StarHub steps into the cloud

StarHub steps into the cloud

StarHub in Singapore is proving to be a model of how public policy and private initiative can synergize for the benefit of all, as the operator has taken the lead among its global competitors in terms of telco cloud services, both in the private sector and the public.

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StarHub in Singapore is proving to be a model of how public policy and private initiative can synergize for the benefit of all, as the operator has taken the lead among its global competitors in terms of telco cloud services, both in the private sector and the public.

In an effort to both reinforce its position as an e-commerce hub in Asia and further ICT development in general, the Singapore government, a longtime advocate in this field, started its national broadband initiative in 2006 and is implementing its G-Cloud plan in 2012, the first large-scale private cloud for all government agencies in the city-state. Capitalizing on the industry shake-up brought by cloud computing, StarHub is taking the lead in public cloud, marking a new stage in its transformation efforts.

It is no coincidence that StarHub is taking the first swipe, as the operator already has its own data centers and network infrastructure, the cornerstones for any cloud. It also has idle power & cooling facilities and machine rooms ready for reutilization.

As the operating company (OpCo) for Singapore’s next-generation national broadband network, StarHub has seen this network pass 20,000 buildings, giving it a free hand in serving SMBs (small & medium businesses).

StarHub’s pre-emptive strike in this new marketplace, which is equal for both IT and CT players, not only benefits its branding equity in this emerging market, but also its role in the G-Cloud plan.

Overall, it is an opportunity that StarHub cannot miss, and the operator highly values this opportunity to enter the SMB market via public cloud.

Partnership with Huawei

Globally, there are few telco public cloud models for StarHub to emulate. In the face of a small window of opportunity, StarHub needs a partner who can help with public cloud operation, while keeping the TTM tight; in other words, a partner capable of timely integration and delivery, but with the legs to support for the long term. Huawei proved to be that partner.

The first phase of StarHub’s public cloud platform is focused on IaaS. Leveraging StarHub’s existing machine rooms, power supply, and cooling facilities, together with Huawei’s servers, networking hardware, storage & security equipment, and proprietary Galax-series cloud operating system, both sides quickly set up a public cloud capable of providing high-performance virtual resources on a large scale.

A great many innovations have been made, especially in terms of system security. Cloud hosts typically allow users to create no more than twenty virtual servers to avoid transient system overloads of malicious origin. However, for users who demand a multitude of smaller virtuals, this solution lacks flexibility.

After much discussion, StarHub and Huawei decided upon a new rule that regulates the creation of virtual servers across three dimensions – core, memory, and disk capacity. Any creation that exceeds the mandated upper limits of any of these three dimensions will not be allowed; this guarantees system security while accommodating potential users who have these sorts of demands.

StarHub and Huawei also worked out a way to make the former’s business model more flexible. Instead of the normal one-month trial, StarHub can now give key accounts longer trial periods, as well as more resources, without compromising the experience for other users.

Pricing i s also f l e x i b l e enough now to accommodate different types of users, such as retailers, VIPs, and subscribers to other packages, all of whom can now change their package upon trial completion, both for their own convenience and StarHub’s as well (as resource value is maximized).

Service scale-up

StarHub IaaS is now a mature commercial solution, having attracted numerous VIP users such as Accenture and the Singapore government, making it a role model for telco cloud.

A large number of SMB customers are now expressing great interest in leasing virtual resources as well, laying a solid foundation for StarHub plans for mass-scale operation and profitability.

And yet, IaaS alone cannot bring any operator very far without a strong software application platform that is flexible, economical, and scalable to back it up. In other words, they need SaaS, a fairly well developed service in the North American and European marketplaces, but still relatively unknown in Singapore.

As of the end of 2011, there were 180,000 enterprises in Singapore, 99% were SMBs, who face challenges in terms of capital and attracting & retaining IT talent. They also badly need to lower their OPEX and enhance their competitiveness, without taking on a lot of overhead.

SaaS can help, as enterprises are able to select whatever software applications they need and change their subscriptions as required, giving them benefits in terms of scalability, flexibility, and professionalism.

Huawei has an SaaS offering that is capable of virtual resource and software application management, and already has a large number of ISVs (independent software vendors) on board, giving operators’ SMB customers access to a wide variety of applications. Moreover, Huawei can accommodate the customization needs of different carriers, which will benefit their SMB customers’ long-term development needs.

StarHub’s endeavor in IaaS is providing a strong impetus for the Singapore government’s interest in ICT transformation and SMB growth. It is also clearly demonstrating that no single enterprise can be all things to all people. In the rarefied air of cloud computing, a cooperative ecosystem that is mutually beneficial is a must. Huawei has the confidence to provide the same high-quality SaaS offering for any operator and also looks forward to taking these first steps with other telcos into the realm of cloud computing; as in Singapore, it should work to the benefit of all.