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CenturyLink Ready to Roll on New Services

Carol Wilson

CenturyLink's Cloud Application Manager is the latest entry in the competition to help enterprises efficiently manage workloads in a hybrid cloud environment. But the service, announced this week, is also a harbinger of services to come on the company's digitally transformed services platform, which spans the workload, data center infrastructure and networking layers, a senior executive tells Light Reading.

CenturyLink is definitely not trying to compete at the cloud infrastructure layer with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, says Dave Shacochis, vice president of Cloud Ecosystem. Because its platform spans that layer, however, CenturyLink is developing a broad set of "tools-oriented, automated user experience services at the workload management layer," he says. And Cloud Application Manager is just one of those.

"There are a number of other services that we will be tying into this broader platform strategy -- that do platform-style, automated-style, consumption-oriented, rich user experience services," Shacochis says. "We have our own modest IaaS cloud that we think has its own differentiators, but we largely use it to build our own services. We also have some security tools coming out, an automated network exchange set of tools coming out, you'll see a series of services that really round out the rest of this platform schedule."

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With Cloud Application Manager, the intent is to give enterprises the ability to model applications, to manage their deployment in the cloud and then to manage them over time, as things change and get updated, without requiring them to acquire major new internal skills or have an IT team devoted to this process, Shacochis says. Enterprises can use the product themselves or outsource it further to use CenturyLink's expert team "as their virtual cloud management team," he says.

The Cloud Application Manager straddles the line between workloads and infrastructure. It ties together re-architected, web-services versions of management tools that date back to the Savvis-managed IT services days, with the multi-cloud application lifecycle modeling component that CenturyLink acquired with its Elastic Box purchase last summer. The software-development teams from Century Link and Elastic Box have been working together to create this capability to orchestrate infrastructure, applications and services across multiple clouds, he adds.

Add to those two things the partnerships that CenturyLink has with major cloud infrastructure providers, including Amazon and Microsoft, and Cloud Application Manager becomes a tool suite that enables cloud provisioning, optimization, bill consolidation, financial analysis and more to enable efficient hybrid cloud usage that matches workloads to the right clouds, Shacochis says.

"You just use our tool set and manage it yourself, or you can use our paid professionals to manage it for you and be your virtual cloud team," he comments.

CenturyLink will continue to stress the importance of its internal digital services transformation in enabling the company to more effectively serve its enterprise customers, Shacochis adds.

"We have been a company that has gone through our own digital transformation," he says. "We operate at the network, infrastructure and services level, but that was true ten years ago, 15 years ago. Now we can deliver services in those zones in more rich, on-demand, pay-as-you-go, programmable, automated type of user experiences. That is our own digital transformation. We feel like we've blazed a path that works for us. The nice thing about it is because we are a service provider, [customers] can use the same path for [their] digital transformation."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2017 | 8:52:38 AM
Re: What is CenturyLink
Interesting comment about how confusing CenturyLink's moves have been at least in the short term. How it will pay off for investors in the future remains to be seen. And how they manage to stay ahead of the game while making some of those recent moves will bear watching.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/3/2017 | 9:25:33 AM
Re: What is CenturyLink
Excellent point - Verizon is taking much more financial risk with its high-priced purchases. 

What's telling about much of what CenturyLink has purchased is that - separate of Level 3 - they are buying software developing expertise, with the intent of bringing the talent in house. That's what they did with Elastic Box and Active Broadband. It has the potential to position them well going forward.

But like everyone else, they have to worry about the legacy base of broadband consumers, and theirs are scattered over some pretty sparsely populated spaces. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/2/2017 | 6:52:43 PM
Re: What is CenturyLink
I agree. Every CSP has to do something though. Look at Verizon, it is desperate enough to acquire Yahoo! legacy biz, with the hope that Armstrong can deliver with the critical mass of AOL and Yahoo! From that angle, CL's strategy is pretty conservative, considering all the pieces are within its core competency 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/2/2017 | 5:51:56 PM
Re: What is CenturyLink
I think the transformation process through which CL has gone has been a bold stroke - and thus, it comes with risk. 

If the services strategy plays out as they are saying, I suspect we'll see the view of the company change. And the addition of Level 3 will be remarkable, I agree. 

I think, in general, the market view of legacy telecom players lags the reality - for better and worse. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/2/2017 | 3:16:49 PM
What is CenturyLink
As an investor, I think CenturyLink is misclassified because of its legacy role. Just as AT&T is morphing into a multi-headed hydra, so is CTL. The addition of Level 3 will be a serious CDN contender. Then the cloud space mentioned in this column. Its high yield dividend resembles an old line utility shop.

Short term, this is very confusing - and reflects in its weak stock price - but it may be one of the survivors longer term
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