Today's announcement of a cloud collaboration deal with Microsoft marks the latest step in AT&T's strategy to advance cloud service delivery via its MPLS-based virtual private network offering. (See: AT&T, Microsoft Team Up to Secure Cloud.)
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) had already announced agreements with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)'s SmartCloud Enterprise and integrator Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) (NYSE: CSC) to link its network to cloud services in a more reliable, secure, and on-demand fashion via its internally developed AT&T NetBond integration process. By collaborating with Microsoft, AT&T helps accelerate adoption of cloud services and gains potential access to an installed base of enterprises already using Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Azure. (See: 2013 Leading Lights Finalists: Most Innovative Carrier Cloud Service.)
Because enterprise deployment of cloud services often hinges on issues of security, control of data, and reliability of connections, both AT&T and Microsoft benefit from an expanded cloud service market if they can assuage those concerns, says Steven Martin, general management for Windows Azure. (See: Enterprises Not Rushing to Embrace Cloud.)
"We have those discussions -- about security and control of data -- on a daily basis," Martin said in an interview with Light Reading. "Our customers talk about massive investment in datacenters and in networking. For them, thinking about cloud as a different set of assets is troubling. What we can say is that, for AT&T customers using the MPLS backbone, the cloud is now an extension of that. You can take advantage of cloud resources as if it were another node on your network, absolutely as secure as your existing infrastructure."
AT&T developed NetBond as a way of "stitching together the resources that a customer would use [in the cloud] with their virtual private network," says Steve Caniano; VP-Hosting, Managed Applications and Cloud Solutions at AT&T. Used first to link AT&T's own cloud services with its MPLS-based VPNs, it is now being extended through agreements such as this one, so that Microsoft Azure resources appear as if they were sitting on the AT&T network.
"There are a lot of approaches to connect networks with the cloud and generally they are point-to-point solutions," Caniano says. "This has built-in redundancy and scalability to that as customers' cloud use increases, and we expect it will, the network bandwidth scale with that."
Most enterprises ultimately have hybrid clouds, accessing various cloud service but also tying in their own datacenters and private clouds, Caniano says. It's AT&T's intention to be the glue that knits all that together in a secure reliable fashion.
Most service providers are intending to do the same thing, in the belief that cloud services ultimately dominate, but AT&T's strategy has been a bit different through these collaborative efforts and the development of AT&T NetBond. None of these deals are exclusive, however, and there are no guarantees that an enterprise will shift its network services preference to match it cloud service preference.
AT&T and Microsoft are also now well-positioned to serve two other markets for cloud: Startup companies that want to look like bigger operations, and what is expected to be massive cloud deployment to support mobile services and applications for enterprises, says Caniano.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
Interested in learning more on how cloud services and networks come together? Then come to Ethernet & SDN Expo, a Light Reading Live event that takes place Oct. 2-3, 2013 at the Javits Center in New York City. Co-located with Interop, Light Reading's Ethernet & SDN Expo will focus on how the convergence of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 with emerging carrier software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization technologies could change the whole telecom landscape for service providers. For more information, or to register, click here.