AT&T Provides Range of Cloud Services to Meet Customers' Evolving Demands for Business and Technology
AT&T Provides Range of Cloud Services to Meet CustomersEvolving Demands for Business and TechnologyTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how telecom giant AT&T is leveraging its networkingand cloud expertise to provide advanced cloud services.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and yourelistening to BrieﬁngsDirect.Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how global telecommunications giant AT&T has created advanced cloud services for its customers. Well see how AT&T has developed the ability to provide virtual private clouds and other computing capabilities as integrated services at scale. Stay with us now to learn more about building the best infrastructure to handle some of the most demanding network and compute services for one of the worlds largest service providers. Here to share her story on building top-performing infrastructure is Chris Costello, Assistant Vice President of AT&T Cloud Services.Welcome, Chris.Chris Costello: Thank you, Dana.Gardner: Just to help us understand, because its such a large company and you provide so manyservices, what cloud services generally is AT&T providing now, and why is this an importantinitiative for you?Costello: AT&T has been in the hosting business for over 15 years, and so it was only a naturalextension for us to get into the cloud services business to evolve with customers changingbusiness demands and technology needs.We have cloud services in several areas. The ﬁrst is our AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service. This is a hybrid cloud that allows VMware clients to extend their private clouds into AT&Ts network-based cloud using a virtual private network (VPN). And it melds the security and performance of VPN with the economics and ﬂexibility of a public cloud. So the service is optimized for VMwares more than 350,000 clients. If you look at customers who have internal clouds today or private data centers, they like the control, the security, and the leverage that they have, but they reallywant the best of both worlds. There are certain workloads where they want to burst into a serviceprovider’s cloud.
We give them that ﬂexibility, agility, and control, where they can simply point and click, usingfree downloadable tools from VMware, to instantly turn up workloads into AT&Ts cloud.Another capability that we have in this space is AT&T Platform as a Service. This is targetedprimarily to independent software vendors (ISVs), IT leaders, and line-of-business managers. Itallows customers to choose from 50 pre-built applications, instantly mobilize those applications,and run them in AT&Ts cloud, all without having to write a single line of code.So were really starting to get into more of the informal buyers, those line-of-business managers,and IT managers who dont have the budget to build it all themselves, or dont have the budget tobuy expensive software licenses for certain application environments.Examples of some of the applications that we support with our platform as a service (PaaS) arethings like salesforce automation, quote and proposal tools, and budget management tools.Storage spaceThe third key category of AT&Ts Cloud Services is in the storage space. We have our AT&TSynaptic Storage as a Service, and this gives customers control over storage, distribution, andretrieval of their data, on the go, using any web-enabled device. In a little bit, I can get into somedetail on use cases of how customers are using our cloud services.Gardner: Thank you. It sounds like youre being quite aggressive. So this is a very importantinitiative for you, particularly, I imagine, for your business customers.Costello: This is a very important initiative for AT&T. Were seeing customer demand of all shapes and sizes. We have a sizable business and effort supporting our small- to medium-sized business (SMB) customers, and we have capabilities that we have tailor-developed just to reach those markets.As an example, in SMB, its all about the bundle. Its all about simplicity. Its all about ondemand. And its all about pay per use and having a service provider they can trust.In the enterprise space, you really start getting into detailed discussions around security. You alsostart getting into discussions with many customers who already have private networkingsolutions from AT&T that they trust. When you start talking with clients around the fact that theycan run a workload, turn up a server in the cloud, behind their ﬁrewall, it really resonates withCIOs that were speaking with in the enterprise space.Also in enterprises, its about having a globally consistent experience. So as these customers arereaching new markets, its all about not having to stand up an additional data center, computeinstance, or what have you, and having a very consistent experience, no matter where they dobusiness, anywhere in the world.
