One of the first things AT&T customers will gain from today's partnership between AT&T and Amazon Web Services is an end-to-end view of their ecosystem that will now include data from applications which sit in the AWS cloud. Going forward, AT&T will also be using that app data as part of its threat intelligence system to tighten security around the entire network-cloud ecosystem.
That's the view from Mo Katibeh, senior vice president of Advanced Solutions for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Business Solutions. He tells Light Reading that the strategic alliance announced today grew out of conversations with customers who were using the Amazon Web Services Inc. cloud through AT&T's NetBond cloud connectivity service. There were features and functions they sought for their highly secure cloud connections, and those will be rolling out in the months ahead but the two specific areas of interest beyond that were security and the Internet of Things (IoT), he says. (See AT&T & AWS: A Powerful Combo.)
"One of the things we hear a lot is 'We need end-to-end visibility to what is happening to our ecosystem from a customer perspective, what is happening at the premise, what is happening in the network and what is happening in the cloud,' " Katibeh tells Light Reading in an interview. "Our customers' security is the highest priority for AT&T and AWS. It's frankly what we hear most about when we talk to our customers."
AT&T has already added virtual firewall capability that customers can purchase to protect data going into and coming out of the AWS cloud, he says.
One of the first things AT&T will do under the strategic alliance will be to incorporate the application data from the AWS cloud into its AT&T Threat Intellect. That's the security capability announced earlier this year that is built on a platform which already collects data from every router, switch and server in AT&T's network and uses machine learning to constantly analyze and correlate data to detect threats faster. (See AT&T Unveils Powerful New Security Platform.)
Currently, enterprises have to bring their own security to the applications layer for things they run in the cloud, he says. Through its alliance with AWS, AT&T can provide app layer security as a managed or unmanaged service. The new end-to-end security option may be a significant differentiator for AT&T's NetBond service in the highly competitive cloud connectivity space.
Going forward, enterprises would not only get end-to-end visibility of their environments right up to the applications, but will get greater security of those apps and the data in transit from the premises to the cloud, Katibeh says. AT&T will be able to include application data, and look for anomalies in application usage, such as a sudden spike in data usage, in detecting threats.
"With the cloud and getting the ability to see the logs coming out of the cloud, that can be incorporated into the platform which helps protect all of our customers in general, and the individual customer on specifically what is going on in their environment," he comments.
That application data from the AWS cloud will also show up in an AT&T tool, Threat Manager Log Analysis, which is a simple graphical user interface that enterprises can use to get "an executive snapshot level of activity as well as drill down to details at analyst level" of "millions to billions of logs that customer environment is throwing off."
AT&T analysis capabilities let the enterprise sort the normal traffic from things that trigger concern, like a mysterious connection to a foreign site or a sudden spike in network activity at an unusual time, Katibeh says. When either identified threats or anomalies show up, enterprises can address those themselves or, if they buy a managed security service from AT&T, have that handled for them.
In the IoT realm, AT&T will be producing devices that are pre-configured to send sensor data to the AWS cloud for storage and analytics, making it easier for customers to get IoT applications up and running, which is something for which they are asking, he adds.
AT&T sees its IoT platform as complementary to AWS', with the latter providing data storage and analytics and AT&T providing "device and subscription management, the connectivity and billing associated with that, whether they are aware of all IoT devices, where they are, what they've done with them, etc.," Katibeh says.
As to whether AT&T is conceding the analytics piece of the IoT pie to AWS with this deal -- when it was also doing analytics -- he is a bit diplomatic on that issue.
"At the end of the day, we can do analytics around IoT for our customers and make that data available to them, but from an AT&T perspective, we think partnering is important. A lot of our end customers want to use AWS cloud for storage and additional value-adds that come on top of that and we are comfortable with that," Katibeh says. "We think it is a good fit and our customers are asking for it."
AT&T will continue to work with other cloud providers through NetBond and isn't ruling out other strategic alliances, but what it develops with AWS will likely be unique to that partnership because of the unique features of the AWS cloud, he says.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading