CoxCox Business is getting serious about cloud opportunities, said Ken Kraft, Cox Business vice president of marketing, in an interview.

“We’re very focused on building a cloud portfolio,” said Kraft. “We see this as a pretty big market. It’s worth about $1.9 billion in the Cox footprint alone.”

The company’s latest cloud initiative, announced today, is a partnership with colocation provider ViaWest.

“We’d like to pair the speed and reliability of our fiber with their superior data center and colocation facilities,” said Kraft.

Initially the two companies will focus on the Las Vegas, Phoenix and Southern California markets. “We will come together to provide customer solutions,” explained Kraft. “As we move forward we’ll probably become more self-sufficient in selling solutions on our own.”

Cox Business previously announced two other cloud services – including an internally developed IP Centrex offering and a cloud-based merchant and card processing service called PayLeap made available through a partnership.

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Kraft said the latter offering is particularly well suited to Cox Business, which targets small and medium-size business customers, including retailers based in strip malls and other locations reached by Cox’s network infrastructure because of its cable TV heritage, but which may not be targeted by network operators focused primarily on larger businesses.

Similar considerations figured into Cox Business’s decision to work with ViaWest for colocation. “They are very focused on the SMB customer segment,” observed Kraft.

Kraft said Cox Business has several other cloud-based offerings under trial. “We’re looking at software-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service,” he said. In addition he said the company is considering offerings that target key verticals such as education, healthcare and state and local government.

An important criteria, he said, is that the solution fit the needs of SMBs.

“A lot of cloud-based stuff we’ve seen so far is really built for enterprise customers,” he said. “We’re more intent on solutions designed originally for SMBs.”