Gardner: Let’s look into your role Chris as an IT executive and also a woman. The fact is that asigniﬁcant majority of CIOs and IT executives are men, and that’s been the case for quite sometime. But Im curious, does cloud computing and the accompanying shift towards IT becomingmore of a services brokering role change that? Do you think that with the consensus buildingamong businesses and partner groups being more important in that brokering role, this mightbring in a new era for women in tech?Costello: I think it is a new era for women in tech. Speciﬁcally to my experience in working atAT&T in technology, this company has really provided me with an opportunity to grow bothpersonally and professionally.I currently lead our Cloud Ofﬁce at AT&T and, prior to that, ran AT&T’s global managed hostingbusiness across our 38 data centers. I was also lucky enough to be chosen as one of the topwomen in wireline services.What drives me as a woman in technology is that I enjoy the challenge of creating offers thatmeet customer needs, whether they be in the cloud space, things like driving eCommerce, highperformance computing environment, or disaster recovery (DR) solutions.I love spending time with customers. That’s my favorite thing to do. I also like to interact withmany partners and vendors that I work with to stay current on trends and technologies. The keyto success of being a woman working in technology is being able to build offers that solvecustomers business problem, number one.Articulating valueNumber two is being able to then articulate the value of a lot of the complexity around some ofthese solutions, and package the value in a way that’s very simple for customers to understand.Some of the challenge and also opportunity of the future is that, as technology continues toevolve, it’s about reducing complexity for customers and making the service experienceseamless. The trend is to deliver more and more ﬁnished services, versus complex infrastructuresolutions.Gardner: It’s a very interesting period. Do you have any sense of a future direction in terms ofIT roles? Does the actual role, whether it’s a man or woman, shift? The leadership in IT, how isthat changing?Costello: Ive been in the technology space for a number of years at AT&T and Ive had theopportunity to interact with many women in leadership, whether they be my peer group,managers that work as a part of my team, and/or mentors that I have within AT&T that are seniorleaders within the business.
Ive worked with several women in leadership. I think that trend is going to continue. I alsomentor three women at AT&T, whether they be in technology, sales, or an operations role. So Imstarting to see this trend continue to grow.Gardner: You have a lot of customers who are already using your network services. It seems anatural extension for them to look to you for cloud, and now you have created these, as I haveseen it termed, virtual private clouds.From what youre describing, that allows folks to take whatever cloud activities theyve got andbe able to burst those into your cloud, and that gives them that elasticity. I imagine there areprobably some good cost-efﬁciencies as well.Costello: Absolutely. Weve embedded cloud capabilities into the AT&T managed network. Itenables us to deliver a mobile cloud as well. That helps customers to transform their businesses.Were delivering cloud services in the same manner as voice and data services, intelligentlyrouted across our highly secure, reliable network.AT&Ts cloud is embedded in our network. Its not sitting on top of or attached to our network,but its fully integrated to provide customers a seamless, highly secure, low-latency, and high-performing experience.Gardner: Let’s look into the VMware solution set, and why you chose VMware. Maybe you canexplain the process. Was this a data-driven decision? Was this a pure architecture? Were thereother technology or business considerations? Im just trying to better understand the lead-up tousing vCloud Datacenter Services as a core to the AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service. Multiple usesCostello: AT&T uses VMware in several of our hosting application and cloud solutions today.In the case of AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service, we use that in several ways, both to servecustomers in public cloud and hybrid, as well as private cloud solutions.Weve also been using VMware technology for a number of years in AT&T’s Synaptic Hostingoffer, which is our enterprise-grade utility computing service. Weve also been serving customerswith server virtualization solutions available in AT&T data centers around the world and also canbe extended into customer or third-party locations.Just to drill down on some of the key differentiators of AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service,it’s two-fold.One is that we integrate with AT&T private networking solutions. Some of the beneﬁts thatcustomers enjoy as a result of that are orchestration of resources, where well take the amount ofcompute storage and networking resources and provide the exact amount of resources at theexact right time to customers on-demand.
