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Management World: Making Sense of the Cloud

Ray Le Maistre

There's going to be a cloud hanging over the upcoming Management World 2010 event in Nice, France, but it might just have a silver lining (unless it's another plume of volcanic ash).

One of the biggest challenges facing operators is how to add cloud services to their product portfolios, and, specifically, how to create, manage, provision, and charge for such hosted services.

So it makes sense that one of the key focus topics at the TM Forum 's upcoming Management World 2010 event is cloud service management. Indeed, one of the conference's six summit tracks is "Enabling Profitable Cloud Services," and includes presentations from enterprise users as well as vendors and service providers, including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), and Telecom Italia (TIM) .

One session in particular -- "The Cloud Eco-System; from Requirements to Delivery" -- will discuss the potential for an operator to become a Cloud Services Broker (CSB), a role that's the focus of a TM Forum Catalyst project, involving BT, that'll be demonstrated at the event. (See Square Hoop Demos With BT, TMF Demos Its Catalysts, and TM Forum, BT Look at Clouds.)

The role of cloud services, and how they fit into carrier strategies, has become one of the TM Forum's key development areas, as the industry organization looks for ways to help service providers use their Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) resources to adapt to Web-based service environments and the competitive threat of companies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). (See SPIT Watch: Telco 2.0 Tools & M&A, The SPIT Manifesto, and TM Forum Seeks Enterprise Help With the Cloud.)

The Forum, though, is keen not to raise false hopes, but to provide a pragmatic view of what's needed to turn cloud services strategies into revenue-generating reality. (See Network Crunch Could Stymie Cloud Computing.)

And that's going to be tough, as Heavy Reading analyst Caroline Chappell pointed out in her recent report, "The Race for SaaS: Do Telcos Have Their Heads in the Right Clouds?" (See Capturing SaaS Cloud Computing Business.)

Focusing on the software as a service (SaaS) model, whereby enterprise applications are offered as cloud services, Chappell notes that while telcos "are in a prime position to capitalize on the cloud revolution... It is a complex market with a lot of confusion and noise." She adds: "The telco SaaS proposition is not clearly defined, and the telco role in the SaaS value chain not fully worked out," with operators facing "competition from a range of players that are also setting up as SaaS providers, including ISV owner-developers of enterprise software, content delivery network providers, Web hosting/managed services companies turned cloud providers, and systems integrators."

That, of course, opens up plenty of opportunity for SPIT vendors of all shapes and sizes to pitch themselves as the answer to all the carriers' prayers, and there'll be no shortage of that sort of pitch on the show floor in Nice. (See Verecloud Finds Friends, Lacks Funds, Comarch Supports Verecloud's Nimbus, and Cloud Watch: Lots of Talk.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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