless, security, and application delivery using technology from F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) and Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD).

Hutchinson also provides data center fabric implementation and networking.

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

Add infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud to the other services Hutchinson already offers. Hutchinson provides cloud virtual machines for enterprise networking. It works closely with software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers to offer smooth performance for enterprise customers.

Hutchinson also offers application extraction -- the ability to move applications between multiple cloud platforms -- using services from CliQr, which was acquired recently by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), as well as Pivotal and Apprenda. Extraction can be tricky for non-cloud-native apps, which require policies around security and app delivery, as well as moving large data sets, Hampton says. (See Cisco Buys CliQr for $260M in Hybrid Cloud Push, Microsoft & Ford Fund Cloud Startup Pivotal, and Apprenda Launches Enterprise Kubernetes With Kismatic Acquisition.)

Hutchinson started discussing moving to cloud in late 2014, and decided to use Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure to implement the service. It received hardware and started building in August 2015.

Next page: Head-to-head with Hypercloud

Hutchinson is deploying basic IaaS services for a small number of customers currently, as well as proofs of concept for SaaS providers. It provides security services, and telephony will be ready by the end of June. The next round of PoCs for SaaS providers is expected in June through August, Hampton says.

Hutchinson went with Cisco because, particularly at the time it was getting started, the two most complete solutions on the market were Cisco's ACI and VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) NSX. Cisco offered a good SDN implementation for a company like Hutchinson that did not have a big DevOps capability. Cisco provides a centralized control plane, with APIC serving as an SDN controller and the Nexus 9000 switches for hardware. ACI has REST APIs to connect with orchestration tools, integration with VM managers and programmability. Its leaf-spine architecture provides scalability of multiple 40Gbit/s links, "up to an enormous level," Hampton says.

Cisco differentiates from VMware in that it integrates API with hardware, while VMware operates an overlay model. "We're not building a different network and overlaying something on top," Hampton says. Cisco supports non-virtualized workloads on the physical domain.

One big problem for any company getting into the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) business today is how they'll compete with giants such as Amazon Web Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Azure. While Hutchinson lacks those companies' entrenched position and scale, it has a few resources at its disposal.

First, it offers UK data sovereignty, based in Scotland, with colocation centers in London and Edinburgh. The big players have a presence in the Netherlands and Ireland, mostly. "If you want to ensure your data is in the UK, you need to go somewhere else," Hampton says. "That will change over time," but it gives Hutchinson a competitive advantage today, he says.

Also, Hutchinson gives customers the choice of where to host data. Microsoft and Amazon are location-independent by design. You don't know where your data is physically located, Hampton says.

In addition, Hutchinson offers both the cloud platform and professional services to get customers up and running on it. The big IaaS providers just provide the platform; professional services come from partners. "We've had a number of customers who've gone to big IaaS providers who were told to go to their portal and figure it out. We're higher touch," Hampton says. "If you want to consult, we'll help you migrate to our platform. We won't just send you to the portal and tell you to figure it out there."

Its capabilities in areas including data sovereignty, consulting, performance and security give Hutchinson the edge it needs to succeed in the market, Hampton says. "It won't get us to mass market, but it will let us compete head to head," he says.

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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