27th October 2011: The Malta Business Weekly carried an interview by its editor Noel Grima with Christian Sammut, Chief Executive Officer of BMIT, regarding the launch of the new Cloud platform:
Malta’s largest data centre services provider launches a cloud platform
by Noel Grima
Last week’s issue of this paper reported that Malta’s largest data centre services provider BMIT Limited, announced that it will be investing in a cloud platform to enable a range of new Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. This will be the first direct investment in a cloud infrastructure in Malta. Noel Grima interviewed Christian Sammut
Operating from a state-of-the-art facility in Handaq, BMIT offers its services not just to Maltese but also to foreign companies.
BMIT, its CEO Christian Sammut tells me, is a fully owned subsidiary of GO. The company’s origins go back approximately 10 years when the company used to provide bulletin board services to business customers. Over time, the company developed into a specialised provider of data centre services, at that time still a growing industry. As Malta became a leading jurisdiction for online remote gaming services, BMIT became the one of the industry’s largest providers for data centre services and approximately three years ago, GO purchased 60% of the company. Earlier this year in June, GO completed its acquisition of the remaining shares in BMIT.
Mr Sammut started his career in the private sector with the Dowty Group following an assignment overseas within the aerospace industry. He joined MITTS in 1992, where he was responsible for the delivery and support of IT infrastructure services, as well as for the management and operations of government’s data centres. In 2001, Mr Sammut joined the Maltacom Group to setup Innovate Limited. In the following years, he held various positions at GO including that of chief of Strategy and Business Development, until more recently, he was appointed chief executive officer at BMIT.
BMIT operates two facilities – one is a data centre in Qormi and this at Tal-Handaq is its prime site. The company took over a shell form premises at Handaq over three years ago and it is now a transformed and completely refurbished, state-of-the-art and fully secure data centre facility.
Data centre clients are typically companies who have realised that keeping their IT infrastructure at their premises does not make operational or financial sense and is not entirely secure or convenient. Others by design opt to leave their IT infrastructure requirements to the data centre operator and consequently focus exclusively on their core business.
Currently, BMIT mainly provides co-location services and increasingly managed services for customers hosting their services and infrastructure in any one of its data centres. It rents out space, provides a secure environment with access control, fire protection and the resiliency that is required by companies who want to co-locate their critical systems and keep their data accessible and safe in any circumstance. By way of example, in the case of a power failure, BMIT has stand by UPS systems and four huge generators able to operate autonomously for over a week.
BMIT’s operations, Mr Sammut tells me, is somewhat similar to the business of property leasing, where the landlord furnishes offices with everything included so that clients just have to turn the key and start working. All the required equipment and connections are already in place – the tenant does not have to worry about such matters.
One of the big advantages that BMIT has is that it is connected to all four fibre optic submarine cables connecting Malta to the world. This ensures that its clients, who normally require internet connectivity on a 24x7 basis with no allowance for downtime, are always up and accessible to the world.
BMIT is currently expanding its business operations to non-gaming customers. The initial take-up has been very promising, with businesses from various industries, including retail and financial services, co-locating their servers or using virtual private servers offered by BMIT. The underlying reason is that a data centre that can handle the high bandwidth, high availability and high security requirements of multi-million euro gaming operators can surely handle the requests of similar size or smaller organisations in different industries.
To provide the best service possible, BMIT complies with the very demanding requests made by regulators all over Europe and regularly updates its services to the lawww industry requirements. The company is also PCI certified, which means it can operate a data centre and network which supports payment transactions and within a few weeks, the company expects to get certified to ISO 27001 levels.
The efforts to transform BMIT from a gaming co-location facility to a fully-fledged managed services provider are being further enhanced with a substantial investment in new services and technologies, chief among these is cloud technology. This announcement that BMIT is to launch a cloud platform comes following the successful launch of an initial suite of cloud services earlier this year, where customer take-up has proven to be very encouraging. In fact a number of locally based and international clients are now subscribed to a range of virtualisation and storage services offered through any one of BMIT’s data centres in Malta.
In light of this, BMIT is now reviewing and revisiting its own strategy to be able to provide even more client services. “A considerable number of customers are showing interest in our current range of cloud services since we provide all the benefits of the cloud but complement it with a suite of managed services as well as with focused and personalised attention which cannot be always achieved if an offshore location is opted for,” Mr Sammut commented.
The new cloud infrastructure is scheduled for launch very early next year and will offer a suite of infrastructure, communication and collaboration services to SMEs and corporations. “Our cloud platform will allow our customers to benefit from the scalability and flexibility offered by cloud platforms, thus allowing our customers to access services such as cloud computing on an on-demand basis.
“With no long-term commitments and up-front expenses, we are seeking to provide the most cost-effective delivery mechanism to our customers.
“A key differential of our offering from other services available on the web will be the personalised attention and round-the-clock local support which our partners and customers will be receiving,” added BMIT’s CEO.
On the internet there are a full variety of companies offering cloud services, including giants such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. BMIT acknowledges that competing just on price with such massive companies is a futile exercise and it is thus focusing its efforts to complement its highly affordable services with other benefits, such as providing 24x7 manned local support, in contrast to some automated or canned-reply call centre in some other part of the planet.
“A local company many times feels it is one of many thousands and when an automated system handles requests and demands, for service or support, they are many times part of a long queue. There thus exists a need for a cloud which is based in Malta, with a provider who can understand local customer requirements. Such a local cloud can offer tailor made services for the Maltese business community.”
One other advantage with having a Maltese cloud is that data and transactions are kept local. As a result, customers know exactly where their data is stored. This is relevant for all businesses, and especially for those with specific regulatory requirements which oblige them to retain their data in Malta. Once the cloud infrastructure is put in place, customers will be able to access BMIT’s services through a web portal through which they will be able to select and access those services they require online. All services will be automated and simple to access and operate.
BMIT is also working with a number of local software development companies to develop applications that can be offered to Maltese customers according to their specific needs and requirements. “These software houses will be given a platform across which they can offer software as a service to customers in Malta and globally without the need to invest in the high availability and redundant infrastructure required in such instances,” explained Mr Sammut.
BMIT’s cloud is a public one, but the company will also provide its customers with a private cloud service, for specific corporate use. BMIT will also be offering a pay-as-you-go cloud computing service, whereby customers will be able to only pay for the usage they require.
Apart from offering these services to local businesses, BMIT also intends to offer these services internationally. Although, as said, its principal customers so far are in the gaming industry it plans to offer the entire range of its services to a wide variety of customers and even to customers from abroad.
For those customers seeking to relocate their business to Malta in order to operate under a company registered in Malta to take advantage of the tax benefits that are obtained by non-resident shareholders, the hosting of systems in a data centre in Malta or the use of a locally based cloud will ensure that such companies can substantively prove that their relevant economic activity is conducted within Maltese territory. This should help such customers withstand any scrutiny by the shareholder’s jurisdiction tax authorities.
Interview at: http://www.maltabusinessweekly.com.mt