IBM Courts Telcos in the Cloud

October 14, 2010 - Openet

IBM Corp. is launching a massive cloud offensive today, unveiling a platform aimed at helping large service providers get in the game.

Rather than competing with them for enterprises' attention, IBM wants to keep cozy with the telcos and help them grab a slice of what it says will be an US$89 billion pie in the sky by 2015.

IBM's Cloud Service Provider Platform includes hardware, software, and services bundled to help service providers court enterprises with new, pay-as-you-go services. It's attacking the market from a service assurance perspective, promising carrier-grade results and 99.99 percent service reliability.

IBM is already piloting its cloud services with a handful of telcos, including France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE), China Telecom USA , and SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM). It has also signed up a host of business partners to offer their infrastructure and services to the telcos. Those include BroadSoft Inc. , Jamcracker Inc. , Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), Openet Telecom Ltd. , and other infrastructure providers, resellers, and cloud aggregators.

IBM's Big Bang Theory
IBM is far from the only company offering cloud support, but IDC analyst Elisabeth Rainge thinks it has the most comprehensive offering for helping telcos get into and operate cloud services.

"Some other vendors have a set of press releases spread over time that show multiple ways how they as a technology vendor can get to market more quickly with cloud services, but what IBM is doing is a big bang," Rainge says.

Just last month Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) introduced its own cloud-in-a-box platform, called the Exalogic Elastic Cloud, but Rainge says it approaches the market from a billing point of view. Moreover, Oracle, unlike IBM, is looking to compete with the telcos. (See Cloud Watch: Oracle Steps In.)

"IBM is very clearly saying they want to enable the telecom industry," Rainge says. "They have a set of offerings they will help them use to get to market... and they are a good degree more sophisticated and mature in knowing how a telco needs to approach cloud, how much to invest, and how much to rely on IBM as it works through where it fits."

Create, Manage, Monetize
The Cloud Service Provider Platform stems from IBM's Tivoli service and Service Management platform, which is integrated with storage, servers and networking infrastructure supplied by IBM and its partners. Today's announcement includes updates to the platform for carrier-specific capabilities such as multi-tenancy, the ability to host, manage, and provision thousands of different users and virtual machines for multiple customers.

Scale is a key feature, as the platform can be used to create tens of thousands of virtual machines an hour, says Craig Wilson, the company's vice president for the telecommunications industry. "This ability to really scale the platform to lots of SMBs, enterprise, or government users is unique, but it’s a very real requirement for service providers," he says.

IBM also provides the management, security, and access for all the services it offers. These could include anything "as a service," such as collaboration software, customer resource management, storage, or backup, as well as industry-specific apps or mobile apps, which it can get up and running in days.

"We can provide robust end-to-end service management, service monitoring, and tools to create and manage service-level agreements to allow [telcos] to provide a differentiated service," Wilson says. "There are things that inherently make service providers competitive. That's what we looked at when we looked at end-to-end service requirements."

When it comes to helping service providers monetize these services (a pretty important facet), Wilson says that there's an important opportunity in analytics around the cloud. Service providers can use the intelligence they get from their network and customer data to more effectively bundle services around the most competitive market segments. They can also design sales training around specific industry verticals based on their knowledge of each vertical. (See IBM Enables Cloud Analytics.)


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