The advent of Cloud Computing…

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Working for an Internet Service Provider, it is imperative we understand the requirements of our clients. Why do they need low contention? How is resilience going to benefit them? Why are they trying to reduce their Capex? These are all issues that are prevalent in this day and age, as IT Managers/Directors try and increase the efficiency of their WAN solutions without exploding their budget. One method of doing just that, which I feel will be a big market for ISP’s in 2009 is the general shift to Cloud Computing.

First of, what is Cloud Computing? Well there are various definitions of it, however, generally it is the means by which an individual or company moves their IT portfolio into the cloud. Why cloud? Well if you’re an old-school comms person, then the ‘cloud’ was the symbol which denotes the Internet. Another term for Cloud Computing is virtualisation, as you are moving into a virtual environment. Now the term itself is extremely general, as already there are many different ‘versions’ of cloud computing. The Register recently ran a workshop, where they broke down cloud computing into more specific areas; software as a service, utility computing and onlin

e platform provision. All offering different services to the end user within the cloud.

Lets not kid ourselves. Virtualisation has been around for years in various guises. However, its popularity is suddenly beginning to rise as internet users require more bandwidth, security and processing power. However, how does this effect ISP’s?

As more and more companies move to hosted environments, it becomes more and more imperative that they have robust stable connectivity to be able to access their business critical applications 24/7. This can be shown in the rise in attractiveness of virtual network operators and the use in data centres. One method of connectivity that is becoming more attractive to end users is Leased lines via fibre, which is markedly cheaper than it was a few years ago. However, still there are lengthy time delays, spiralling hidden costs and complicated installs associated with true leased lines. So what is the solution?

Step forward ADSL2+. Although BT has been traditionally late to the party with their deployment, many incumbents such as O2/Be, Tiscali and Cable and Wireless have been offering ADSL2+ products for the best part of 3 years. And although BT are finally getting their act together with the roll out of their 21CN, many operators have already got such a head start with the diversity of their product portfolios that it will be hard for BT to catch up. I don’t usually praise the government, but if there is one thing that we should give them credit for, it is the deregulation of the telecomms industry. As without doubt, the number of innovative solutions now available is testament to that policy change.

Without blowing our own trumpet too much, Fluidata is a prime example. Not only have we been offering ADSL2+ for the best part of 2 years, but we also standardise on the AnnexM variant, meaning more bandwidth on the upstream. Perfect for applications such as video conferencing and VOIP. With national coverage of 1200 exchanges and growing, this already out-does BT’s own 21CN, and by their own admittance, they will not have this number of exchanges ready until at the earliest least 2010. Because of the knowledge and experience we have of using AnnexM, we’ve been able to manipulate it to provide a synchronous solution, comparative to SDSL, but more robust and at a cheaper cost to end users.

However, the area in which we’ve been particularly unique in has been deploying a true bonded solution, comprising carrier resilience, true aggregation at the IP level and low contention. Different from bonded solutions, we’re unique in being able to offer high amounts of bandwidth with 1IP address/range and one termination unit, unlike others who provide up to 4 routers and then a bonding ‘device’. This has proved to be ideal for people who need the functionality of a leased line without the costs involved. Also ideal for FD’s who need to reduce their Capex. And more importantly, it has proved to be very attractive for those looking to move into the cloud.

There are still a number of issues that fully need to be addressed with Cloud Computing. Will my data be secure? How will I be invoiced for it? How much control will I have over the underlying infrastructure? What happens if the DC goes bust? As yet, no one has definite answers for the above, and it may be some time until someone does. However, what can firmly be said is that finally there are a number of cost effective robust solutions, enabling one to connect to a hosted server. And while that underlying structure remains, I am sure that the uptake in virtualisation and Cloud Computing will continue.

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