Alcatel-Lucent combines telecom network and cloud

On Thursday, Alcatel-Lucent (Paris, France) introduced a public cloud model that is specifically tailored for service providers to use inside their networks. The CloudBand aims to first design the network using cloud technology, and second, use the service provider’s network infrastructure to deliver these cloud services.

According to Alcatel-Lucent, when designing and building the network using the Cloudband, providers can place specific architectural elements into the cloud, which makes them easily accessible for monitoring actual usage. 

According to Dor Skuler, vice president of Cloud Solutions at Alcatel-Lucent, today’s networks are built with a specific capacity in mind.  When these networks are underutilized service providers are paying for a capacity that is not being used.  The average utilization of a network is roughly around 20%, according to Skuler.

 “We believe we can essentially move these services into cloud-based services that will sit on top of the carrier cloud,” says Skuler.

By moving services like SMS, VoIP and video into the cloud, service providers are presented with “elasticity” to expand and shrink the capacity of the network based on the specific need at the time.

Once the network is built utilizing this cloud technology, the cloud can then be distributed onto the edges of its wide-area networks.

The reason behind distributing the cloud relates back to a survey conducted by Alcatel-Lucent with 3,500 IT decision makers to see why they have not adopted the public cloud more aggressively.  According to Skuler, they expected the reason to be security, but instead it is due to performance issues.

“[The IT decision makers] wanted bandwidth guarantees; they wanted SLAs [service level agreements], they wanted latency controls, they wanted a guarantee that if the service goes down they have someone to call and talk to,” says Skuler.  “These aren’t available from the public cloud center today.”

To guarantee something like low latency, the whole structure of how a public cloud is delivered has to change into something resembling a telecom network.  Today, the public cloud is built with one huge data center in the middle that customers access through the public internet, which according to Skuler doesn’t deliver an end-to-end quality.

By using its telecom network, a service provider can distribute a collection of very small clouds in every area their network covers and then connect them to look like one large cloud, bypassing using one huge data center.

“Service providers have point-of-presence basically in every city, in every neighborhood that they service,” says Skuler. “By getting the cloud closer to the end-user you can leverage lower latency, and bandwidth costs will be much lower because you don’t have to backhaul the traffic across the country and back.”

CloudBand is comprised of two elements: the Management System – which delivers orchestration and optimization of services between the network and the cloud; and the CloudBand Node, which provides the computing, storage and networking hardware and software to host cloud services. Bell Labs (Murray Hill, N.J., U.S.A.) will be providing Alcatel-Lucent with the advanced algorithms for the cloud, while Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, Calif., U.S.A.) is helping in IT development.  CloudBand will be available for deployment in the first half of 2012.  No prices have been announced.

“These are two worlds that are coming together, so that’s the ultimate challenge, having our customers see this as one holistic approach for how they run their network and how they run their cloud services,” says Skuler. “It will take time until everyone will be there.  It’s definitely going to be a journey, but it’s a very strategic initiative for the company and this is the beginning of this journey.”

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