Telco Transformation spoke with Brannan Matherson, the director of product management for CenturyLink’s Hybrid IT Business Unit, about the opportunities and obstacles that businesses face with their enterprise cloud deployments. Here is Part I of that conversation.
The basics of the cloud are well known: Great cost savings and potential performance gains can be realized by relocating functions, wholly or in part, to the cloud. This frees personnel, reduces pressure on budgets, builds in layers of redundancy and increases efficiencies in other ways.
This is a transformational opportunity for enterprises. It is one that is extremely complex, however. Organizations and enterprise IT departments must work together to effectively shift all functions from the datacenter to the cloud or divide the tasks between the two. The complexity -- especially in the latter case -- is great.
Telco Transformation: What dynamics do you see in the enterprise cloud market?
Brannan Matherson: I'll first set the context: When I think of cloud I think of the methodology of how to consume services in a more shared infrastructure. That includes on-premises, in service provider clouds and public clouds.
It used to be there was a decision point around [questions such as] "Should we do cloud?" "Does it make sense to do cloud?" "Why should we do the cloud?? Those questions seem to have been answered, and we're seeing a large percentage of the market saying, "Yes, we're adopting some cloud." The next step is, "Now, how do we start to consume and effectively manage our public cloud environment?" That's the [Microsoft] Azures, the AWSs [Amazon Web Services
], the Googles of the world and so on.
Now some enterprises are enabling teams to use some of the public cloud environments as they need to accomplish their goals in a more rapid go-to-market fashion. [This includes] rapid innovation and development of applications and services and consuming on-demand services. This is because their own data centers or IT departments can't deliver or provide those on-demand services as quickly.
Others are saying that it's a strategic investment to start leveraging the public cloud to augment what they are doing in their own data center. There also are IT organizations that are enabling their lines of business to [use the cloud on their own] because they need rapid innovation and development of services. There are others that are more centralized that are making investments in cloud from a centralized global IT perspective, so that they can augment what they're doing on prem.
At the same time, there's not this massive rush to 100% cloud. There is, "Hey, how do I use what I have today, the investments of what I have in my own data center? Can I use a modular approach to delivering services within my own data center, because I spent those dollars already, and then consume some cloud?" So there's more of a hybrid approach that we see in those environments.
TT: How would you characterize the technical evolution of the enterprise cloud?
BM: You're seeing a lot of the public cloud providers and even service providers really getting in alignment with what enterprise IT infrastructure needs to look like. All of the levers and tweaks and configurations necessary to perform at an enterprise level are now being delivered through those cloud platforms.
In the early days of cloud with the Azures and the AWSes it was really preset configurations that couldn't do a whole lot. It was, "Here's the service. If you want a virtual machine, go have at it." Now we're getting to a point where it's enabling enterprise IT teams, those owning the infrastructure, those owning the network, those owning the storage, to have the same level of management and configuration abilities in the public cloud environment as they do in their on-premises technologies.
So when I look at VMware or if I look at Microsoft Hyper-V and Windows Server and those types of technologies, it's really apparent that you can do anything you want. More capabilities are coming to the forefront within the public cloud offerings. Think about all the things that an IT administrator can do [now].
I wouldn't say 100% of everything, but it’s moving in that direction. You're seeing AWS provide a lot, from infrastructure to applications and other services. Azure is doing the same type of thing.
TT: Are the products out there -- from CenturyLink and others -- that are similar, or is there a wide divergence?
BM: There are some things that are definitely table stakes that must be consistent for enterprise IT organizations to adopt them. Those are in areas such as authentication, management, governance and policies. Those things are pretty consistent. Vendors may do certain things a little bit differently, but those things are consistent.
Next, as you move up a layer, you might get in some differentiated offerings. CenturyLink provides opinions to customers about how to better manage applications and infrastructure through software. That is where it truly becomes differentiated, where CenturyLink has really taken a keen eye on being a managed services provider.
This is not trying to recreate the wheel from a cloud delivery perspective. Azure and AWS are there today. It's not, "Hey, do we want to compete with Azure and AWS to deliver the same types of things that they do?" It's about how we can provide services on top. That is bringing our expertise to answer the question that I stated in the beginning -- which is what customers want the answer to: "How do I manage and consume cloud more effectively?" That is where CenturyLink comes into play, to deal with providing managed services. That's unique to providers out there who go beyond software delivery perspective into managed services.
TT: How are vendors differentiating their products?
BM: You're going to have specialists and teams out there that are focused on really being good at migration, helping customers transition and start adopting cloud methodologies and cloud technologies. Another [area of differentiation] is business continuity and disaster recovery scenarios. Another is the ongoing management of cloud assets. That can include optimization. That's really, really huge, and that's something that CenturyLink's focused on a lot. How do we optimize the configuration and architecture of the cloud? How do I optimize the spend and the cost? That's where we really start to differentiate. So you'll find vendors that are unique in some of those areas where they may pivot to one [focus] more than another.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation