AT&T Boosts FlexWare AWS Integration


By: Michael Vizard

AT&T is stepping up its integration with cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) in a move that indicates that service providers, software-defined wide-area networking (WAN) players, and networking vendors are all piling into cloud connectivity. Last week, AT&T extended the reach and scope of its relationship with AWS by giving local AT&T FlexWare x86 servers direct access to AWS services without relying on the public Internet.

Service providers such as AT&T continue to focus on direct cloud connections and value-added cloud services for enterprise customers. On that note, AT&T has also extended the reach of the AT&T Threat Manager services it uses to collect threat intelligence and announced plans to enable Internet of Things (IoT) applications developed using AWS Greengrass tools and runtimes to execute on the AT&T FlexWare endpoints. FlexWare is AT&T's network function virtualization (NFV) platform, supporting SD-WAN services. Finally, AT&T is making it possible for customers relying on AT&T Private Mobile Connect to directly access AWS services as well.

Direct cloud access is a hot topic. Other cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure are developing technology, such as Azure ExpressRoute for Office365, that provides direct connection to cloud services. Providers of SD-WAN and content delivery network (CDN) services have hopped on direct connection opportunities, rolling out integrations with cloud services such as Office 365. Service providers that have targeted these direct cloud service connections and acceleration include Aryaka Networks and Akamai (AKAM).

Service providers are likely to focus on direct cloud connectivity for a while, as cloud grows in important for enterprise customers. Futuriom research has identified cloud connectivity as one of the main drivers of emerging SD-WAN services, which are expected to reach $1B by 2019.

AT&T's long ties to AWS

AT&T has a longstanding relationship with AWS that stretches back to 2014. FlexWare is the extension of virtual network that AT&T is building out employing open-source software running on x86 servers that will ultimately replace most of the physical appliances needed to deliver network services.

Roman Pacewicz, chief product officer for AT&T Business, says by allowing customers to use FlexWare to access cloud services such as AWS the carrier is essentially now closing the cloud networking loop.

"FlexWare is how we extend the reach of out virtual network services out to the edge," says Pacewicz.

AT&T now has relationships with over 20 cloud service providers that have exposed over 130 services to FlexWare customers, notes Pacewicz.

Cloud tools to increase

The move by AT&T and other service providers to accelerate cloud connectivity will complicate the competitive dynamic to boost cloud bandwidth. For example, AT&T is rolling out its own SD-WAN services, which aim to speed cloud connectivity and accelerate business applications, while at the same time it partners with other SD-WAN providers such as VeloCloud, which provides SD-WAN technology and services.

The same potential conflict is happening on the vendor equipment side. AT&T is now competing with both Cisco (CSCO) and VMware (VMW) to connect datacenters and endpoint at the edge of its network to cloud services. Rather than deploying traditional routers and switches as in the case of Cisco, the AT&T FlexWare approach is more akin to VMware by relying on virtualization of standard x86 infrastructure to connect directly to cloud services.

In one demonstration of how complicated things can get, VMware last week announced that it is purchasing SD-WAN player VeloCloud, which is a supplier to AT&T.

The many emerging SD-WAN services and partnerships means a more complicated battle between carriers and providers of networking hardware and commercial networking software. But AT&T has made it clear that cloud connectivity will be a focus of its FlexWare services as it aims to improve options for enterprise customers using cloud applications.

Scott Raynovich contributed to this story.

Cloud is changing the way networking connectivity is delivered. This is driving growth in the SD-WAN market. For more information on the fast-growing SD-WAN market, including profiles of all the leading players, you can purchase the premium Futuriom research report, "The SD-WAN Growth Report," which includes an overview of the leading vendors as well as a market growth forecast. Use discount code "FUTU" for a 10% discount on a one-user license for the report, which retails for $595.