It’s important to remember that we are in the early days of the cloud. Like all new technologies, this one has a maturity or learning curve. We are on the early part of the upward slope. What that means is a lot of activity from a lot of players. You can expect new companies with new services to be popping up all the time. It also makes sense that current players in the computer and networking space will want to corral as much of this business for themselves as possible. If not, they may be justifiably concerned that they could be relegated to sidelines.
Windstream, a major competitive carrier for T1 lines, MPLS networks, dedicated Ethernet Internet and enterprise VoIP, saw the handwriting on the wall when they acquired Hosted Solutions last year. Adding the assets of Hosted Solutions to Windstream’s existing data centers, has given them the critical mass to get into cloud services for existing customers. Such services include such things as cloud storage, Infrastructure as a Service and private, public, and hybrid clouds. Other carriers, such as Level 3 Communications, also have cloud services available.
Most carriers have large data centers for their own use. They often leverage these assets by offering colocation services within their secure and highly reliable facilities. Colocation is something of a forerunner of the cloud. The provider offers racks and cages where you can move your servers and network appliances. They provide the electricity with backup, environmental control and security. Another big draw of colocation is the proximity to large amounts of bandwidth. Many companies either can’t get or can’t afford the cost of constructing fiber optic connections to their own facilities. At a colocation center, the carrier is right down the hall and a mere cross-connect away. It’s the best deal on bandwidth you can get.
More recently, colocation centers have begun to offer contracted technical support and even leased servers for those who don’t want to buy their own. In essence, the colo becomes your data center and you don’t need the capital expense, operational expense or staffing to run your own. That being the case, what’s different about cloud services?
The primary difference between colocation and the cloud likes in both outsourcing and virtualization. The cloud infrastructure consists of massive computing power and storage, all virtualized so that it can be sliced and diced as users require. While in the cloud, you are unaware that you are not the only one using the facilities. The same bank of servers that run your applications can be running dozens or hundreds of others simultaneously. The magic of virtualization creates the illusion that you have one or more physical servers all to yourself.
A good cloud is much more than that. Not only do you rent rather than buy, but you rent by the minute or hour times the number of servers you are using. You can add or subtract virtual servers at will and only pay for the ones you are reserving. The same is true for storage. You don’t worry about buying a new disk when you fill up the one you have. You simply increase or decrease storage as needed and pay by the byte.
The ability to increase and decrease resources almost instantly is a feature unique to the cloud. This scalability is highly desirable for companies with varying loads or ones that are rapidly growing. There is no need to be constantly buying and upgrading equipment when you can simply log into your cloud account and add resources at will.
What carriers bring to the table is one stop shopping. They already provide last mile access, multi-site connectivity, and converged voice, video and data networks. By adding cloud services, you have one bill to pay and a single point of contact for resolving issues such as latency or availability. Independent cloud service providers will need to be on their toes to stay ahead of the carriers, by offering more advanced services and lower pricing to stay in the game long term.
Are you ready for the cloud? The range of services and competitive pricing makes cloud computing and storage, colocation and managed services more cost effective than they’ve ever been. Inquire about availability and pricing for the networking and computing services you need for your particular applications.