Cloud Upstart 9Lenses Makes Big Bet On HP's Enterprise Grade Cloud

When 9Lenses Founder and CEO Edwin Miller began to face tough questions on cloud security, data controls and data sovereignty from some of the largest companies in the world, he knew it was time to move his company from a public cloud platform to a more robust and secure enterprise-grade cloud.

That's when the serial entrepreneur decided to move his big data insight-as-a-service platform, which counts five Global 50 companies -- including Hewlett-Packard -- as customers, to the HP enterprise-grade cloud.

The seeds of the move came in response to "demands" from a growing Global 100 customer base for stepped-up security and data-control procedures, said Miller.

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Those Fortune 100 vendors, in fact, were peppering Miller with difficult questions on what steps his Sterling, Va.-headquartered company was taking to secure their mission-critical "people analytics data" in the cloud. Those questions prompted a soul-searching look at just what kind of platform 9Lenses was building its business on, said Miller. As a result, 9Lenses began to move its service to the HP Cloud last May, he said, more than a year after HP became a customer.

The breaking point came not from HP, said Miller, but when one of the top 10 companies in the world handed 9Lenses 150 pages of enterprise-data-handling requirements. "When you have a customer handing you 150 pages of data-handling requirements, you have to be sure you are working with a partner you trust," said Miller. "I needed to know that all of those security requirements were being met before we could sign the contract. With HP, I got a team of architects, engineers and account executives dedicated to making sure those enterprise-data-handling requirements were met. They are making sure we have all our ducks in a row to meet the requirements of major Global 100 companies. That, for me, is an enterprise-grade cloud."

Among the protections now afforded 9Lenses, whose customers include Oracle, CSC, MicroStrategy and an unnamed Global 10 company, is a more secure cloud for users of the service, including two-way encryption and much stricter process controls and audit trails aimed at preventing data breaches or unauthorized use of data.

That's no small matter given the nature of the data that is stored in the cloud service from 9Lenses, which has raised $5.1 million in venture capital including an investment from highly respected management analytics company The Corporate Executive Board.

9Lenses, which now has 44 customers with 26,000 users, provides what it calls an "insight as a service platform" that is used by companies to quickly grab data aimed at accelerating sales and improving customer satisfaction.

With that critical business intelligence data being stored in the 9Lenses cloud, Miller said he needs to be confident that a rogue employee or developer, or even a customer, could not spin up a virtual machine and give access to someone that is not authorized. "Our customers want their data locked down," he said. "They want to know if there is a change in the environment. They want to know if a server is added there is a proper process for it."

With the HP Cloud, Miller said he knows there is a rigid process to "document every single time something has changed" with regard to a customer's cloud environment.

NEXT: A Different World For Enterprise Grade Services

All that said, Miller concedes there is a need for spinning up some applications quickly in public clouds that are not designed for mission-critical applications.

"I was using another cloud vendor and they were doing a good job, but they weren't built to meet the needs of Fortune 50 Global accounts," he said, refusing to name the other cloud provider. "It’s a very different world when you start dealing with Fortune 50 Global companies. When you need security and audit trails, and all the things that an enterprise-grade solution gives you, it is not as fast as spinning up a machine on-the-fly in another cloud. But that is not where I want my financial, sales data or 9Lenses people analytics data."

Miller said the transition to the HP Cloud was seamless with a proof-of-concept and cutover that took into account database tiering, load-balancing and geo-redundancy. He credited HP Enterprise Cloud Services with providing the consulting, methodology and talent to allow 9Lenses to move -- without any major issues -- to a world-class enterprise-grade cloud. "HP is interesting because it has the smart process-oriented-solutions people from the EDS [Electronic Data Systems] acquisition and is also an incredibly talented hardware manufacturer," said Miller. "To me, that is the best of both worlds. HP has great process with great technology."

9Lenses is one of an increasing number of companies recognizing HP's expertise in optimizing and managing workloads in the cloud, said James Fanella, vice president and general manager of HP Enterprise Cloud Services. "We are not just an infrastructure company," asserted Fanella. "What we focus on [in HP Enterprise Cloud Services] is optimizing legacy and new workloads in the cloud."

The foundation of the HP Enterprise Cloud Services business are 82 world-class, high-availability HP data centers -- the equivalent of 27 football fields around the world -- that power its enterprise-grade cloud business, said Fanella. That includes an enterprise virtual private cloud service with 22 virtual private cloud sites.

"The ability to have that physical footprint is really important," Fanella said. "The sensitivity is increasing around data sovereignty, data privacy and latency issues. If a client says they want to stand up a private cloud in Singapore, but doesn't have an office there, we have a data center there."

The HP enterprise-grade cloud is based on the OpenStack platform aimed at providing flexibility and preventing cloud lock-in, said Fanella, with a choice of public, private or hybrid models for customers.

HP's software applications prowess with 45,000 employees focused on software, including 12,000 focused on mission-critical Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions, is also critical, said Fanella. Furthermore, HP has strict regulatory compliance procedures around everything from HIPAA to ISO, he said.

Finally, Fanella said, HP has deep consulting and implementation expertise aimed at moving mission-critical software to the cloud. "Companies that don't know where to start are turning to HP to provide the services to get them onto the cloud," he said. "We're providing the heavy lifting, the workload transformation. We're helping clients decide whether they want to rehost their application, refactor them [or] replace them with a SaaS app."

NEXT: A Choice For Customers On Cloud Management

HP also is providing management of the cloud customer environment with an a la carte menu, allowing customers to choose what services they want HP to provide from load-balancing to firewalls. "We allow customers to choose," he said. "We can manage it all -- zero, 10 percent. It's up to the customer to decide."

Fanella said he sees the ecosystems of VARs, ISVs and distributors blend as they move aggressively to deliver cloud services. "The channel side of the business is getting more complex and those lines are blurring," he said. "ISVs are becoming value-added resellers. Distributors are buying software companies."

Fanella said his message to channel partners is to move aggressively to embrace the SaaS model, taking advantage of critical HP Cloud offerings like HP Enterprise Cloud Services SaaS Accelerator. The SaaS Accelerator program provides VARs and ISVs the expertise and tools to get software services up and running quickly on the HP Cloud.

The HP SaaS Accelerator is just the start of the HP Cloud Services effort, said Fanella. He promised more tools and services to help companies grow their businesses. "There are terms and conditions that make it pretty favorable for ISVs and VARs to run their business in the cloud with HP," he said. "But it is not just the terms and conditions; it is also the ability to help them grow their business."

HP currently has a SaaS storefront and is eyeing marketplaces to enable SaaS companies to drive sales growth. HP also has the ability to put new SaaS offerings into the hands of its direct sales force, he said. "We want to make sure those VARs and ISVs become really successful," he said. "If they do, our business grows exponentially."

Fanella said he sees a marked pickup in both VARs and ISVs making the move to SaaS. "Good VARs move where the market is moving," he said. "Customers are asking hardware VARs if they can buy Software-as-a-Service apps from them. We are seeing more VARs move to meet client expectations." A significant number of VARs are also increasingly reselling HP Cloud and virtual private cloud, he said.

Many VARs and ISVs, he said, struggled initially with making the SaaS move because it requires them to adjust to a completely new business model, said Miller. "When a company decides to add on to their perpetual software license business, that is a CEO decision," he said.

"They want to pilot it and test it. We helped a lot of these companies with regard to an ROI analysis on the cloud. If the CEO is convinced that financially it makes sense to offer their Software-as-a-Service, the time it takes for them to work with us and move their apps to the cloud is much faster. What we have found is it is a financial discussion first. Once we get them over that financial decision, it happens very fast."