Orange Business Services is to make a major push into the cloud-computing services market over the next two years, the company announced on Friday.
From 2010, the operator will offer multinational companies a software-as-a-service application store, storage-as-a-service and other cloud services, in a bid to become an intermediary between existing cloud providers and large corporate customers.
"The network is the cloud, and our experience and expertise in network and communications services place us in the best position to deliver high-performance cloud-computing services to support our customers' transformation," Orange Business Services chief executive Barbara Dalibard said in a statement on Friday.
Orange Business Services already offers some cloud services, such as hosted Microsoft Exchange email, private cloud functionality and hosted security services. However, the company intends to roll out a dozen new services worldwide over the next 24 months, many of them targeting vertical markets.
At a briefing in Paris on Thursday, Dalibard — who is leaving the company to work for the French railways early in 2010 — said Orange Business Services, as a network operator, would be able to offer its customers "end-to-end service level agreements". Another key element of the company's strategy is to secure the usage of cloud applications for compliance reasons, she said.
Asked at the briefing how much Orange Business Services would invest in the infrastructure needed for its cloud push, Dalibard said the funding would come from the 10 percent of revenues that the operator typically earmarks for reinvestment in capital expenditure.
New servers are "key tools" for the company's plans, Dalibard said, adding that Orange Business Services was already using some of the new services internally. "We want to make sure we eat the cake we make," she said.
Partners in the new cloud push include Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix, EMC, VMware, IBM and HP, Dalibard said.
According to Dalibard, the roadmap for the new services will be laid out on a region-by-region basis over the coming months.
However, Orange Business Services' broader roadmap shows two waves of deployment. The first, which roughly corresponds with 2010, includes the application store, unified communication suites, and an upgraded VPN infrastructure. The second wave will include elements such as platform-as-a-service, which lets customers develop their applications in a pay-as-you-go cloud environment.
Also in the second wave, which a spokesman said corresponds roughly with 2011, will be the ability of Orange Business Services to manage its customers' PC and mobile phone "end user professional environments" and roll out social networking platforms for customers.
US-based operators such as Verizon and AT&T already offer corporate customers compute-as-a-service products, which let them use processing capacity in the cloud. In October, HP predicted to ZDNet UK that most large European telcos would start offering cloud services in 2010.