The Cloud-based service model offers the Enterprise access to a rich range of services and applications without the overhead of having to deploy and manage the underlying infrastructure. This results in much lower costs for access to services and applications. This is especially true for one time or periodic workloads where resources may sit idle for months until required. As a result Enterprises are increasingly embracing cloud services and benefiting from on-demand availability.
Demand for cloud services is being met in a number of ways. Independent software vendors offer services from their data center over the Internet, such as Salesforce.com’s CRM application. Some ISVs leverage an IaaS provider such as Amazon to host their application on the Internet such as Adobe’s LiveCycle Enterprise Suite. However, since these approaches rely on the Internet it is not possible to provide end-to-end quality of service (QoS), so neither approach supports providing an SLA for network performance. This is increasingly a concern for Enterprise customers.
The Need for SLA's
The need for SLA’s for cloud services opens up an opportunity for communications service providers (CSPs) to offer a wide range of network centric solutions that are supported by an SLA. CSPs are in a unique position to offer these solutions because, unlike the Internet, the Next Generation Networks (NGNs) that CSPs have deployed, based on IP and MPLS, are capable of providing contracted levels of availability, delay, jitter and packet loss. As a result CSPs can provide cloud-based solutions with SLAs by providing these solutions to customers from their own data center and over their NGN.
A number of CSPs either already provide, or have announced their intention to provide these types of solutions. This includes Verizon which has announced its intention to provide unified communications as a Cloud-based offering. Orange Business Services which has announced its intention to offer multiple Cloud-based solutions including security services as well as unified communications services and BT which has announced its intention to provide NetSuite's product offerings as a Cloud-based solution as well as many others.
There are a number of services that the CSP might offer by leveraging their data center and IP NGN. For example they can provide network services such as server load balancing and WAN optimization to increases the performance and availability of applications in the data center and over the WAN. Collaboration solutions are delay sensitive and perform better over and NGN so collaboration as a service is an excellent opportunity for CSP’s. Many Enterprises are interested in disaster recovery and business continuity solutions and using a cloud computing model to obtain these services can result in significant savings.
The CSP’s data center can serve as an extension of an enterprise’s data center and provide overflow capacity during periods of peak usage. For example, many companies in retail do more business in December than they do any other month of the year and can benefit from on-demand resources. High Performance Computing (HPC) that leverages clusters of commodity compute nodes to perform analysis of very large sets of data are in demand for periodic workloads creating an opportunity for CSPs. A CSP may provide an application hosting service whereby an enterprise can host its applications in the CSP’s data center. Alternatively, the CSP can partner with ISVs to host applications for the ISVs as SaaS.
The Cisco Advantage
CSP’s can also benefit from leveraging Cisco in the network and the data center. Part of Cisco’s value proposition is the Unified Service Delivery (USD) solution for the data center and IP NGN which was designed to enable CSPs to enhance, optimize and assure the delivery of network centric solutions across their entire portfolio of services.
To Learn More
To learn more about cloud-services and opportunities for CSPs see this paper by Jim Metzler of Ashton, Metzler Associates, The Critical Role of the Network in Supporting Cloud-Based Solutions.
Backstory: While working on the Cisco Cloud and Managed Services team I marketing the value of the network for cloud service delivery and worked with Jim Metzler. This blog also appears on the Cisco Data Center blog site.