Cloud computing is no longer hype; for IT departments and individual developers alike, it's religion. Where IoT DevOps are concerned, AT&T is finding success by being multidenominational.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (NYSE: T) has been in the IoT development platform market for a couple of years now. In January, AT&T commercially released Flow Designer, a GUI-based platform for working with streaming IoT data – joining AT&T's other primary IoT development platforms, Control Center and M2X, to form a trifecta. Each of these three platforms offer features to AT&T's IoT developers that are at once inviting and enabling; they are open source and wholly agnostic as to particular devices, carriers and even clouds.
The latter is a feature in which Mobeen Khan, assistant vice president of strategy and product management for AT&T IoT Solutions, seems especially proud. In an interview with Telco Transformation, Khan revealed AT&T's IoT cloud epiphany.
"We've realized that a lot of these enterprise customers have their favorite cloud providers and their favorite IT solution providers – whether it's Salesforce, or it's Microsoft and they use Azure Cloud, or it's IBM and they use Bluemix," said Khan. "So a lot of the IT [departments] and CIOs have mandated or [they otherwise] prefer certain environments internally."
In short, everybody has their own cloud preference -- their own cloud religion, if you will. Khan chortled in agreement when I used these exact words in our interview to sum up his thoughts. He further agreed that it is thereby clear that the winning solution for companies like AT&T is to be where their customers, partners and developers already are in order to make that outreach and the customer experience more successful.
Unsurprisingly, Khan explained, this perfectly describes AT&T's own IoT platform modus operandi, "giving the flexibility to integrate with third-party cloud providers."
"One of the things that we are doing and have announced is our relationships with Microsoft Azure and with IBM Bluemix, where Flow [Designer], M2X and Control Center are actually available in their respective marketplaces," he said. (See Start Me Up: AT&T's Khan Details New IoT Developers' Kit.) "So if you are an enterprise customer that is going to build your solutions and your IT applications out on [IBM Bluemix or on] Microsoft Azure, then you can go to IBM or you can go to Microsoft respectively, wherever you are, and be able to consume our platforms there, and vice versa -- which means you could build your applications in Flow Designer, collect your data in M2X, and be able to run this on the Linux environment or run this in the Azure environment."
The strategy is not a novel one, but its efficacy is time-tested and proven. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), for instance, has enjoyed success by applying similar product-management tactics to the iPhone. When the Cupertino tech titan began working to increase iPhone carrier options several years ago, it effectively made the conversation about carriers while nullifying the conversation about choice of device and platform -- making the iPhone choice a given.
So too now with AT&T and the product work it has put into its platforms over the past year. By openly inviting partners to pick and choose among their favorite cloud providers, AT&T's IoT platforms can be the centerpiece of virtually any cloud-based DevOps conversation instead of being exiled to the realm of what Khan describes as isolated cloud commodities – an "island" unto themselves.
"The customers typically don't all work towards the same cloud," reiterated Khan. "So as we work with some of these customers, especially mid- to large-size enterprises, we have to make sure that we are not building yet another standalone island of cloud. We are working and interworking with those clouds. What we have done over the last year or so as we rolled out our platform products is make sure they are compatible... from a management perspective, a provisioning perspective and a data-access and data-repository perspective with the popular clouds, like Microsoft [Azure] and like IBM [Bluemix]."
Khan was careful to emphasize, however, that these strategic partnerships with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), respectively, are about much more than adopting all sides of engineers and programmers' cloud-based holy wars beneath the AT&T umbrella. Indeed, Khan explained, the telco's developers and partners actively benefit from its IoT platforms' cloud flexibility for objectively sound business reasons.
"Typically there are IT applications where this data is going to sit in those clouds anyway," noted Khan, "so [our partners] get the benefits of scale, and they get the benefit of data integration."
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation