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AT&T Goes 'Down Market' with Public Cloud Service

AT&T is the latest major IT provider to add a public cloud service. Revealed at its developer conference in Las Vegas alongside the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Cloud Architect is targeted at enterprise app developers.

I caught up Wednesday with John Potter, AT&T's VP of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), to discuss how Cloud Architect, available now, will extend the telecommunications carrier's existing enterprise cloud offerings and compete with IaaS offerings from the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace Hosting.

The plan with Cloud Architect is to go "down market," Potter explained. AT&T already offers hybrid cloud services through its AT&T Synaptic Hosting and storage offerings. The AT&T Synaptic cloud portfolio is a high-end offering aimed at extending private clouds via virtual private network connections to AT&T datacenters.

Cloud Architect is AT&T's foray into offering pure public cloud services, Potter told me. "Our Synaptic offering is a fully integrated stack as opposed as what we see as down market with Cloud Architect," Potter said, adding that the service gives customers choices around the sets of capabilities they can subscribe to, such as dedicated instances, single-tenant instances of servers and dedicated virtual machines, as well as bare metal machines for high I/O types of apps.

The intent is to give developers, ISVs and tech-savvy SMBs the opportunity to build as they see fit for the workloads that they need to serve, he explained. "It's really spin it up quickly and spin it down," he said. "Down market, not a lot of folks have VPNs. Developers in many cases don't want to be pinned down with VMware -- they don't need the functionality and they don't need the price point associated with it. And they want [Microsoft's] Hyper-V, they want Xen, they want other hypervisors that they can go and develop on, at different functionality points, and as a result a different price point."

That said, AT&T has a partnership with VMware and the company will be announcing new developments along those lines in the coming weeks, presumably for the larger-scale Synaptic cloud offerings, though Potter declined to elaborate.

Cloud Architect usage will typically range from $50 to $1,500 per month, compared with AT&T Synaptic usage, which will run form $5,000 to $10,000. "It's just a whole different bowl of wax," he said.

Given the fact that AT&T runs one of the largest mobile communications networks in the world, I asked Potter if the goal of Cloud Architect is to woo developers of applications for mobile form factors. To no surprise, he said yes. "For the mobile development environment, we are very interested in capturing mindshare and capturing the traffic and capturing the mobile developer," Potter said.

He argued that AT&T's Cloud Architect, which will spread workloads throughout its 11 datacenters throughout the United States, is a better option for mobile developers than AWS and Rackspace.

"The tolerance for Amazon scaling to a full production environment isn't there," he said. "From a security perspective, from an ability to scale perspective, folks are just not comfortable with the proposition being brought forward into a full production environment. We have the ability to provide a full value proposition with a single platform across development, test and run, and we are going to leverage that, coupled with the full mobility compliment of development capabilities that we think gives us a unique advantage versus the Amazons of the worlds and the Rackspaces of the world."

To aid developers in building apps to run on Cloud Architect, AT&T released a bunch of new APIs. Among them:

  • Identity and security: To allow developers to federate identity across services

  • Data analysis and personalization: Lets developers use data capabilities from AT&T to deliver personalized experiences for end users

  • Network optimization: To ensure connections are used most efficiently

  • Contextual services: Will let developers build location and presence into their apps

  • Communications services: Provides session management, messaging services and call control

  • Monetization: Provides a standard billing service

Among those major players who have recently announced public clouds are Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and IBM. Meanwhile, AT&T's largest rival in the telecommunications sector, Verizon Communications, last year acquired Terremark for $1.4 billion, giving it a significant cloud hosting presence.  

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on January 19, 2012


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