TDS' Vital Support Systems Begins Cloud Services Rollout


Solution provider Vital Support Systems, fresh off its acquisition by telecom giant Telephone and Data Systems (TDS), is now live with an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering intended to cement the company in the lucrative market for regional hosted services.

Vital earlier this month began availability of its IaaS platform, ReliaCloud, in Iowa, using Vital's data center in Des Moines.

Clint Harder, vice president of product strategy for TDS Hosted & Managed Services, described the customer fit as primarily back-office functions, such as data warehousing, CRM systems, and mail servers that have predictable needs and for which customers are looking for high performance, off-site hosted solutions.

ReliaCloud offers customers not only flexibility and security but also locality, Harder said. Many customers prefer to leverage the benefits of cloud infrastructure but also have their data geographically close by.

"People like local services," Harder said. "With us, they can put everything on the cloud infrastructure, or certain parts and pieces, or use our cloud to get storage or backup or network services. We want to provide an on-ramp, but a gradual adoption to the cloud. And if it's local, despite the overall decrease in telecom costs, locality does enable ways to provide lower-cost, high-speed connectivity."

[Related: TDS Telecom Mounts Cloud Services Push Behind Channel Acquisitions]

TDS, which owns and operates the country's seventh-largest telecom provider, TDS Telecommunications Corp. and also majority-owns wireless provider U.S. Cellular, is a prime example in the recent trend of telecom service providers reaching into the more traditional IT VAR and reseller channels to fortify themselves for cloud computing and IT-telecom convergence opportunities.

The company in June paid $45 million to acquire Vital, based in Urbandale, Iowa, and a member of CRN's Tech Elite 250 list.

Bill Megan, president of TDS Hosted & Managed Services and executive vice president of TDS Telecommunications, told CRN last month that the Vital buy was part of a multipronged strategy designed to expand TDS' footprint in co-location, managed services, hosted services, cloud infrastructure and the traditional reseller channel.

TDS prices the ReliaCloud service not as an hourly or daily use fee but as either a set of prepackaged servers or as a pool of resources. A customer can, for example, buy some set amount of CPU Ghz, GB of RAM and TB of storage, and provision that as they choose, based on their particular needs.

"They're, in essence, buying that pool," TDS' Harder said. "Maybe they're paying, say, $10,000 a month for that pool, and they decide how it's deployed or configured and moved around."

The ReliaCloud rollout began in Iowa, but by the end of August, TDS and Vital will be live with three ReliaCloud pods and three hosting centers in the Madison, Wis. area, in Des Moines, and in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Later this year, the company will turn on interconnectivity between those data centers -- what Harder described as low-latency, high-speed connectivity through which TDS can more efficiently provision its own data center resources and offer customers resilient backup and disaster recovery at a lower price point. TDS and Vital also plan to work with ISVs and SaaS-focused solution providers to enable their software on the ReliaCloud platform, Harder said.

Customer interest in hosted solutions can't be ignored, said Harder, and buyers are looking at cloud services with more of a critical eye now.

"They've gotten past, 'Is the cloud right for me?'" he said. "Now they're looking at what services are available and deciding which ones make sense for them and how to invest."

PUBLISHED AUG. 16, 2012