Cloud: The Network Itch | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Posted On August 30, 2011

During the past several weeks, Everest Group’s ITO team has had multiple debates about the various levers that govern the cloud services industry. The growing consensus has been that service orientations, *aaS (BPaaS, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS), are the strength levers with which the cloud service providers will play. So, for example, a Rackspace (IaaS) will host a Salesforce.com (SaaS) on a Microsoft Azure (PaaS) platform, completing the cloud landscape. Just one glance across the *aaS firmament and the stories appear similar. The cloud portrait seemed complete and nailed to the wall for posterity.

However, a statement by Steve Caniano, VP of AT&T Hosting and Cloud Services – “What is key for us is the ability to leverage the cloud as part of a network service experience – without a network you don’t have a cloud” – took our debates in another direction.

“Without a network you don’t have a cloud”

While the services side of the cloud has dazzled the industry, the infrastructure side – consisting of data centers and network – has seemed dreary. After all, network and storage are considered hygiene requirements for the cloud infrastructure. They also appear to have been relegated to commodities, as both the network and storage markets have experienced intense competitive and pricing pressures. Our feeling is that saying there cannot be a cloud without a network is akin to taunting a Ferrari owner that his or her sports wonder car is no good without Michelin tires. True, the owner may have a momentary nightmare of the beaming red Ferrari’s chassis lying flat on the ground. But it isn’t a real worry, as Bridgestone, Goodyear, and other tire brands are also options. So, can I pat myself on my back and say I nailed this “cloud without a network” debate with this repartee and sign off on this blog?

A growing tribe of telecom firms thinks otherwise. Verizon, CenturyLink and AT&T have all recently made big investments in cloud – acquisitions of Terremark and Savvis are still fresh, and AT&T has put up a US$1 billion corpus fund for its cloud initiative. Additionally, the cloud-focused consolidation happening in the telecom industry has coincided with the growing activity in the cloud services industry. The next generation of networks (4G and 5G) have enticed many new cloud initiatives. Apple’s iCloud is an example.

In the debate that ensued within my team on this topic, a colleague reminded that the whole concept of cloud comes from telecommunications, and that public telephony was the first cloud ever. With this legacy in mind, can we assume that control over network and bandwidths will help telecom companies define the rules of the cloud?

Taking this debate external, is network:

  • Just a part of the cloud (and the real money lies with systems integration and advisory)?
  • An enabler of the cloud?
  • The cloud itself?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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