The 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, Worldwide was just released - download it here, and to most readers it looks similar to last year. Two vendors are in the leaders quadrant, a sole vendor in the visionary quadrant, while a peloton of other platforms rounds out the niche quadrant. We agree with this characterization of the market, and thought it would be helpful to add some clarity to our niche strategy that currently supports thousands of enterprise customers around the world with their digital transformation journey.
There is a subtle nuance to the public cloud market worth noting: nearly all the leading providers have some other line of business that complements (or subsidizes) their cloud services. In this regard, CenturyLink is no different.
As the title of the piece suggests, our focus is on helping customers transform their IT operations through a cohesive set of services that span cloud, network, and management. We’ve seen how this can overcome obstacles to digital transformation that the pure-play platforms cannot erase on their own.
Many service providers in the market are focused exclusively on innovating within the cloud services layer, and then partnering for managed services and network connectivity. CenturyLink’s strategy however is somewhat orthogonal to this mindset. By contrast, we are focused on a flexible range of options that span managed services, cloud computing, and network connectivity.
Different business customers have different needs. We’re seeing many in the market gravitate toward a strategic partner – like CenturyLink -- who can support a range of scenarios across network, cloud, and managed services. Taken together, this service range helps businesses offload more onerous tactical items that IT just can't afford to spend much time (and money) on. There is a “better together” story across these three layers, so let's run through each one, starting with cloud.
Run Your “Mode 1” Apps With Confidence
Many enterprises have taken those first few steps to migrate existing apps to different cloud platforms. In doing so, they begin to get out from under the crushing weight of running on-prem infrastructure. But often times, it takes an entire investment around a new professional skill-set in order to master the mega-clouds. CenturyLink’s platform creates a highly-accessible model, using our built-in enterprise controls and high-touch on-boarding programs. And of course, for customers with colocation and hosted deployments at CenturyLink, the public cloud is a logical extension of their existing data center outsourcing strategy.
There are many facets to the Mode 1 cloud evolution over time, including consumption of bare metal servers on-demand, building increasingly complex environments via self-service, and the exploration of “Mode 2” app development. From what we’ve seen, Mode 1 hosting with CenturyLink is the start of how IT begins to elevate from caretaker of infrastructure to strategic partner for the business.
But CenturyLink continues to invest in our cloud platform for more than a solution to reliably host enterprise applications for our customers – we also use it as a platform to fuel innovation in other critical areas of our business: network and managed services.
Today’s Corporate Networks: A Hodge-Podge of Legacy Tech for a Bygone Era
Next on the list for IT to modernize? The network.
There's a looming crisis for networks that power enterprise offices, factories, and other brick-and-mortar sites. These systems were designed for a time when nearly all applications were consumed inside the firewall. That's well and good for the client-server architectures of yore, but that usage pattern, for a majority of apps, has not existed for some time. Now, nearly everything is accessed via the public Internet.
The pain of this mismatch has been tolerable for a while. But as data consumption continues to grow exponentially - thanks to the convenience of cloud-based service platforms - the stress and strain on these creaky systems hinders productivity and elevates risk. The enterprise network is at an inflection point, similar to where the x86 server industry found itself on the dawn of virtualization, in 2005.
While many customers look at network tech purely through the OPEX-oriented prism of speeds, feeds and cost of bandwidth, we are now seeing a growing number that view the network as a source of competitive advantage. Customers are not only looking to the software-defined network way to reduce cost, but to securely connect with service platforms, business partners, and proximate data. The traditional telecom industry could not deliver on this promise through traditional provisioning methods – but with the advent of virtualized wide-area networks a new level of agility has emerged.
CenturyLink engineers have helped shape the many waves of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) innovation that have occurred since the creation of the simple, passive, elegant Internet Protocol (IP). Further, we continue to make major investments in the automated delivery of services across our global network assets and our latest release of Software Defined WAN -- CenturyLink® SD-WAN -- continues this trend.
What does this mean for our customers? At this stage, they have a growing public cloud footprint, a shrinking on-prem data center, and a sleek new corporate network any IT pro can manage from a web browser. In this scenario, so much of the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” is now CenturyLink’s problem to solve. That liberates corporate IT to make the leap to a “software defined business”.
So what’s left for IT to outsource to a strategic provider?
The Ultimate Convenience: Managed Services
The managed services value prop in the age of cloud remains tried-and-true: You have better things to worry about, so let a team of experts watch over your core applications so you don't have to.
Managed services from CenturyLink aren’t new. But what is (relatively) new is the cloud-friendly business model for our capabilities: self-service, on-demand, and billed hourly. In fact, CenturyLink pioneered this billing model for managed services in public cloud. The response since its introduction two years ago has been overwhelmingly positive.
And now that we have matured our portfolio, we are expanding our capabilities. In the coming months, we will offer managed services on any server, virtually anywhere. In a future that includes many "islands of compute" (colocation, traditional hosting, public cloud, private cloud, bare metal), why not extend this expertise to run anywhere, powered by a RESTful API design? A great recent example of this "anywhere service" model is Runner, an automation service that can help IT organizations rapidly move to an immutable infrastructure model by standardizing configuration management anywhere a server exists.
The Complete Solution
CenturyLink’s differentiated “niche” is one whereby we play to our strengths: a single-source provider with decades of expertise across cloud infrastructure, scalable networks, and managed solutions. Just like our peers in the industry, we expose our self-service, elastic infrastructure platform – the innovation foundry for our primary business – to our customers as well. And just like our peers in the industry, we partner in other dimensions that sit outside our core focus. Our innovation strategy allows us to build integrations between the CenturyLink platform and various other cloud platforms that our customers view as strategic.
The advent of #softwaredefinedeverything has had the effect of liberating IT and developers to focus at a higher level on impactful business projects. This mirrors CenturyLink’s approach towards Hybrid IT automation. CenturyLink’s platform strategy is rooted in the belief that, for many customers, our broader range of automated services across management, infrastructure, and network frees up a greater level of customer resources than would be achieved by purely focusing at the cloud computing layer. We feel this is a differentiated and unique approach compared to other service providers in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, and one we look forward to discussing with our customers seeking a digital transformation of their own.
Learn More about CenturyLink Cloud
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