Our solutions offer enterprise-grade security. The fact that weve integrated our AT&T SynapticCompute as a Service with private networking solution allows customers to extend their cloudinto our network using VPN.Let me touch upon VMware vCloud Datacenter Services for a minute. We think that’s anotherkey differentiator for us, in that we can allow clients to seamlessly move workloads to our cloudusing native VMware toolsets. Essentially, were taking technical complexity and interoperabilitychallenges off the table.As an example, an engineering ﬁrm can now perform complex mathematical computations andextend from their private cloud into AT&T’s hybrid solution instantaneously, using their nativeVMware toolset.How this manifests itself in terms of client solutions is that an engineering ﬁrm can now performcomputationally intensive complex mathematical modeling on the ﬂy and on demand usingAT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service.Medical ﬁrms can use our solutions for medical imaging to securely store and access x-rays.Companies that are interested in mobile cloud solution can use AT&T’s Mobile EnterpriseApplication Platform to offer product catalogs in the cloud with mobile access.Gardner: It certainly appears to me that were going to be ﬁnding a lot more ways in which theprivate cloud infrastructure in these organizations can synergistically add value and beneﬁt frompublic cloud services.Cloud interactionEven though we want to distill out the complexities, there’s something about the interactionsbetween the private cloud and the enterprise and the public cloud services, like AT&T, thatdepend on some sort of a core architecture. How are you looking at making that visible? Whatare some of the important requirements that you have for making this hybrid cloud capabilitywork?Costello: One of the requirements for a hybrid cloud solution to be a success, speciﬁcally interms of how AT&T offers the service, is that we have a large base of customers that have privatenetworking solutions with AT&T, and they view their networks as secure and scalable.Many of our customers that we have today have been using these networks for many years. Andas customers are looking to cloud solutions to evolve their data centers and their applicationenvironment, theyre demanding that the solution be secure and scalable. So the fact that we letcustomers extend their private cloud and instantly access our cloud environment over theirprivate network is key, especially when it comes to enterprise customers.
Secondly, with the vCloud Datacenter program that we are part of with VMware, lettingcustomers have access to copy and paste workloads and see all of their virtual machines, whetherit be in their own private cloud environment or in a hybrid solution provided by AT&T, providingthat seamless access to view all of their virtual machines and manage those through singleinterface, is key in reducing technical complexity and speeding time to market.Gardner: I should also think that these concepts around the software-deﬁned datacenter andsoftware-deﬁned networking play a part in that, is that something that you are focused on?Costello: Software-deﬁned datacenter and software-deﬁned networks are essentially what weretalking about here with some uniqueness that AT&T Labs has built within our networkingsolutions. We essentially take our edge, our edge routers, and the beneﬁts that are associated withAT&T networking solutions around redundancy, quality of service, etc., and extend that intocloud solutions, so customers can extend their cloud into our network using VPN solutions.Gardner: As you moved towards this really important initiative, what were some of the otherrequirements you had in terms of functionality for your infrastructure? What were you reallylooking for?Costello: In terms of functionality for the infrastructure, if we start with enterprise, the securityaspects of the solution had to prove out for the customers that we do business with. When youthink about clients in ﬁnancial services, the federal government, and healthcare, as examples, wereally had to prove that the data was secure and private. The certiﬁcations and audits andcompliance that we were able to provide for our customers were absolutely critical to earningcustomers’ business.Were seeing more and more customers, who have had very large IT shops in the past, who arenow opening the door and are very open to these discussions, because theyre viewing AT&T as aservice provider that can really help them to extend the private cloud environment that they havetoday. So security is absolutely key.As I mentioned earlier, networking capabilities are very attractive to the enterprise customersthat were talking to. They may think. "Ive already invested in this global managed network thatI have in multiple points around the world, and Im simply adding another node on my network.Within minutes I can turn up workloads or I can store data in the cloud and only pay for theresources that I utilize, not only the compute and/or storage resources, but also the networkresources."Added efﬁciencyPreviously many customers would have to buy a router and try to pull together a solution ontheir own. It can be costly and time consuming. Theres a whole lot of efﬁciency that comes withhaving a service provider being able to manage your compute storage and networkingcapabilities end to end.
