Category Archives: Europe

UK Department of Health taps Accenture, Avanade for cloud deployment

The UK Department of Health is overhauling its comms technology

The UK Department of Health is overhauling its comms technology

Department of Health in England and NHS National Services Scotland have selected Accenture and Avanade to implement a range of cloud-based communications service across England and Scotland.

The NHSmail service is being developed and deployed to enable secure communication to users of less secure systems such as non-NHS partners and patients.

“Almost 700,000 doctors, clinicians and other health and care employees already use NHSmail to communicate securely,” said Aimie Chapple, managing director for Accenture’s UK health business.

“The new improved NHSmail service will provide significant digital technology improvements to help NHS staff drive even more effective collaboration at all points of patient care. This will be one of the largest mailbox migrations ever delivered and will bring significant benefits to the way NHS employees exchange information, communicate and interact across healthcare,” she said.

The five-year deal will also see Accenture and Avanade help overhaul the department’s internal email service and deploy other cloud-based communications services across the NHS including an enterprise-wide directory and Microsoft Lync for enabling instant messaging, VOIP, audio and video communication in a bid to enhance collaboration among NHS healthcare workers across the UK.

Over the past few years the NHS has sought to lean more heavily on cloud services in a bid to improve the care services offered to patients and to reduce the cost of provision, though by its own admission it has struggled.

In the NHS’s five year plan released in November 2014 the department said past failures to successfully adopt more robust IT infrastructure and make its digital services more effective is because it hasn’t changed how it procures those technologies and services, which is where the UK government hopes programmes like G-Cloud will play a leading role, and the lack of attention paid to standards.

“Part of why progress has not been as fast as it should have been is that the NHS has oscillated between two opposite approaches to information technology adoption – neither of which now makes sense. At times we have tried highly centralised national procurements and implementations. When they have failed due to lack of local engagement and lack of sensitivity to local circumstances, we have veered to the opposite extreme of ‘letting a thousand flowers bloom’,” the Five Year Forward View reads. “The result has been systems that don’t talk to each other, and a failure to harness the shared benefits that come from interoperable systems.”

Facebook to build Open Compute datacentre in Ireland

Facebook plans to build a datacentre in Ireland, its second in Europe

Facebook plans to build a datacentre in Ireland, its second in Europe

Facebook this week revealed plans to build an Open Compute datacentre in a bid to support its growth ambitions in Europe.

The proposed location of the new datacentre in County Meath will enable the company to make use of local renewable energy sources and talent, and would be the social media giant’s second in Europe. The first, in Lulea, Sweden, uses 100 per cent hydroelectricity to power its servers.

Facebook said the datacentre could generate hundreds of millions of euros in economic benefits for the region. The project is being supported by the by the Department of Jobs through IDA Ireland. Martin Shanahan, the organisation’s chief executive said: “Facebook’s existing relationship with Ireland is extremely strong and extensive in scope, but the news that the company wants to build its second European data centre in a regional location such as Meath will cement the relationship even further.”

“Ireland has been a home for Facebook since 2007 and today’s planning application demonstrates our continued interest to invest in Ireland,” said Facebook’s datacentre strategy head Rachel Peterson.

“We hope to build an innovative, environmentally friendly data centre that will help us continue to connect people in Ireland and around the world – while supporting local job creation and Ireland’s successful technology economy. We look forward to continuing our conversations with the Clonee community in coming weeks,” she said.

Facebook has less than a handful of datacentres globally but the data volumes it generates – and the infrastructure it needs to support its services – is significant. The company adds 300 million new photos every day, has a data warehouse of over 300 petabytes and processes hundreds of terabytes of data daily. And given nearly three quarters of Facebook users are outside the US, its build-out in Europe and other key strategic regions (India for instance) outside North America will likely continue.

iomart buys cloud consultancy for SystemsUp for £12.5

iomart is buying IT consultancy SystemsUp for an estimate £12.5m

iomart is buying IT consultancy SystemsUp for an estimate £12.5m

UK cloud service provider iomart announced it has entered into a deal to acquire IT consultancy SystemsUp, which specialises in designing and delivering cloud solutions, for up to £12.5m.

