Mike Sapien, Principal Analyst, Enterprise
Cloud services have been available for several years, and any provider of enterprise services or hardware is now a cloud service provider. Recently, new services have been emerging that offer different versions and types of cloud–network integration (CNI) services. Most cloud services are networks of cloud services or “clouds of clouds.”
To perform well, applications require strong integration and bonds between cloud services and related network services. This includes end user access to the network, as well as network connectivity between the different cloud service resources and vendors. Any telco that wants to remain strong in enterprise managed services must have a roadmap to CNI.
US telcos launch cloud–network integration
Telcos have long claimed to have an advantage in cloud services based on owning the network, but until recently there was little evidence of the benefit this brought to customers. This is changing, however. Within the last year, AT&T announced NetBond, a new service with IBM that provides private VPN access to IBM’s cloud data centers, while Level 3 Communications and Equinix have announced interconnection with Amazon Web Services.
Now Verizon has announced its Private IP secure cloud interconnect program, which will provide continuous and secure connections between data centers in a corporate network. It will operate across a combination of Verizon’s global IP network, Terremark’s hosting centers, and the centers of partner Equinix.
This is potentially the most ambitious statement on CNI so far, and other telcos will need to develop similar plans to marshal global network resources and take greater advantage of cloud services. Cloud providers, systems integrators, and data center operators are all embracing CNI.
The intelligent network must expand to serve global cloud services
It is perhaps no surprise that US telcos, with their huge domestic enterprise market, have been the first to embark on CNI. Worldwide, other communications providers will need to develop intelligent networks and then be ready to provide integrated network connectivity for many different cloud services and resources. Networks will need to be more than intelligent – they must become application aware and respond to application and end-user performance.
Orange Business Services and Tata Communications have already shown signs of moving toward end-to-end applications across the cloud, and we expect to see them innovate strongly in this area. Other telcos, ISPs, and cloud providers that own networks should be leveraging their resources to do the same. Claiming that owning the network is an advantage without providing value-added features or concrete benefits to customers is no longer good enough.
Cloud services have become “cloud of clouds” services
During the past two years there has been a lot of focus on public, private, and hybrid clouds. It is now clear that most providers’ cloud services are really networks of cloud services or “cloud of clouds” service bundles. Computing, databases, applications, and storage are the basic resources within most enterprise cloud applications that need to be connected by networks.
Some networks exist within the data center, while others extend outside the data center to reach remote resources or users. Multiple networks are required to connect the various cloud resources, magnifying the need for CNI.
Cloud ecosystem vendors must embrace open interconnection
IT service providers, systems integrators, telcos, cloud ecosystem vendors, and cloud service orchestration vendors must embrace open interconnection that allows dynamic, flexible, and multi-vendor integration. As the cloud market matures and enterprise customers continue to gain experience, open interconnection (including the necessary APIs) will become a hard requirement.
Many vendors already understand this, but others are still using traditional closed, proprietary business models, inflexible terms, and rigid technologies.
SDN/OpenFlow will play a big part in this integration
As with any network-enabling technology, SDN/OpenFlow will not provide new services or better cloud connectivity on its own. SDN/OpenFlow implementation will provide a lower-cost model, increased flexibility, and virtualized network resources. As more of SDN/OpenFlow is implemented, these new network platforms will enable telcos, ISPs, cloud providers, and ecosystem vendors to provide more flexible, lower-cost, and more integrated connections to cloud services. As more providers deploy SDN/OpenFlow in 2014 there will be ever more creative ways and offers to connect networks to cloud resources.