Global scale was also very critical to the customers who weve been talking to. The fact thatAT&T has localized and distributed resources through a combination of our 38 data centersaround the world, as well as central ofﬁces, makes it very attractive to do business with AT&T asa service provider.Also, having that enterprise-grade customer experience is absolutely critical to the customerswho do business with AT&T. When they think of our brand, they think of reliability. If there areservice degradation or change management issues, they want to know that theyve got a resourcethat is working on their behalf that has technical expertise and is a champion working proactivelyon their cloud environment.Gardner: You mentioned that its a natural extension for those who are using your networkservices to move towards cloud services. You also mentioned that VMware has somewhere in theorder of 350,000 customers with private-cloud installations that can now seamlessly move toyour public-cloud offering.Tell me how that came about and why the VMware platform, as well as their installed base, hasbecome critical for you?Costello: Weve been doing business with VMware for a number of years. We also have a utility-computing platform called AT&T Synaptic Hosting. We learned early on, in working withcustomers’ managed utility computing environments, that VMware was the virtualization tool ofchoice for many of our enterprise customers.As technologies evolved over time and cloud technologies have become more prevalent, it wasabsolutely paramount for us to pick a virtualization partner that was going to provide the globalscale that we needed to serve our enterprise customers, and to be able to handle the large amountof volume that we receive, given the fact that we have been in the hosting business for over 15years.As a natural extension of our Synaptic Hosting relationship with VMware for many years, it onlymade sense that we joined the VMware vCloud Datacenter program. VMware is baked into ourSynaptic Compute as a Service capability. And it really lets customers have a simpliﬁed hybridcloud experience. In ﬁve simple steps, customers can move workloads from their privateenvironment into AT&Ts cloud environment.Think that you are the IT manager and you are coming into start your workday. All of a sudden,you hit 85 percent utilization in your environment, but you want to very easily access additionalresources from AT&T. You can use the same console that you use to perform your daily job forthe data center that you run in-house.In ﬁve clicks, youre viewing your in-house private-cloud resources that are VMware based andyour AT&T virtual machines (VMs) running in AT&Ts cloud, our Synaptic Compute as aService capability. That all happens in minutes time.
Fantastic discussionsIve been in the hosting business and application management business for many years and haveseen lots of fantastic discussions with customers. The whole thing falls apart when you starttalking about the complexities of interoperability and having to write scripts and code and notbeing able to accept tools that the clients have already made investments in.The fact that were part of the vCloud Datacenter program provides a lot of beneﬁts for ourclients, when you talk to customers about the beneﬁt of running that cloud in AT&Ts network.Some of the additional beneﬁts are no incremental bandwidth needed at the data center and noinvestment in a managed-router solution.We have patented AT&T technology that completely isolates trafﬁc from other cloud trafﬁc. Thenetwork and cloud elasticity work in tandem. So all of this happens on the ﬂy, instantaneously.Then, all of the end-to-end class of service prioritization and QoS and DDOS protectioncapabilities that are inherent in our network are now surrounding the compute experience aswell.Gardner: Weve certainly seen a lot of interest in this hybrid capability. I wonder if you couldhelp me identify some of the use cases that this is being employed with now. Im thinking that if Ineeded to expand my organization into another country or to another region of the world, givenyour 38 data centers and your global reach, I would be able to take advantage of this and bringservices to that region from my private cloud pretty rapidly.Is that one of the more popular use cases, or are there some others that are on the forefront of thishybrid uptake?Costello: I speak with a lot of customers who are looking to be able to virtually expand. Theyhave data-center, systems, and application investments and they have global headquarterslocations, but they dont want to have to stand up another data center and/or virtually expand and/or ship staff out to other location. So certainly one use case thats very popular with customers is,"I can expand my virtual data-center environment and use AT&T as a service provider to help meto do that."Another use case thats very popular with our customers is DR. We see a lot of customers lookingfor a more efﬁcient way to be able to have business continuity, have the ability to fail over in theevent of a disaster, and also get in and test their plans more frequently than theyre doing today.For many of the solutions that are in place today, clients are saying they are expensive and/ortheyre just not meeting their service-level agreements (SLAs) to their business unit. One of thesolutions that we recently put in place for a client is that we put them in two of AT&Tsgeographically diverse data centers. We wrapped it with AT&Ts private-networking capabilityand then we solutioned our AT&T Synaptic Compute as a Service and Storage as a Service.