The deal will see iomart pay £9m in an initial cash consideration for the London-based consultancy with a contingent consideration of up to £3.5m depending on performance.

iomart said the move would broaden its cloud computing expertise. SystemsUp designs and delivers solutions made to run on Google, AWS and Microsoft public clouds among other platforms, and specialises in the public sector cloud strategies.

“The market for cloud computing is becoming incredibly complex and the demand for public cloud services is increasing at pace,” said Angus MacSween, chief executive of iomart. “With the acquisition of SystemsUp, iomart has broadened its ability to engage at a strategic level and act as a trusted advisor on cloud strategy to organisations wanting to create the right blend of cloud services, both public and private, to fit their requirements.”

While iomart offers its own cloud services the company seems to recognise the need to build up skills in a range of other platforms; the company said SystemsUp will remain an “impartial, agnostic, expert consultancy.”

Peter Burgess, managing director of SystemsUp said: “We have already built up a significant reputation and expertise in helping organisations use public cloud to drive down IT costs and improve efficiency. As part of iomart we can leverage their award winning managed services offerings to deepen and widen our toolset to deliver a broader set of cloud services, alongside continuing to deliver the strategic advice and deployment of complex large public and private sector cloud projects.”

The move comes six months after iomart’s last acquisition, when the company announced it had bought ServerSpace, a rival cloud service provider, for £4.25m.

IBM, UK gov ink $313m deal to promote big data, cognitive compute research

IBM and the UK government are pouring £313m into big data and cognitive computing R&D

IBM and the UK government are pouring £313m into big data and cognitive computing R&D

The UK government has signed a deal with IBM that will see the two parties fund a series of initiatives aimed at expanding cognitive computing and big data research.

The £313m partnership will see the UK government commit £113m to expand the Hartree Centre at Daresbury, a publicly funded facility geared towards reducing the cost and improving the efficiency and user-friendliness of high performance computing and big data for research and development purposes.

IBM said it will further support the project with technology and onsite expertise worth up to £200m, including access to the company’s cognitive computing platform Watson. The company will also place 24 IBM researchers at the Centre, who will help the researchers commercialise any promising innovations developed there.

The organisations will also explore how to leverage OpenPower-based systems for high performance computing.

“We live in an information economy – from the smart devices we use every day to the super-computers that helped find the Higgs Boson, the power of advanced computing means we now have access to vast amounts of data,” said UK Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson.

“This partnership with IBM, which builds on our £113 million investment to expand the Hartree Centre, will help businesses make the best use of big data to develop better products and services that will boost productivity, drive growth and create jobs.”

David Stokes, chief executive for IBM in the UK and Ireland said: “We’re at the dawn of a new era of cognitive computing, during which advanced data-centric computing models and open innovation approaches will allow technology to greatly augment decision-making capabilities for business and government.”

“The expansion of our collaboration with STFC builds upon Hartree’s successful engagement with industry and its record in commercialising technological developments, and provides a world-class environment using Watson and OpenPower technologies to extend the boundaries of Big Data and cognitive computing,” he added.

Mariinsky Theatre taps IBM cloud to improve broadcasting

Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre is using a hybrid cloud to support live performance broadcasts

Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre is using a hybrid cloud to support live performance broadcasts

Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre is working with IBM to deploy a hybrid cloud solution that would improve its ability to stream live videos of performances to mobile devices globally.

The theatre already has more than 250,000 unique viewers around the world tuned into, where it currently hosts webcasts of live performances and on-demand recordings.

It had previously broadcast performances on the web using its own on-premise platform to edit and stream performances, but the company said it sought a cloud-based platform for this in a bid to expand its global reach and improve its ability to withstand peaks in demand.

“To support a growing global community of loyal Theatre audiences, we needed a scalable, hybrid cloud solution that could meet the standards for quality that we and our viewers expect,” said Eugene Barbashin, head of the computer technology department, Mariinsky Theatre.

The company said at times its digital platform would need to scale to support thousands of simultaneous viewers, particularly around very popular orchestra or ballet performances, but that it was struggling to cope with demand at times.

“We tried various competitive offerings from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, but viewers still had buffering issues while streaming performances. We chose IBM Cloud to more fully meet our needs in terms of reliable performance and ease-of-use,” Barbashin added.

