Colt (formerly Colt Telecom) is using the hype around cloud computing to boost its claim to a greater share of the hosted infrastructure and services market.
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Colt has spent €780m (£652.2m) over the past three years to flesh out a 25,000km pan-European high-speed fibre optic Ethernet network with 19 datacentres. It is now adding software and services to move the formerly traditional telco into the more lucrative services market, and provide small enterprises with access to enterprise-grade networking and software.
UK managing director Henri van der Vaeren hopes Colt's market proximity and potential as a one-stop-shop will help to persuade customers to choose Colt rather than traditional carriers, outsourcing companies and system integrators to provide networking and computing in Europe.
Van der Vaeren says Colt now has about 35,000 customers, some with special networking needs, such as financial institutions, publishers and broadcasting companies, where Colt has developed some expertise.
Colt has built its core network as a series of interconnected ring networks. This was to decrease transaction latency and provide redundant routing for security. At customer request, it has just added an Eastern Europe ring to bring Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, and Dresden into the network, and extended links to the trading centres of New York and Chicago.
The network already delivers Ethernet access to about 16,000 buildings in 100 cities in Europe at up to 10gbps upstream and down. CTO Luke Broome says the network is ready for 40gbps and 100gbps as soon as there is demand for them.
A centralised network management centre means Colt can provide extra links very quickly, says Broome. This has made it an option, even for incumbent carriers, for firms that want to reach outside their home markets, and for mobile network operators that require extra local backhaul capacity.
Apart from wholesaling its capacity, Colt aims to capitalise on the shift to cloud-based infrastructure and services. It is partnering with storage supplier EMC, and with virtualisation specialist Vmware, to offer managed data storage and servers.
It expects to announce a partnership deal later this year with Cisco, which already supplies routers for much of Colt's IP network, which runs as an application on the core Ethernet network.
It is also gearing up to offer applications from Microsoft and Oracle, and is building up expertise to support them. It has made the network "application aware", so that it can monitor end-to-end response times for guaranteed service level agreements.
Colt and its customers are able to drill down into the log data to identify bottlenecks caused by hardware inadequacies, poor configuration and network issues, and to correct them.
Van der Vaeren said voice over internet traffic was still a large but declining contributor to revenue. But it was a key part of a unified communications package that Colt is extending with social networking tools like instant messaging and chat.
Referring to recent regulatory changes, Van der Vaeren said he welcomed moves to open BT's ducts and other infrastructure, but added that he wanted to see what conditions BT would impose on third-parties that wanted to use the ducts.
He said recent moves to establish a single digital market in European telecoms was a step in the right direction. He noted that most nations were still interpreting the telecoms directive in their own terms. This made Colt an attractive option for many companies that traded in Europe, he said. This was because Colt could shield its customers from the regulatory blizzard, leaving them to get on with business.