The Cloud Platform Makeover

The telco land grab for the cloud services market is heating up. The January 2011 announcement from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) of a US$1.4 billion deal to acquire cloud service provider Verizon Terremark boosted the share prices of Terremark's competitors, Savvis (Nasdaq: SVVS) and Rackspace , amid speculation that they would be next in line for a telco bid. And evidence is growing that service providers are determined to own the cloud services market -- rather than cede it to new players, as they did with content delivery. (See Verizon Taps Terremark for $1.4B.)

Tata Communications Ltd. is making a pitch for the southeast Asian cloud services market, announcing that its InstaCompute infrastructure as a service (IaaS), launched in India last year, is available to enterprises in the region. (See Tata Comms Offers Cloud Services in SE Asia .)

Less splashy, but significant nevertheless, were announcements from Australia's Macquarie Telecom Pty Ltd. , which followed Optus Administration Pty. Ltd. into that country's burgeoning cloud services market in January, and from Canadian telco MTS Allstream Inc. , which launched a cloud-based disaster recovery service in February.

According to cloud automation and management technology vendors, these telcos are just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty more working away on cloud services that are due to launch this year. As Houman Modarres, senior director of product marketing for the IP division at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) points out, "Most leading service providers already provide VPN services and hosting services with disaster recovery. Cloud services are a direct extension of their VPN services, with SLAs based on strict QoS, with granular billing, and with application assurance that can be extended to where the data originates: on the virtual machines in the data center. With the right infrastructure, telcos can leverage their expertise to cloud-based offerings to their enterprise customers."

A year ago, if a telco wanted to introduce IaaS, it had to build the supporting cloud infrastructure (or "cloud platform"), with or without a systems integrator's help. But in the past year, vendors have been competing to bring to market pre-integrated cloud platforms that service providers can more or less install off-the-shelf. As pointed out in the new Heavy Reading Service Provider IT Insider, "The Cloud Platform Makeover: Buy It, Don't Build It," cloud platforms for service providers differ from similar off-the-shelf private cloud automation platforms aimed at the enterprise market due to service providers' more complex set of cloud management and orchestration requirements.

One of these requirements -- and a key focus for vendors developing cloud platforms for the service provider market -- is the need for joined-up management of the virtualized world of IT compute and storage platforms, the data center network and the wide-area network. The lack of such end-to-end control compromises the security of an enterprise customer's cloud, the benefits of virtualization and cloud service performance. This report examines the alliances, acquisitions and new technologies in which cloud platform vendors are investing to address this challenge.

At an early stage in the cloud services market, it looked as though telcos would gain a competitive edge over players such as Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Savvis, Rackspace and Terremark because their network ownership would enable them to better support virtual private clouds end to end, from the data center to customer premises. But increasingly, non-telco cloud service providers are just as or more likely than telcos to have the IP skills and the unified IT and networking organizations needed in this area. The new players have invested in the same advanced hardware platforms -- the fact that Terremark runs the same VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) / Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) / EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) (VCE) cloud platform as Verizon was no doubt a consideration in the acquisition -- and in the case of Amazon and Google, have highly visible brands.

Telcos will need new ways to differentiate their cloud services as IaaS becomes a commodity offer. Cloud platforms, services and business models are rapidly evolving. Telcos choosing to play in this market will need to be as innovative and IT-oriented as their non-telco rivals, or they should consider following Verizon's lead and buy in that innovation before a competitor gets there first.

— Caroline Chappell, Analyst, Heavy Reading Service Provider IT Insider

The Cloud Platform Makeover: Buy It, Don't Build It, a 29-page report in PDF format, is available as part of an annual subscription (6 bimonthly issues) to Heavy Reading Service Provider IT Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900.

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:08:54 PM
re: The Cloud Platform Makeover

The telcos can buy all the platforms they want, but do they have the strategy and right people to make best use of the technology?

They probably have the right mix within their organizations, if they use the smarts they have in their networking and IT teams jointly to make cloud services decisions. But I wonder how manyh ave done this?

Cloud services is going to be a killer market for the telcos -- but will they have the human resources strategies to bcak it all up?  

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