The customer ended up with a better SLA and a very powerful return on investment (ROI) aswell, because theyre only paying for the cloud resources when the meter is running. They nowhave a stable environment so that they can get in and test their plans as often as theyd like to andtheyre only paying for a very small storage fee in the event that they actually need to invoke inthe event of a disaster. So DR plans are very popular.Another use case that’s very popular among our clients is short-term compute. We work with alot of customers who have massive mathematical calculations and they do a lot of numbercrunching.Data crunchingOne customer that comes to mind is one that looks at the probability of natural disasters onlarge structures, such as bridges, tunnels, nuclear power plants. They came to AT&T, looked atour Synaptic Compute as a Service, and ultimately ran a very large number of VMs in aworkload. Because of the large amount of data crunching they had to do, they ran it for twoweeks straight on our platform. They ﬁnished the report. They were very pleased with the results,and the convenience factor was there.They didn’t have to stand up an environment temporarily for themselves and now they use usanytime they sign a new client for those bursty type, short-term compute workloads.Certainly test and development is one that I am seeing CIOs, directors of IT, and other functionalmanagers as one of the most highly adopted use cases, in that it’s lower risk. Over the years,weve gone from, "Will I use the cloud?" to "What workloads are going to ﬁt for me in thecloud?"For those that are earlier on in their journey, using AT&Ts Synaptic Compute as a Service fortheir test and development environments certainly provides the performance, the global reach,and also the economics of pay per use. And if a client has private networking solutions fromAT&T, they can fully integrate with our private networking solutions.Finally, in the compute space, were seeing a lot of customers start to hang virtual desktopsolutions off of their compute environment. In the past, when I would ask clients about virtualdesktop infrastructure (VDI), theyd say, "Were looking at it, but were not sure. It hasn’t madethe budget list." All of a sudden, it’s becoming one of the most highly requested use cases fromcustomers, and AT&T has solutions to cover all those needs. Gardner: Im particularly interested in the spiky applications, where your workload spikes up,but then there is no sense of keeping resources available for it when theyre not in use. Do youthink that this will extend to some of the big data and analytics crunching that weve heard aboutor is that hurdle of getting the data to the cloud still a major issue? And does your uniqueposition as a network service provider help pave the way for more of these big-data, spiky typesof uses?
Costello: I don’t think anyone is in a better position than AT&T to be able to help customers tomanage their massive amounts of data, given the fact that a lot of this data has to reside on verystrong networking solutions. The fact that we have 38 data centers around the world, a globalreach from a networking perspective, and all the foundational cloud capabilities makes a wholelot of sense.Speaking about this type of a bursty use case, we host some of the largest brand name retailers inthe world. When you think about it, a lot of these retailers are preparing for the holidays, andtheir servers are going underutilized much of year. So how attractive is it to be able to look atAT&T, as a service provider, to provide them robust SLAs and a platform that they only have topay for when they need to utilize it, versus sitting and going very underutilized much of the year?We also host many online gaming customers. When you think about the gamers that are outthere, there is a big land rush when the buzz occurs right before the launch of a new game. Wework very proactively with those gaming customers to help them size their networking needswell in advance of a launch. Also well monitor it in real time to ensure that those gamers have avery positive experience when that launch does occur.Gardner: I suppose one other area that’s top of mind for lots of folks is how to extend theenterprise out to the mobile tier, to those mobile devices. Again, this seems to be an area wherehaving the network services expertise and reach comes to an advantage.For an enterprise that wanted to extend more of their apps, perhaps the VDI experience, out totheir mobile devices, be they smartphones or tablets, what offerings do you have that might helpus grease the skid towards that kind of a value?Mobility applicationsCostello: AT&T has a very successful mobility applications business, and we have a couple ofexamples of how customers use our cloud services in conjunction with making their mobileapplications more productive.First and foremost, we have a set of experts and consultants who help customers to mobilize theirapplications. So there might be internal customer proprietary applications, and we can really helpthem move to an on-demand mobile environment.Secondly, a couple of cloud examples of how customers will use our capabilities off the shelf.One is our AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service capability. We ﬁnd that many customers arelooking for a secure place to collaborate on data sharing. Theyre looking to have a place toaccess their data and store their data to enable a worker on the go scenario, or to enable a ﬁeldservices applications or technicians.
