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The cloud at TIA2013: Silver linings all round

Data centres have been around since the early ages of the computer industry but now developments in storage technology and virtualisation software are changing the world's perception of what they are and how they will be used in the future.

Zeinal Bava, CEO of Portugal Telecom says, "Telco's are well positioned to grab this cloud opportunity and exploit it for all it is worth - and it's worth a lot. The growing appetite for cloud solutions worldwide should not be ignores and it certainly shouldn't be underestimated".

he's right. An ever-increasing percentage of telco revenues comes from data traffic and data storage and given this sea change the next step is for companies to take advantage of the virtual data centre. However, that doesn't mean that physical data centres will soon go the way of the dodo.

Then fact is that data centres, like the poor and that nice Mr. Zuckerberg, are likely to be with us forever but the difference between the data centres of old and the ones emerging now is that enterprises, government departments and many another organisations of whatever stripe or hue will have their data hosted at a telco's data centre and access it via a secure all-IP high-speed fibre network.

For them it will be so-long, farewell, auf weidersehen and goodbye to the hitherto perennial concerns about finding the space to construct manage and maintain data centre premises, worries about the network, the cooling and all other factors involved with running your own data centre, as well as all the other associated costs.

And that's why telcos are adding data storage services to their portfolio of products while, simultaneously, we are seeing the emergence of hosting companies with virtual data storage as their main service offering.

As far as cloud services are concerned today's main offerings are IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service). There is also DaaS (Desktop as a Service) And coming up fast in the elevator, but not yet particularly well-known additional service, are BaaS (Backup as a Service) and CaaS (Collaboration as a Service). IaaS is probably the current best exemplar of what a cloud service is with data centres offering virtual hosted servers and machines to end-users on a “pay as you go” basis.

Most of the cloud services I have mentioned above are Public clouds but there are also Private clouds, and while these Private clouds are currently growing very quickly it will be Public cloud solutions and services that will largely drive future growth.

There is a growing appetite for cloud solutions worldwide and telcos and service providers are in an ideal position to capitalise on the potential of the cloud not least because the cloud supports start-ups and new businesses as well as creating value for enterprises far beyond the initial cost-saving phase.

According to research conducted by Manchester Business School in the UK, amongst US and UK SMEs 20 per cent would not have launched their businesses were it not for the availability of cloud services and 35 per cent would have taken much longer to get launched and trading. Meanwhile, 58 per cent of US/UK SMEs are sure that cloud services help them to compete much more effectively with larger and better established companies.

So, there is a massive, once-in-a lifetime opportunity ready to be exploited and yet few telcos have yet articulated a cloud strategy. At TIA2013 I'm hoping to discover why that is and what they intend to do about it.

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