European Commission to reform mobile cloud services regulations – report

The EC is looking to create a level playing field in how telcos and mobile cloud service providers are regulated

The EC is looking to create a level playing field in how telcos and mobile cloud service providers are regulated

The European Commission is considering plans to reform how mobile cloud service providers, also know as Over The Top (OTT) companies, are regulated, according to reports from the FT.

Draft documents unveiled by the commission indicate that initiative to create a level playing field between the telecoms industry, cable operators and mobile cloud services like Whatsapp and Skype has long since been forgotten.

According to the Commission, telcos are currently being forced to compete with OTT services “without being subject to the same regulatory regime”, and that it intends to create a “fair and future-proof regulatory environment for all services”.

One of the main directives of the digital single market proposals advocated by the commission relates to the roll-out of superfast broadband infrastructure across the continent. With traditional revenue streams for telcos, such as calls and messaging, on the decline, operators frequently point the finger at OTT services for enabling free and wide-reaching services.

As a consequence, operators claim a lack of incentive when it comes to investing in overhauling  increasingly depreciated copper network infrastructure, particularly around the last mile.

That said, telcos remain hesitant to give its competitors free access to high-speed broadband infrastructure if it isn’t able to suitably monetise the service, which is where net neutrality enters the picture. Aside from the ongoing debate raging in the US of late, net neutrality formed one of the cornerstones of Neelie Kroes’ digital single market proposals, along with the abolishment of consumer roaming fees.

Last month, reported that the European Union’s Telecoms Council effectively conceded that a U-turn on its net neutrality ambitions was on the cards. There has yet to be an update on whether the open-letter signed by more than 100 MEPs has convinced the Council to steer clear of paid prioritisation of any kind.

It is believed the commission intends to unveil its new digital single market strategy on the 6th May.

Equinix announces sixth London datacentre

Equinix has announced five new datacentres globally in the past month

Equinix has announced five new datacentres globally in the past month

Datacentre giant Equinix has announced the launch of its sixth London-based International Business Exchange (IBX) datacentre.

Equinix said the datacentre, LD6, will offer customers the ability to leverage its cloud interconnection service – which lets users create private network links to Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud services among others.

The company said the $79m facility, which is located in Slough, is extremely energy efficient (LEED gold-accredited), and utilizes mass air cooling technology with indirect heat exchange and 100 percent natural ventilation.

It measures 236,000 square feet (8,000 square meters) and has capacity for 1,385 cabinets, with the ability to add another 1,385 cabinets in phase two of the facility’s development. Once phase two is complete, the Equinix London Slough campus will provide more than 388,000 square feet (36,000 square meters) of colocation space interconnected by more than a thousand dark fiber links.

“LD6 is one of the most technically advanced datacentres in the UK. It has been designed to ensure that we can continue to provide state-of-the-art colocation for our current and future customers,” said Russell Poole, managing director, Equinix UK. “This latest addition to our thriving London campus sets new standards in efficiency and sustainability.”

The facility is among five new datacentres announced last month. Equinix announced plans in March to roll out new state-of-the-art datacentres in New York, Singapore, Melbourne and Toronto.

Ingram Micro expands cloud marketplace to EU

Traditional IT resellers are trying to rebuild the business model to fit cloud services

Traditional IT resellers are trying to rebuild the business model to fit cloud services

IT tech distributor Ingram Micro has launched a marketplace for cloud services in Europe in a bid to bolster its appeal to channel partners, many of which are increasingly offering their products as-a-service. The move is aimed at making its proposition in the cloud economy more compelling, particularly as other traditional IT vendors and cloud incumbents move in on reseller turf.

The Cloud Marketplace, which handles billing and service deployment for a range of services offered by cloud vendors, is already up and running in the US. But the most recent announcement will see the platform launch imminently in France, the Netherlands, and the UK.

The company said it plans to launch the marketplace in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Sweden in the second quarter of 2015.

In prepared remarks the company said it wanted to enable channel partners to more effectively sell their cloud wares to clients, and in particular, exploit what Ingram sees as a growing opportunity in the SME market for resellers. With the Cloud Marketplace, channel partners can manage the complete end-customer subscription lifecycle from a single, automated platform, provided and supported by Ingram Micro, the company said.