Our AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service capability gives the end-user that ability to store,distribute, share, and retrieve that data on the go using any web-enabled device.Another example is AT&Ts Platform as a Service capability, a great foundational tool for usersto go in and use any one of our pre-built application and then instantly mobilize that application.We have a customer who recently used this, because they had a customer meeting and they didnthave a sophisticated way to get surveys out for their customers. They wanted to create a databaseon the ﬂy and get instantaneous feedback.So they went into AT&Ts Platform as a Service -- and this is a marketing person mind you, not atechnical user -- they entered the questions that they required of the customers. They sent thequick questionnaire out to the end-users, ﬁve simple questions. The clients answered thequestions.Ultimately, that customer had a very sophisticated database with all of that information that theycould use for market sensing on how to improve their products, number one. But number two, itmade sense to use it as a marketing tool to provide promotional information to those customersin the future.Gardner: Many of us have just returned from the VMworld Show in San Francisco. VMwareoutlined some of their new initiatives and some of their concepts around the software-deﬁneddatacenter. I am wondering when you were there, did you have anything in particular thatinterested you about what might be then be able to bring about more AT&T or differentextensions of your cloud services?Costello: I thought this years VMworld Show was fantastic. I learned a lot. I dont haveanything in particular from the show to say that were pursuing immediately. We had manyexcellent meetings from the VMware team and were given previews of all of the latesttechnology.More generally, were starting to see more customer demand for ﬁnished services. For AT&T itsnot about selling infrastructure services, its about providing a differentiated experience and asolution to business problems.Were starting to see more and more demand from our clients who say, "I dont care whats underthe covers. Provide me with that ﬁnished services experience, more of a marketplace type of anexperience." Thats going to be a big trend going forward.Also you mentioned earlier about big data, and we see that as an important growth area forAT&T as well.Gardner: Very good. Weve been talking about how global telecommunications giant AT&T hasbeen creating and delivering advanced cloud services for the customers, and we have seen howthey view the VMware-centric infrastructure approach to help provide virtual private clouds andother computing capabilities as integrated services at scale.
So thanks to our guest, Chris Costello, Assistant Vice President of AT&T Cloud Services, reallyappreciate your input.Costello: Thank you.Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks again to ouraudience for listening, and do come back next time.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how telecom giant AT&T is leveraging its networkingand cloud expertise to provide advanced cloud services. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC,2005-2013. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • VMware-Powered Cloud Adoption Delivers Bevy of Data and Performance Beneﬁts for Revlon, Says CIO David Giambruno • Services Provider BancVue Leverages VMware Server Virtualization to Generate Private-Cloud Beneﬁts and Increased Business Agility • Roundtable: Revlon and SAP executives describe accretive beneﬁts from aggressive cloud adoption • From VMworld, cosmetics giant Revlon harnesses the power of private cloud to produce impressive savings and cost avoidance • VMware CTO Steve Herrod on How the Software-Deﬁned Datacenter Beneﬁts Enterprises • Case Study: Strategic Approach to Disaster Recovery and Data Lifecycle Management Pays Off for Australias SAI Global