OVH is one of the biggest cloud providers in the world, and yet most people in the U.S. haven’t heard of it. But that isn’t stopping the French company from taking on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform as it enters the U.S. market.
Following its purchase of VMware’s vCloud Air business, and with two U.S.-based data centers opening “imminently,” OVH is ready to compete against the better-known hyperscalers in the U.S., said Brian Kuhn, chief digital officer of OVH U.S.
“OVH as a whole, but specifically in the U.S., is positioning itself as a global hyperscale cloud provider,” Kuhn said. “All the wonderful trappings of being a global hyperscale cloud provider are all the things OVH has.”
Who Is OVH?
OVH will run 27 data centers in 8 countries by the end of the year. The company also has 1.2 million customers, 2,000 employees (nearly 300 in the U.S.), and 32 points-of-presence globally.
OVH designs and manages its own data centers that use air- and water-cooling systems instead of air conditioning to cool their servers. This reduces energy costs, which OVH says translates into lower costs for its customers. The company also designs and builds its own servers and owns thousands of miles of fiber globally.
“We’re not coming out of nowhere,” Kuhn said “We’ve been around for 18 years, and we’re the biggest cloud hosting provider in Europe. And yes, one of the biggest challenges we have in the U.S. is how do we get the OVH story out?”
Its first step happened in April, when OVH acquired vCloud Air, which is based on VMware’s hybrid cloud software. At the time, OVH was a long-time vCloud Air partner with more than 200,000 virtual machines from thousands of customers running VMware vSphere private cloud. The deal included these vCloud Air customers, along with employees, and data centers.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for us to get really experienced personnel and employees that are going to be critical to our success in the U.S.,” Kuhn said. He won’t say how many U.S. customers OVH acquired in the deal, only that the customer count is “pretty significant.”
“There are Fortune 500 customers being served by vCloud Air,” he added. “Our foundation customers and revenue chain [in the U.S.] is from vCloud Air. What comes next for us is getting the first U.S. data center live.”
The company has two U.S.-based data centers: one in Vint Hill, Virginia, and one in Hillsboro, Oregon. The Vint Hill facility will be up and running “imminently,” and the Hillsboro location will come online about six to eight weeks later, Kuhn said.
“In the very, very near future we will have our initial offering, one product that is a dedicated server product,” he added.
Cozy with VMware
OpenStack is used as the base technology for OVH’s public cloud services — instances, storage, and its upcoming platform as a service (PaaS) offering. It also partners with the OpenStack Foundation.
“By using OpenStack and VMware, we have two different technologies that are all about portability,” Kuhn said. “We want customers to be able to move their workloads around.”
451 Research analyst Liam Eagle calls OVH’s U.S. market strategy “a little bold. They are taking a big swing. They want to be a major infrastructure player in the U.S. It’s not going to be incremental — they are coming in strong.”
While other cloud service providers like Rackspace have adopted a business strategy to compete in a world where AWS is the de facto public cloud — Rackspace is one of the largest AWS managed cloud services providers — OVH is taking a different approach.
“They’re asking what can we do that AWS can’t, but they are also looking to compete directly with AWS,” Eagle said. “Can they do it? That remains to be seen.”
What can OVH do that AWS can’t?
“Their big bet on VMware is a big part of it,” Eagle said, adding that even with the new VMware Cloud on AWS, “AWS isn’t built on VMware and it doesn’t natively support VMware, but OVH is a VMware shop. That’s important because there are millions and millions of workloads in enterprise data centers running on VMware platforms.”
IHS Markit analyst Cliff Grossner says enterprises are increasingly building multi-cloud environments. IHS Technology research published last month found respondents use on average eight different cloud service providers and expect this number to grow to 11 by 2019.
“The cloud services market is one where multiple players will be engaged with the enterprise for various specializations,” Grossner said. “That’s how the market is evolvoing. Enterprises are choosing not to work with just one service provider. It’s not Amazon lives and everyone else dies.”
OVH’s vCloud Air acquisition and its ongoing partnership with VMware make it an appealing cloud provider to enterprises, he added.
“They have a very particular brand of technology, they assemble their own servers, they have a unique water cooling technology, which gets them a low PUE [power usage effectiveness] and allows them to have a low cost base,” Grossner said. “If you are looking for a very low-cost, high performance IaaS [infrastructure as a service], they OVH can certainly be a player. I do think within the enterprise multi-cloud, OVH has a chance to have a portion of the pie.”