So there was some pretty big Cloud news coming out of Microsoft last week. This move from the folks in Redmond was widely expected and considered required by many analysts and technologists, and one we at Level 3 are excited to track. I expect we are still very early in the Microsoft vs Google war in the cloud for enterprise productivity software dominance. And while these two are not the only players in the market (also consider Zimbra by VMWare, Lotus suite by IBM, Openoffice.org and others), they are launching the big early rounds in the battle.
With hundreds of millions of Microsoft Office clients out in the world today, this Office 365 launch and the related future adoption rates, enhancements and user stories will likely prove invaluable to all participants in the Cloud services marketplace. My particular interest lies in the role of the network in how these products evolve and compete. For instance, Microsoft is coming to the cloud from an embedded based of installed, on-prem software deployments that are private and dedicated to a particular client. Alternatively, Google is approaching the market from a pure Internet delivery model that is decidedly un-dedicated. Those foundational differences certainly create inherent trade-offs and may prove to have long-term network impacts on what is expected in the future.
Private enterprise networking exists today in many forms with useful benefit distinctions – here I’ll focus on Private Lines and MPLS VPNs. Private Line services offer protected, dedicated bandwidth facilities with relatively strict guarantees for performance metrics like latency. However, Private Lines are generally only available with fixed monthly pricing models that don’t jive with one of the underlying cloud tenets, usage-based billing (Link to NIST framework). MPLS VPN services have been available to enterprises for approximately 10 years and offer a Private network option that includes built-in protection and restoration capabilities over a packet-based infrastructure. With this underlying packet design and the addition of Quality of Service (QoS) management, MPLS offers an alternative private network platform that supports usage-based billing and more fully aligns with the cloud services tenets, albeit with less stringent guarantees than Private Line.
The Internet (aka Public networking) is easily purchased and adopted for a broad spectrum of applications. Internet connectivity easily dominates how individuals and organizations currently use cloud services, which makes sense. The Internet certainly is available in usage-based billing models and has ubiquitous connectivity to cloud service providers and consumers, usually at a lower price than the private networking options. However, the general knock on using the Internet for Cloud services is in the areas of security and performance guarantees. Over the top encryption techniques do a good job of addressing the security concerns and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) offer great advancements in application performance, but it remains to be seen if the Internet can effectively provide for the evolving cloud applications.
I expect we’ll see a great IT conversation around desktop and device productivity strategy for the next 5 – 10 years. That conversation will span the topics of software valuation, scope of performance and security control and the role of various networking technologies in Cloud services. This is an exciting time for IT and data networking professionals…where do you think the conversation focuses next? If you’re interested in evaluating your existing data network and how to best position your organization for cloud option, let me know.