1. Meeting Cloud’s Demands

    CEN Feature (Feb 12 2013)

    1. Meeting Cloud’s Demands

      Cloud computing and communications services are all the rage with enterprises, but ultimately they’re only as good as the networks that connect them to their customers.

      “Right now, it’s the IT drivers that are moving things,” says Rosemary Cochran, principal and co-founder of Vertical Systems Group, a research firm. “But once the applications get moved to data centers, then the question is, what’s the connectivity supposed to look like?” 

      It should look fast, scalable and high quality, adjectives that describe Carrier Ethernet. But simply offering Ethernet access to the cloud doesn’t guarantee success, nor is it much of a market differentiator. That’s why a few service providers, such as tw telecom, are offering bandwidth on demand (BoD).

      BoD sounds like a natural complement: Enterprises like cloud partly because it’s a way to scale up and down quickly as their business needs change. That beats overbuying infrastructure to meet peak demands and then having it sit underutilized much of the time. So why not have the same cost-effective scalability on the connections to that cloud, too?

      “Those are the kinds of features that are being added to the cloud,” Cochran says.

      BoD’s appeal varies by cloud application. For example, it’s a better fit for applications where usage fluctuates dramatically, such as disaster recovery or monthly billing cycles, than email or CRM.

      Savvis, a CenturyLink company, says it’s seeing interest in BoD.

      “We’ve done some experimental pricing on a billing approach that we call Virtual Port,” says Dennis Brouwer, senior vice president of network products and marketing. “It’s a way to look at a customer’s aggregated usage across the network. We take all of their ports and aggregate that onto a single virtual port.”

      Savvis then applies pricing to that usage.

      “It allows the customer to have greater flexibility on pricing without having to cringe because they had a spike on Tuesday afternoon because they did a marketing campaign that drove up their price for the whole month,” Brouwer says. “We’re seeing that as a great competitive tool for us because customers see that volatility but they don’t want to be penalized for that.”

      Building or buying data centers is another way that Ethernet providers are trying to differentiate themselves in the cloud market. That gives them more control over cloud quality and security, and it enables them to offer customized cloud services.

      “We’re seeing more Ethernet providers that want to own data centers, Cochran says. It’s almost a necessity for private cloud implementations because customers need a secure environment and management end to end. Having piece parts makes this more difficult to do.”

      Ethernet is the glue holding those piece parts together.

      “We specifically selected data centers that are on our Metro Ethernet rings because we wanted to have very high bandwidth, reliability and availability within our cloud data centers,” says Ken Owens, cloud CTO at Savvis, whose cloud customers are primarily Fortune 1000 companies in verticals such as financial services and media. “Metro Ethernet is critical to our success.”

      “We see a real sweet spot in interconnecting enterprise customers’ environments in multiple data centers,” Brouwer says. “EVPL has been a really strong product for us in that sector. EPL has been strong, as well, but EVPL is preferred for the price points.”

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