Regional operators look to the cloud for silver lining

Dylan Bushell-Embling
16 Jul 2009

Asia's regional telcos are flocking to the burgeoning cloud services sector.

The cloud computing market is set to reach $56.3 billion by the end of the year, Gartner said - and will form 17% of all IT expenditure by 2015, according to Coda Research.

Regional operators have jumped at this new opportunity, with both Telstra and Verizon unveiling new cloud services in the last two months. The operators' pitch is about providing value to cash-strapped customers.

"In the current economic climate our customers are looking for solutions that will deliver transparent and immediate cost savings," BT general manager for APAC Nathan Bell told Telecom Asia.

"Communications are becoming increasingly designed around the organization and end-user requirements... hence it is crucial that we are able to offer hosted solutions embedded within the network."

But he admitted that cloud services can also be a tough sell during these troubled times.

"Unless immediate benefits can be realized, any business case for moving to cloud services will be put on hold," he said. "Providers are being challenged to propose business models which expand and contract with the needs of the business, models which before the recession were not mainstream."

BT's cloud portfolio includes unified communications services covering voice, video and messaging as well as CRM suites looking to virtualize both the contact center and IT services.

AT&T VP of strategy and business development Joe Weinman said AT&T's cloud strategy involves providing customers with on-demand services using a utility-based model where customers only pay for the services they use.

The company recently launched Synaptic storage as a service, Weinman said, which "gives users control over storing and retrieving data at any location, any time, over any enabled device."

AT&T last August began offering Synaptic HostingSM, a utility computing service with cloud capabilities. Demand for these products is increasing in tandem with businesses storage needs, Weinman said.

Uwe Schlager, MD of T-Systems Singapore, said its cloud offering "covers the complete ICT infrastructure, from networks to processing power, to the operation and management of the customers' applications."

Schlager said a large number of enterprise customers had already jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon.

"In today's economic climate, companies cannot afford to have capacities idling. Passing the responsibility and risks to their ICT partner would be the best strategy to transform their business," he said.

Cloud services offered by SingTel include EXPAN Grid, an infrastructure as a service offering and a wide range of hosted SaaS solutions, a SingTel spokesperson said.

Microsoft has forged partnerships with carriers such as Telstra, Vodafone, SingTel and Bharti Airtel to offer cloud services, Microsoft senior regional director Alvin Lin told Telecom Asia.

"For example, Bharti Airtel offers the Windows-based Online Desktop. This service creates a virtual desktop from any computer connected to the Internet, allowing SMEs to rent software per month," he said. "SingTel offers the Hosted BizExchange service, a hosted messaging and collaboration solution for SMEs," he said.

Telstra's T-Suite cloud portfolio includes nine software services covering HR, virtual collaboration and billing management.

Verizon Business offers several cloud-based network management, monitoring and reporting tools. These include internet security assessment services and managed security capabilities for Verizon's firewall service.

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