Cloud

How SFR’s ‘Chocolate Factory’ produced a cloud service business in 4 months

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A year ago, Benjamin Revcolevschi, the senior vice president of services and cloud at French telecom carrier SFR, came to VentureBeat’s CloudBeat conference on a mission. He found partners to support the creation of a new cloud business dubbed Numergy. The company provides infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service to French and greater European companies that need them.

And overnight, it’s become a major competitor to Amazon’s own cloud services business. Numergy, a division of SFR (owned by Vivendi), has raised $300 million from the French state and information tech company Bull. The startup division launched in September, and in the next four years, Numergy is targeting $400 million in revenues, said Revcolevschi in a fireside chat today at CloudBeat 2012 with VentureBeat founder Matt Marshall. And it’s all thanks to what Revcolevschi (pictured above, right) called the “chocolate factory.”

The Chocolate Factory was the name for the workspace that the ad-hoc team created inside SFR. The multidisciplinary team gathered around a big oval table, which also had plenty of chocolate candy on it. The team operated on the principle of “availability,” where decision makers could talk to each other across the table and work quickly. There were no closed doors. Anyone from the 250 people on the executive could come and ask questions.

“It was an open place,” Revcolevschi said today. “No doors. No boundaries. Availability was the rule. People could pop in. There is always someone to decide. We changed the way the company behaved.”

The urgency was there because of challengers to traditional telecom and information technology businesses. The board wanted Revcolevschi to do something about competition from the likes of Amazon.com.

Revcolevschi went to CloudBeat and “came away with the conviction and authority to implement our strategy,” he wrote in a recent post. He met storage provider Scality, which became a partner.

Within four months of settling on its plan, the company launched its end-to-end cloud service and started taking customers. SFR was able to do this because it is a 15-year-old telecom giant, one of the largest independent carriers in Europe. It has 10,000 employees and is a major information technology supplier.

But such companies can be slow to move into new markets. Hence, the chocolate, which Revcolevschi said represented creativity and a spirit of collaboration. The company built the cloud solution on HP Operations Orchestration, and it will soon evolve move to OpenStack in the future. Numergy now offers public and cloud service for companies that don’t want to invest in their own cloud infrastructure. It offers flexibility, reliability, and the legitimacy of large investors, Revcolevschi said.

“We did this because we wanted to take our business to the next level,” he said. “Scale matters.