Microsoft’s newly announced joint venture with AT&T, in which AT&T customers get VPN access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, may be a sign of how the cloud giants are looking in novel places — like telecom providers — for partnerships and alliances.
Cloud vendors and telecom outfits have been slowly knitting together partnerships in which the telcos provide high-grade, high-speed data transports for customers looking to move their data into (or out of) the cloud.
AT&T teamed up with IBM late in 2012 for a similar initiative. There, customers could connect to IBM’s cloud resources via AT&T’s VPN, allowing protected movement of data between private and public clouds. Before that in 2011, VMware partnered with Softbank Telecom in Japan to allow customers to shuttle data between their own private cloud and Softbank’s public cloud.
Most recently, enterprise cloud host Savvis — a subsidiary of Internet provider CenturyLink —partnered with VMware to provide vCloud-powered colocation, again to provide businesses with a protected channel to and from the cloud.
No discussion of this issue would be complete without some mention of Verizon purchasing cloud-service provider Terremark in 2011 — with both Verizon and Terremark having been major VMware vCloud users.
Having cloud outfits reach out to carriers and network providers as partners only makes sense. The cloud lives and dies on its network links. Consequently, the more direct a route that can be provided into and out of the cloud, the easier it is for customers to get on board — especially those with multiterabyte migrations that require a robust and secure network.
The release for the new Microsoft-AT&T joint venture boasts that their VPN solution will provide “as much as 50 percent lower latency than the public Internet.” That said, it won’t be possible to test claims like that until the first half of 2014, when the partnership finally goes online.
What also remains to be seen is how exclusive these deals could get. Right now, it’s in the best interests of both parties to work with as many partners as possible, but it’s not unforeseeable that we could see exclusive deals between cloud and network providers, perhaps for major discounts on both the cloud resources and the network access. Such a thing would inspire the ire of many an advocate for Net neutrality, and given how many resources are being moved into the cloud these days, they might not be wholly wrong.