When he was part of AT&T's first cloud operations a decade ago, Andy Daudelin and his colleagues were charged with taking on the Amazons and Microsofts in a total cloud battle. Returning earlier this year as AT&T Business Solutions' cloud team lead, after spending a few years as vice president of security services, Daudelin is pleased to see the focus has shifted dramatically.
After "several iterations" of cloud strategies, AT&T Business has found what he calls its "sweet spot": Leveraging its network to enable secure, high-performance access to multiple clouds which appear to be part of a single ecosystem, managed in an integrated fashion. At the core of that strategy is NetBond, its on-demand virtual private network (VPN) connection into a whole host of cloud environments. (See AT&T Spotlights Early SDN Efforts, AT&T Adds HP to Cloud Ecosystem, SDN Powers AT&T, IBM On-Demand Cloud Connections and AT&T NetBond Getting Amazon Ties.)
"What we found is that the value we bring isn't so much in providing a cloud service, there are lots of fantastic cloud services out there that have their own niches and the use cases they support in the cloud," Daudelin says. "But our niche or our value that we can bring is in the network and leveraging the network to integrate the cloud, especially in a hybrid environment."
NetBond allows customers to manage all their clouds from a single pane of glass, but it is much more than that, he notes. Security and performance are built into the network service, but management simplicity is also key. By integrating into multiple clouds at the applications programming interface level, NetBond makes each cloud look like an endpoint on the corporate network, which is based on AT&T VPN service. Companies can do real-time provisioning between clouds and turn bandwidth up and down as needed, so the network is elastic along with the cloud.
"What we were seeing is many customers weren't just using one cloud -- they used their data center, they used three or four different clouds based on different use cases," he says. "The problem they were trying to solve was how to manage that in one ecosystem and have it secured and deliver the kind of performance they need."
Daudelin was familiar with some of those concerns from his early days with cloud as fears about controlling data, securing data and applications and getting high performance from cloud-based apps were the things keeping enterprises from adopting cloud. Now that adoption is in full-swing and the challenge has become how to keep cloud management and security from being unnecessarily complex.
"I think AT&T really has a clear value that we can bring to the tables by enabling customers to run multiple clouds and manage it like one cloud, and have performance like it is on their network and have security like it is on their network," he says.
Security was Daudelin's singular focus for the three years he was out of the cloud operation, and he became intimately aware of the complexity of keeping data secure in transit and in storage. AT&T has a roadmap for its security functions that will include new things coming out this year and next, but the real power of its current cloud networking is that NetBond enables things on its AT&T VPN, and as features are added to that network, such as network-based firewalls, in-line filtering of traffic for malware and more, they are added to the NetBond capabilities as well.
Even without AT&T's own cloud services expansion, Daudelin is expecting to see significant growth in the cloud space, an optimism he shares with Siki Giunta, who heads Verizon Enterprise Solutions 's cloud effort. (See Verizon Says Focused Cloud Strategy Working.)
"We see accelerating growth and we are executing on this," Daudelin says. "We have switched to a partner model -- we aren't going to compete with cloud providers. There are use cases that are naturally adjacent to what we do, obviously security from a cloud environment, where the power is we are able to leverage the visibility we have from the network. And there are other ones like mobile apps supporting the mobile workforce and enabling collaboration, where we'll have an integrated solution. But our real growth is in partnering and enabling the network connections."
Along those lines, AT&T is working to enable partners more quickly, beyond the 12 it has now. In many cases, AT&T sought partnerships with the bigger players, but it now has cloud companies seeking to partner in return, and keeping up with that demand is one of the challenges.
"The answer to that challenge is around open APIs, a consistent onboarding approach and making it a platform that anyone can enable themselves and that's our vision," he says. "It's a year or two out, but we are on the path to make the process of adding partners much shorter. Our cycle times are now a quarter of where they were when we started this journey and we are doing that by using standard templates and APIs. The goal is to make that process even shorter."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading