Microsoft and AT&T Cozy Up in the Cloud

Interesting news the other day coming out of AT&T and Microsoft as the two announce a plan to allow customers the ability to connect to Azure directly via a private network. According to At&T the service will use a new cloud integration technology that pairs a virtual private network with Azure range of services.

This move is clearly aimed at enterprises that have been spooked by recent exposures about Government spying, have stopped and thought about what that means in the context of enterprise espionage and are thinking about solutions that allow them to use a third party cloud, but in a virtually isolated way. It is an interesting response to both AWS direct connect (which gives enterprises the ability to connect AWS cloud services directly with their data center of choice) and the announcement yesterday from CloudSigma about their own similar offering.

It comes at an interesting time for Microsoft, who have a significant, but substantially unrealized opportunity in cloud if one looks at the four likely main cloud providers that will emerge, AWS, VMware, Google and Microsoft, both Microsoft and VMware have the most existing customer base and credibility within the enterprise. Microsoft has the significant added advantage that it has a well developed enterprise developer ecosystem, and its technologies already power a significant proportion of totally enterprise IT. I’ve long felt that if Microsoft makes the right moves, it has the ability to leverage this existing customer and developer base to be a very significant player in the cloud.

There are many things that Microsoft can do, but the overlying theme should be to deliver upon the composable enterprise – Microsoft has the ability to bring together a consistent vertical cloud stack and add the various modular components that enterprise developers are likely to need (messaging, monitoring, heterogeneous management etc). Another one of the things that some, if not all, enterprise customers want is an answer to their concerns about the very networks that connect them, with their cloud of choice.

Direct connecting isn’t a service that has massive demand, but the organizations that do demand it are often the largest, most complex and (in IT vendor terms) most lucrative opportunities – this announcement, and a developing Microsoft strategy, would seem to be a logical play to this customer base. The AT&T/Microsoft service is due to be available in H1 of next calendar year.