Cloud architectures continue to lure traditional telecommunication providers looking to score operating efficiencies enjoyed by their high-tech brethren. Operators are also positioned in an envious situation between cloud providers and enterprises to act as a bridge between worlds.
For many operators, this has led to partnerships with established cloud providers that allow for a low-risk entrance into the competitive cloud environment.
One example of this was a recent deal between U.K.-based BT and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The deal, which built on already established agreements and BT’s “Cloud of Clouds’” strategy, focused on linking networking, security, and managed cloud services between BT, its customers, and AWS.
BT customers taking advantage of the deal can get help in managing hybrid cloud environments, establishing virtual networking between geographic regions, and tapping into security options at scale. The enhanced offering is scheduled for availability early next year.
Neil Sutton, vice president of global strategy and alliances at BT, provided more details on the agreement, how it fits into the operator’s cloud strategy, and how it’s helping customers along their cloud journeys.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
What has been BT’s strategy in offering cloud services to customers?
Sutton: Our approach is in line with our ‘Cloud of Clouds’ portfolio strategy to ensure our global customers get a great experience of our cloud services and those from other companies that are important to them such as Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, etc.
As customers use an ever growing and distributed set of cloud applications and services, they will continue to mix-and-match cloud services and spend on IT in a hybrid way; leveraging both private and public cloud.
This creates new needs for our infrastructure and managed service capabilities. We will need to execute and align our efforts with a focus on bringing together our network, security, and managed services to differentiate what we do.
What changes as part of the AWS agreement?
Sutton: Many of our global customers are working with AWS as part of their cloud/IT strategy and are moving from consuming AWS on a single application, or for test and dev, and/or at a national level, to an approach where they wish to consume cloud services at scale for many applications on a global basis.
This presents customers with different challenges: e.g. consistency of architecture and implementation; common security policy; end-to-end service management; and ensuring the networking infrastructure is set up to ensure a great experience wherever the user is.
Therefore, we are investing in working with AWS to ensure we are uniquely positioned to address these challenges for customers. And this underpins our cloud computing strategy, evolving to be a public cloud-centric, but hybrid cloud model.
What are some of the ‘emerging network technologies’ BT and AWS plan to take advantage of in support of new services?
Sutton: Areas such as dynamic usage of networks and dynamic backup and recovery setups for advanced AWS usage. We see this as a long-term collaboration and are excited about some of the new ideas, concepts, and approaches we have been discussing.
What other cloud providers does BT work with?
Sutton: This is not an exclusive relationship. We live in a world of clouds, not a single cloud. We have made a set of announcements and this is an important one for us and for our customers. You can expect to see other announcements in the future from us collaborating with AWS and others.
What progress has BT made in terms of using platforms like containers for its internal and external cloud operations?
Sutton: We have done a lot of work in our labs on containers both in a pure cloud environment but also in how VNFs [virtual network functions] will be deployed at the network edge in the future.
What are some of the bigger challenges BT is hearing from customers in terms of cloud deployments?
Sutton: They relate to scale, global consumption, ensuring the right security, and consistency of deployment method across multiple instances of usage. And, of course, changing the operating model is a key aspect to underpin a great user experience globally.
How is BT looking to help customers overcome those challenges?
Sutton: By launching new customer initiatives such as the ‘hybrid cloud landing zone,’ as well as research and innovation in the evolution of network services, and a more comprehensive approach to security in the cloud.
BT will be creating a series of hybrid cloud blueprints and tools for best practice global deployment with a special focus on the network architecture. BT will utilize virtualized components for flexible connectivity and pre-embedded security, increasing speed to deploy for customers, and optimizing overall cloud performance.
Is BT seeing any skills gap connected with hybrid cloud deployments?
Sutton: Many of our customers have been reviewing which skills they need in the future and are therefore investing in training or working with a range of third parties to address these. We are investing in the key skills relating to networking, security, and end-to-end service management related to the consumption of AWS.