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IT professionals are investigating how the cloud will fit into their strategic planning and are rapidly finding ways to leverage cloud functionality to augment and enhance IT's responsiveness to enterprise business needs. Yet concerns such as security and flexible scaling still tend to dominate those planning efforts.
Recent breaches have begun to generate uncomfortable questions in the minds of company leadership about the wisdom of exposing sensitive data to the Internet -- questions that AT&T attempts to answer with its NetBond network cloud service.
NetBond is not, by itself, an AT&T-anchored cloud service. That is, it is not an AT&T cloud. Instead, it is a secured cloud interconnection environment that uses dedicated links running through the AT&T network to connect businesses with cloud service providers -- a network cloud foundation. Since the links are not on the public Internet, the data is secured in transit. And since the connections are flexible, IT can throttle them up or down as processing demand warrants.
AT&T has signed connection agreements with most of the major cloud services so businesses will likely be able to use their favored provider. More importantly, though, AT&T's notion to underpin NetBond with accessibility to multiple cloud providers introduces some important new options for businesses trying to design for reliability.
For example, a business could architect a cloud environment that distributes the load across multiple service providers; one which provides a network-enabled failover in the event that one cloud environment becomes unreachable. Combine this with the ability to build path and circuit redundancy through the AT&T network, and a flexible cloud architecture -- one that begins to look more secure than a dedicated data center -- becomes possible.
AT&T, in its recent industry analyst conference, showcased the NetBond network cloud service and, although many of the operational details are still being worked out, indicated that it's received a lot of interest among customers. It is likely that other operators will emulate this approach to cloud connectivity, but in the meantime, AT&T is expanding its reach through the cloud space by interconnecting with additional cloud service providers.
Most interesting, perhaps, is that AT&T has introduced a new way of thinking about the cloud: not as an off-loading scheme, but as a highly reliable adjunct to local processing. The architectural implications are way more important than the actual service. IT professionals who are interested in the cloud, but perhaps loath to commit too much time to exploring their cloud options, may wish to engage with either a service provider or AT&T to investigate the potential of a flexible cloud architecture.
In any case, an IT architecture that leverages a secured cloud resource -- especially one that can dynamically match transmission load to processing requirements -- appears to be a significant capability for any computing environment.
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