Cloud storage providers, network execs discuss converged future

Execs from Box, T-Mobile, and Verizon discuss what the cloud services value chain looks like and how network and services providers are starting to converge.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- There are plenty of definitions of the cloud floating around, which has given way to a lot of random strategies and various business models for cloud services.

But those business models are starting to evolve as wireless carriers and cloud services providers get closer to working together rather than sticking it out (and working harder) on their own.

"What we spend a lot of time thinking about, from a network standpoint, is that we're a highway to the cloud," said Jason Young, vice president of product strategy at T-Mobile USA, during a panel discussion at the Open Mobile Summit on Thursday. He explained that basically means just connecting customers to the cloud-based services they want to use.

Jamie Perlman, senior director of mobile business development at Box, admitted that at the enterprise cloud storage company, they have a "much more simplistic view than a lot of people" when it comes to the cloud.
"From our perspective, the cloud is really just the Internet," Perlman said. He further described that viewpoint as rather than storing corporate content on your own servers, which can be difficult to access from mobile devices and beyond firewalls, the content is stored on Box servers, making it more accessible for everyone from virtually anywhere.
Perlman acknowledged that security is a big (if not the biggest) concern there, but he asserted that content is really safer on Box servers versus on-premise or other options because "that's all we do."
Young concurred, but he incorporated both enterprise and consumer cloud services under the same umbrella.
"We're very focused on filling out our own consumer-based suite with services that sort of preserve that level of security and safety for consumers' data," Young said.
Along with security, one of the other chief priorities in a cloud-based world is constant connectivity. Without an Internet connection, any productivity arguments and whatnot go out the window.
Young acknowledged that "cloud services to have the highest utility need to have always-on access and you have to have a great network experience." He added that T-Mobile is trying to go about this by investing $4 billion in improving network as well as pending plans to merge with MetroPCS to expand service in more markets nationwide.
Perlman also replied that if you store all content in the cloud, always-on connectivity is "an issue that the industry as a whole is going to have to address."
He explained that in his conversations with mobile carriers, the topic of content distribution from mobile devices has come up, but that it hasn't been an advanced discussion yet. Perlman said that's something that will likely come in what he called, "Phase Two."
Until then, Perlman cited the recent debut of Box Accelerator, which basically operates as the company's own VPN that caches content at the edge of network for better data access.
That also begs the question as to which partnerships these cloud leaders should form -- if any and when.
Christopher Wilson, a principal cloud computing architect at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, discussed how customers connect private and public cloud applications and instances -- delivered mostly via software -- noting the importance of looking at partners at that level for insular services from other cloud providers.
"As long as we can software-deliver those things, they're much easier to inject into our cloud platform," Wilson said.
Young concurred, citing that there might be things that T-Mobile builds itself to start, but he stipulated that they want to look at what is "best of breed" out there too.
Perlman emphasized that it's time to start turning to the carriers directly for cloud-based content delivery. He hinted that this could really be a win-win situation given that content providers are basically offering the networks with "direct access to a customer base that is extremely loyal" already.

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