The momentum behind cloud computing in all its forms -- from Software as a Service (SaaS) through Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) -- has grown dramatically and continues to accelerate.
But how the "Everything as a Service" (or "X as a Service") trend will affect telecom network operators is far less certain, even though their resources are the ultimate cloud-enablers. Operators worldwide are struggling to plot their roles in cloud computing, SaaS, and the content and customer experiences built with both.
All Everything as a Service offerings have developed thanks to the availability of cheap, high-quality bandwidth. The benefits of consolidating or centralizing complex technology, software and storage are limited if the delivery to the consumer is slow and unreliable.
Increases in technology complexity coupled with improvements in delivery were bound to generate a new set of X as a Service options. The whole problem of over-the-top (OTT) disintermediation -- the creation of service value as a free ride on operator bandwidth rather than as a paying passenger -- was created by the same forces. Cloud computing and the Everything as a Service model could either complicate the over-the-top problem or solve it.
Practically speaking, network operators can't limit their participation in over-the-top cloud computing in any form. Public policy support for an open Internet is virtually universal. In fact, regulatory policy seems to be shifting worldwide to support even more stringent principles of "net neutrality." Operators must therefore either accept a secondary transport role in the emerging X as a Service space -- maximizing their margins in that role by optimizing their practices -- or choose to play a more active higher-layer role. Most will elect to do both.