By Beecher Tuttle
The cost-effective, scalable and highly flexible nature of cloud-based solutions has made them extremely popular among businesses large and small. With cloud services, enterprises and SMBs can deploy low-cost, business-critical applications that can be securely accessed from any Web-enabled device, giving employees the ability to take work outside of the four walls of their office.
The inherent benefits that cloud solutions provide businesses have helped the market grow exponentially in recent years. In fact, Forrester Research estimates that the total U.S. market for cloud services will exceed $25 billion in 2011. Even more amazing, the market is expected to grow to a whopping $241 billion by the end of the decade.
In order for service providers to take advantage of this mass migration to the cloud, they need to act now, if they haven't already.
Two Alcatel-Lucent execs – Hilary Mine and Gary Holland – recently co-authored a business e-zine article on "What Service Providers Should Know About the Cloud," that explains why now is the time for network service providers to pounce on the cloud.
Cloud-based solutions provide network operators with near limitless revenue opportunities. Some of today's most relied upon innovations – including unified communications, disaster recovery and back-up services – can be deployed via the cloud and charged on a per-use basis.
Network service operators can market these services to new and current customers as compliments to their existing offerings. This can not only help providers increase their revenue streams, it can also allow them to differentiate their services from their network competitors.
Mine and Holland also point out that the market has become crowded with alternative providers that specialize in "casual cloud" offerings, which don't offer enterprises and other organizations with the service level agreements and quality of service that they require.
This is where network service providers can step in. Their infrastructure can provide the quality, security and SLAs that today's companies demand.
"Most SMBs, enterprises and organizations already trust their day-to-day and mission-critical applications to their network service provider’s VPN services," wrote the authors. "For many, embracing cloud services is a natural next step."
Network service providers that take advantage of Alcatel-Lucent's High Leverage Network can offer their customers VPNs that provide low latency, high bandwidth services with industry-leading quality of service. The High Leverage Network also enables monitoring of cloud application performance, secure access, intelligent traffic management and many other services.
The final reason that network service providers should embrace the cloud, according to the authors, is because of the agility that it provides.
Mine and Holland explain that operators can leverage cloud services to improve their own efficiency, which, in turn, will allow them to better serve their own customers. Simply put, by embracing the cloud themselves, operators can cost-effectively and efficiently deliver cloud services to their customers.
"A simplified, more dynamic back office makes it easier to do business," the authors note.
The best way for an operator to make the jump to the cloud is by moving to a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and partnering with a qualified vendor that can deliver white-label services almost instantaneously, the authors stress.
"As they move forward, network service providers will need work with vendors who can deliver an open, standards-based approach that lets them federate applications across their own and other clouds."
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