Xerox throwing cloud computing coming out party

Xerox for the past few years has steadily, and quietly, been building out its cloud offerings. Now officials from the venerable printer and copier company are ready to make some noise about it.

“We’ve done the work, we’ve served our customers and now we’re ready to start talking about it,” says Rob Schilperoort, vice president of product management for Xerox Cloud Services, the business unit of the $20 billion company that has been best known for its document management and IT outsourcing (ITO) business units. Xerox boasts an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering that supports multiple operating systems, plus a more traditional hosted collaboration offering.

Schilperoort says Xerox already has more than 85 customers using Xerox Cloud Services.

Xerox’s traditional IaaS offering provides compute and storage capacity in a public, multi-tenant environment. The differentiating feature, according to Schilperoort, is the operating system models Xerox supports. In addition to Windows and Linux, it offers IBM AIX, Oracle Sun Solaris, HP-UX and IBM iSeries OS support. Through Xerox’s ITO business, it also helps businesses deploy and manage on or off-premise private clouds.

Xerox also plays in the cloud market via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model that enables customers to offload app support from their own data centers yet still provide access via a variety of devices. The company hosts software, including custom-built business process apps from SAP and others for HR, vertical industries and more. Xerox also offers cloud-based disaster recovery and mobile device management services.

One reason Xerox’s cloud business up until now has been relatively stealthy is that the company works through a reseller and channel partner program to sell its “white labeled” cloud services. It’s a move aimed at appealing to smaller enterprise and SMB customers.

However, Xerox also does sell directly to large enterprises, which have made up the company’s traditional customer base.

(Pricing is based on a metered rate based on the amount of compute resources used and duration of the instance. For more detailed pricing, Xerox has created a pricing calculator.)

Dane Anderson, who covers IT outsourcing for Gartner, says Xerox is one of many IT service providers and OEMs looking to tap into the cloud marketplace. One way major move by Xerox to diversify beyond its traditional document management business and into the cloud and IT management was its $6.4 billion acquisition in 2010 of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), an ITO firm.

“ACS has really been doing a lot for the IT services strategy, but as cloud has picked up, there’s a logical synchronization with that,” Anderson says. “[But] it can be hard when your traditional business model has been selling copiers.”

Xerox, Anderson says, has an opportunity to beat out other ITO providers — such as IBM, HP, Dell, Capgemini — in the SMB and smaller enterprise markets via its ACS business.

A challenge for Xerox and others is that the cloud can cannibalize more traditional IT outsourcing services. Anderson says Xerox can win in the market if it keeps a customer-focused vision and realizes that customers are not moving to the cloud all at once. If Xerox can get in on the game early in an enterprise cloud life cycle, it can grab long-term customers, Anderson says.

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