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Telco Cloud Services - Cisco's Vision for the Smart Cloud

Cloud will accelerate uptake of Unified Communications services through smart data-centres.

One useful way to dissect the Cloud market is to quantify what it means to telcos. Not only might they use it internally for their own IT operations, but it's now the most strategic factor affecting their enterprise customer market, i.e. How do they build and sell 'Telco Cloud Services'?

Gartners Magic Quadrant for this industry identified AT&T as the industry leader because of the strength of their Cloud services vision, especially integration with their existing telco network services.

Cloud Cisco
While in this mode it's also helpful to review vendors like Cisco and their strategy. Telcos pretty much build out their product platforms on equipment from vendors like Cisco and others, and so it's quite likely their Cloud portfolio will grow in a similar way.

The Cisco white paper 'Cloud - What a Business Leader Must Know' (15 page PDF) explains their vision for the role of their technology as the enabler of a "Cloud Network Platform". It's intended as a snapshot introduction for senior executives and succeeds well at this. In particular I thought it reflected the essential innovation theme:

"Cloud accelerates your business by allowing you to transform ideas into marketable products and services with greater speed."

and that for telcos this means "Cloud unlocks several opportunities for higher margin services. Cloud will enable entirely new business models and revenue streams". Absolutely, and I'd suggest a number of perspectives can help build a framework for achieving this:

  1. The Smart Data-centre
  2. Inter-Cloud Services
  3. Cloud UC

1. The Smart Data-centre
Hosting your applications "in the Cloud" typically refers to using the modern day form of web hosting, Cloud providers like Amazon AWS, where they cater for the very specialized needs of a very specific customer segment, like providing CloudFusion for PHP developers.

In contrast Cisco will play more in the private 'Enterprise Cloud' scenario, where the same underlying technologies are used to automate a much broader array of internal IT operations. As IDC highlights this is a much larger $11.8 billion market, versus $718 million for public Clouds, and although the same technologies are involved it is an entirely different buying market with more business-driven needs, and critically for sellers, an entirely different buying process.

Fundamentally this is more about an overall 'data-centre transformation' project that is likely to be led from the CIO level and with the end result of smarter IT operations achieved through better automation of the underlying machinery.

The core technology is one of IT workflow automation, where dynamic orchestration of IT resources from across multiple, distributed data-centres is virtualized into a single service, achieving many business benefits like improved Business Continuity.

Cloud software from vendors such as Enomaly is powerful because it can play a key role in both scenarios, web hosting and enterprise data-centre, and offers the provisioning platform required to achieve this. As described in the Intel 'Cloud Builder' white paper it uses the same design principles as the Internet itself to achieve a self-organizing, high-availability computing environment.

"The Cloud must run like a decentralized organism, without a single person or organization managing it. Like the Internet, it should allow 99% of its day-to-day operations to be co-ordinated without a central authority. Applications deployed on a Cloud managed in this fashion are more adaptive and fault tolerant because single points of failure are reduced or eliminated"

Cisco is offering complimentary technologies for the network layer, and so in combination they address the total IT estate that an enterprise owns and operates, and can automate it end-to-end, ie. Cloud represents this whole of the IT environment, and makes it smarter.

2. Inter-Cloud Services
A key part of this smartness will come from "Inter-Cloud Services".

One essential facet of automating these data-centre processes like procuring disk space is that it will occur across multiple service providers, not just one, and this will require technical standards for facilitating this type of exchange.

Service providers will be able to invest in assets, like physical infrastructure, that is published to a "marketplace" for other service providers to consume, re-brand and deliver to their clients, achieving premium levels of Business Continuity by doing so.

The telecomms industry standards group the TMF develops and maintains these types of standards, with Inter-Cloud Services being launched recently as part of their overall Cloud program for telcos.

This is a project team of vendors like Comptel and Progress who are working with Cisco to provide software for automating this type of cross-provider provisioning. Their recent Powerpoint presentation on this work explains how it can leveraged to achieve 'Unified Service Delivery Management', a singular approach to service orchestration across networks and data-centres of multiple providers.

3. Cloud UC
The presentation focuses on the product area most important to telcos, 'UC' - Unified Communications.

This represents their core telephony products in a modern IP world, referring to desktop VoIP, Instant Messanging, voicemail and so forth, and it highlights the core value of this interoperability.

Microsoft recently entered the market, with their USP being they offer a complete software-centric approach that fits perfectly with this Cloud approach. I.e. they can now offer a single software estate, SQL Server, Sharepoint, Exchange et al, and now also telephony too, all of which can be better automated and delivered to much higher standards through this Enterprise Cloud approach. This can drive huge cost savings through efficiency consolidation.

With regards to Inter-Cloud Services this shows how "the Cloud" will also offer business value through its role as a service and data broker. IBM, Cisco, Lucent et al each offer UC products, each with the same message of business benefit through increased staff productivity through collaboration tools, however in many cases the different software isn't compatible.

Gateways exist to link one to another however what is really needed is a general improvement in the data sharing capabilities of the Internet. That way there is a "loosely coupled" peer to peer exchange of information like 'Presence', 'Follow Me' messaging and other personal data, but still within a context where corporate policy is applied to ensure security and compliance.

Achieving this interoperation in a standardized way, via Inter-Cloud Services, will be one of the first of many benefits Cloud delivers.

What do you think?
Join in the discussion in our Cloud Ventures Linkedin industry group: http://Cloud-Ventures.net.

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