Q&A: Why go via telecoms to the cloud?

With so many options on the table for cloud computing, do telecoms firms provide the best overall package?

Any IT directors planning a move to the cloud have plenty of options open to them.

Since the dawn of the cloud computing age, circa 2009, vendors have jumped on the bandwagon to ensure they have a proposition ready for enterprises. Any company without some kind of cloud offering is now considered by many as retrograde, a fossil from the past.

So what about telecoms firms? What can they offer over other service providers as companies look to make the leap into the cloud?

We spoke to Neil Thomas, Cable&Wireless Worldwide's cloud computing product manager, to ask why integrated services might be the right way to go.

What can telecoms firms offer over standalone cloud providers?

Successful cloud implementations, especially for the enterprise market, are reliant upon combining robust and secure hosting environments with resilient, high performing and secure next-generation networks, and both need to be ensured with stringent Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The ability to pull together these two essential elements with the right service wrap is where telecoms firms have a distinct advantage.

Security is consistently noted as a barrier to the uptake of cloud computing for enterprises, and this was confirmed by our own research with Ovum earlier this year. We believe there is a clear link between these security concerns and the use of the public internet for delivering cloud-based services. 69 per cent of respondents in our survey noted that the use of the public internet was a significant or major barrier to wide scale uptake of cloud computing.

Telecommunication providers can enable cloud-based services that do not touch the internet but instead enable access to a multi-tenant cloud environment, using established methods of data separation, via the organisations own Wide Area Network (WAN).

A year ago 37 per cent of enterprise users rated telecommunications providers as credible suppliers, but this has increased to 49 per cent in 2011.

In addition, large organisations have complex legacy IT estates with some applications that are not yet suitable for cloud computing solutions. As such a hybrid' model part cloud, part traditional infrastructure - will be the most suitable for the foreseeable future.

We have a long history of delivering large scale hosting services to enterprises and in many ways cloud services is a natural evolution of what we already do. Telecoms providers have been offering co-location and managed services that organisations rely upon for their business critical applications for some time and are therefore well versed in the needs of large organisations.

In addition, having experience in the management of large infrastructure transitions also makes telecoms providers well placed to help enterprises migrate towards a hybrid cloud model that will allow them to make use of their current technologies across traditional dedicated infrastructure, virtual servers and cloud platforms.

EMC has taken the route of selling to telecoms rather than becoming a service provider, but why?

They recognise that service providers have an important role play in delivering hybrid cloud computing, giving organisations flexibility in their choice of cloud models and the combination of technologies that they need.

Customers want end-to-end solutions, so enabling the people who can deliver that makes good business sense.

Why are telecoms firms so keen to get involved in the cloud space?

Cloud computing, as a term, is overused and should in fact be viewed as a natural progression of how organisations are now consuming IT services, rather than funding IT departments and infrastructure.

Telecommunication providers have in reality been in the cloud' market for years. Using multi-tenant platforms and efficiencies of scale to supply services on demand is core to our business, but perhaps we haven't been shouting about it loud enough.

Cloud is not a new technology but rather a new way to package how technology is provided. In one form or another, network service providers have been offering cloud services for a number of years now. Just look at how voicemail was delivered, it used to be a physical tape in a machine until we pulled it into the network, essentially providing it as what is now termed a cloud' service.

With the combination of experience in managed services, hosting infrastructure and secure networks telecommunication providers offer a compelling suite of cloud services and are in a unique position to drive wider adoption.

The Ovum survey also found that telecommunications providers are emerging as trusted partners for cloud computing. A year ago 37 per cent of enterprise users rated telecommunications providers as credible suppliers, but this has increased to 49 per cent in 2011. This is attributed to their capabilities in both managed hosting and managed networks.

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