“For our channel partners, enabling businesses to operate in a hybrid environment that includes cloud-based solutions is as much about business transformation as it is about technology,” said Carl Alloin, executive director Europe, Ingram Micro Cloud. “Our Cloud Marketplace was designed to help channel partners quickly scale as they seek to expand their footprint and profitability in the cloud.”

Ingram is among a growing number of resellers refitting their channel models for the cloud (Arrow is another big one in Europe that recently launched a cloud app marketplace), in part because other traditional vendors and cloud service providers are starting to threaten their role in the market. Vendors like IBM, which launched its cloud service marketplace last year, are much more willing to cooperate with other vendors they would otherwise compete with at different levels of the stack, while cloud incumbents like AWS are attracting a range of other software and service providers to its fast-growing ecosystem.

HP, EC launch public sector cloud pilots in several European cities

The EC is working with HP to bring cloud to municipal governments in Europe

The EC is working with HP to bring cloud to municipal governments in Europe

HP announced it is working with the European Commission on several pilot cloud implementations in a bid to test how internal and citizen-facing public sector services cloud be moved off legacy platforms into more elastic cloud environments. The move is part of the Commission’s broader efforts to catalyse the use of cloud services in the public sector.

HP is working with the EC on the organisation’s ironically-named STORM (Surfing Towards the Opportunity of Real Migration) cloud project, which envisions the establishment of a public services cloud that allows services and data to be securely shared between the public and private sector partners.

The project currently includes three HP-led trials in Valladolid, Spain; Águeda, Portugal; and Thessaloniki, Greece. As part of the initiative HP is defining, designing and implementing an OpenStack-based infrastructure-as-a-service platform.

The initial stage of the project will see Valladolid pilot Urbanismo en Red, an application that gives citizens access to municipal development plans online. Thessaloniki will trial Virtual City Marketplace, a portal to buy and sell local services, while Agueda aims to increase public participation by allowing citizens and communities to express their opinion online and submit ideas for urban improvements.

The goal, the company said, is to accelerate the “cloudification” of public services in Europe, and to fine-tune and seed out a cloud platform model that can be replicated in other cities in Europe.

“Europe must ensure that new IT devices, applications, data repositories and services interact seamlessly anywhere – just like the Internet,” says Xavier Poisson Gouyou Beauchamps, vice president, cloud computing EMEA, HP.

“This project aims to make collaboration between public authorities easier and more cost effective through the sharing and re-use of common platforms, components and infrastructures. As a result, municipalities across the EU will take a step closer to becoming truly ‘smart cities’.”

“HP is working closely with the EU across a number of projects tied to accountability, security and compliance in order to accelerate digital growth in Europe,” he added.

Toy retailer The Entertainer taps Rackspace for managed private cloud

The Entertainer has moved onto Rackspace's managed private cloud platform

The Entertainer has moved onto Rackspace’s managed private cloud platform

UK toy retailer The Entertainer has moved onto Rackspace’s managed private cloud platform in a bid to improve how the company’s site and databases handle traffic spikes.

Working with omni-channel retail consultancy Conexus, The Entertainer sought to enhance its website and databases in a bid to cope with rising seasonal demand.

The company, which has about 100 stores in the UK, said in the five weeks leading up to last Christmas last year it saw a 60 per cent sales increase from the same period in 2013 (it generates half of its annual revenues between November and December).

“In addition to the scalability that’s available through the Rackspace Private Cloud, the high performance it offers is also very important to us. It has allowed the business to deploy a Click and Collect service, which has improved the customer experience and boosted sales,” said Ian Pulsford, head of IT services, The Entertainer.

“A crucial aspect of Click and Collect is having an effective stock management system, which we also power by the cloud. Every evening between midnight and 4 a.m. we monitor the stock available in each store, collecting data on our 17,000 products. This ensures that the availability we offer our Click and Collect customers is accurate and updated in real time,” Pulsford said.

“However, as we’ve learned in the past with previous hosting providers, the technology alone is not enough if we don’t have access to a high level of support and expertise to keep it running smoothly,” he added.

Jeff Cotten, managing director of Rackspace International said: “Multi-channel retailing is highly competitive, which means both the in-store and online experiences have to be excellent to keep customers coming back. It’s been great working with The Entertainer and Conexus to build a Private Cloud environment that is high performing and highly scalable, so The Entertainer can focus on developing new services and increasing its presence across a growing number of ecommerce channels.”