Last week, AT&T shook up the New IP and enterprise worlds when the service provider unveiled a tighter partnership with Amazon Web Services to develop joint cloud, Internet of Things and security solutions for enterprise customers, a relationship that melds AT&T's network with AWS' cloud.
Amazon Web Services Inc. already made up part of NetBond, AT&T's direct cloud connection service. But the new arrangement is designed to simplify enterprises' ability to combine networking and cloud -- and add security, performance and mobility capabilities. (See AT&T & AWS: A Powerful Combo.) The news also underscores the competing alliances apparently being forged between AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and AWS and
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), writes Heavy Reading Chief Analyst Patrick Donegan. (See AT&T & AWS: Heavy Reading's View.)
To get more details on what the extended partnership means for AT&T, its partners, customers and the CSP market in general, Light Reading Editor-at-Large Carol Wilson spoke late last week to Mo Katibeh, senior vice president of Advanced Solutions at AT&T Business Solutions. Following is a transcript of their conversation:
Carol Wilson: What does this new strategic alliance do to go beyond what AT&T was already doing with NetBond (NB) i.e., directly connecting customers to AWS? How did this all come about?
Mo Katibeh: The AT&T-AWS NB relationship has been in place for a couple of years -- and frankly, we have seen a lot of good success out of that. We started talking about, "How do we build on that?" We started talking about, "Where are customers leaning in and telling us what is it that our customers want from AT&T and AWS?" That is what triggered the latest round of conversations.
Above and beyond highly secure connectivity to the cloud and continuing to add features and functionality to that, which we are working on together right now, there are two additional areas that our customers have been asking about. One is IoT and the other one is security.
Starting with security, one of the things we hear a lot is "We need end-to-end visibility to what is happening to our ecosystem from a customer perspective -- what is happening at the premise, what is happening in the network and what is happening in the cloud."
Our customers' security is the highest priority for AT&T and AWS; it's frankly what we hear most about when we talk to our customers. And as part of this, one of the things we are going to be working on is how do we utilize our customers' data sitting in Amazon cloud right at the applications layer and incorporate that into the AT&T security threat intellect platform that uses advanced analytics to protect our customers and to give our customers that end-to-end visibility they have been looking for.
AT&T and AWS have complementary IoT platforms already and with what we are going to be able to do together, we are starting with basically creating IoT devices that -- out of the box -- are pre-configured to work with the AWS platform and be able to move their workloads, whatever data the devices are throwing off, back into AWS.
We have been talking a lot about joint innovation and how do we take that forward. What you are going to see is an ongoing series of announcements over time, starting right now and going into 2017. And we'll outline what those additional things are together as they become more real.
CW: So what kinds of new features and functionality might we expect?
MK: We have added virtual firewall on the AT&T network on the path to the cloud -- that's an example of something we have done that is fairly new. It is for those customers who want to purchase a virtual firewall for what is going into the cloud and what is coming back -- what is going in and at the application layer -- [and now they] have the option to do that. We are working on additional features, like bring your own appliance. Our customers have been buying things from a new perspective for a long time and we want to give them the ability to insert their own appliances into the dataflow path between the premises and the cloud, as they so choose -- [things] like WAN accelerators, for example.
CW: I want to ask you a couple of questions about security. Can you explain further what you mean about protecting things at the application layer, from where those applications sit in the cloud, can you explain that a little further?
MK: Customers that are using AWS, they have a shared responsibility between AWS and the customer on security. AWS manages from the OS and the hypervisor down to the hardware. The application layer requires third-party security protection, if you will.
To give you an example, if I've moved an app I used on my enterprise into the cloud, I bring my own encryption of that application and the associated data or virtual firewalls that sit around the data, and/or the analysis that sit around that.
For one, AT&T is working with Amazon to enable those sorts of features within the Amazon cloud. And then from a customer visibility perspective, a lot of customers have told us what they want from both companies is, "I need end to end visibility. I need to know the logs being thrown off by everything at premises layer -- my routers, my switches, my mobile devices, my firewalls. I need to know what's going on in my network, what is going in and out of my firewalls, what's going to the cloud. And I need to understand what is happening in the cloud."
At AT&T we built our own threat intellect platform [TIP]. As part of TIP we are essentially building a massive data lake that is updated every day. And it incorporates the traffic that is traversing our network, unique signatures we have identified that are unique to AT&T, also third party data and our customers' data. We are able to use that to identify new threats using advanced analytics and machine learning so that if we see an attack on one of our customers, we can protect our customers using our own proprietary security platform we call Threat Intellect.
We also have a tool called threat manager log analysis. It is a GUI, a really simple pane of glass that the end-business customer can use to get visibility at the executive snapshot level, as well as drill down to details at analyst level, [which] lets them see millions to billions of logs that the customer environment is throwing off. Then stepping it down to -- most activity is normal. It's people showing up at Light Reading offices at 8:00 a.m. in the morning on Monday and a whole bunch of activity happening as they log in. Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., I see a massive amount of activity; that's not normal -- that's a potential threat that is flagged as such and made available for AT&T specialists. If it's managed service, if they are paying us to do that for them or if they have their own security operation in an unmanaged environment, they can drill down on that activity.
And then, we have the "This is a real threat, no doubt about it," that needs to be addressed by the customer or by us, depending on whether it's a managed or unmanaged service. With the cloud and getting the ability to see the logs coming out of the cloud, that can be incorporated into the platform which helps protect all of our customers and the individual customer on specifically what is going on in their environment.
CW: So for example, if you are seeing something within the application -- an unusual amount of data being used or unusual access to that application that would trigger potentially looking at what is going on?
MK: Exactly. A good example might be, at the premises level, I just made a VPN connection to an East African country. What the heck is going on there, I don't do business in that country or have employees there, why is my network automatically reaching out? That would be considered a threat.
In the cloud it might be, hey, here an application that should only be using x amount of compute and process power, is suddenly using a lot more or spinning up new processes; that is not normal it is abnormal behavior indicative of malware or something that needs to be investigated.
CW: When you talk about complementary IoT platforms -- is the thinking then that a lot of this data being generated by sensors and other IOT devices is going to move into the Amazon cloud and that is where the analytics takes place?
MK: What AT&T does from an IoT perspective and what AWS does is complementary. A lot of customers want to use AWS cloud in order to store data coming off IoT devices. From AT&T's perspective we bring device and subscription management, the connectivity and billing associated with that, whether they are aware of all IoT devices, where they are, what they've done with them, etc.
AWS IoT service, as an example, would be storage or analytics. The first use case is building IoT devices that are pre-configured out of the box for the AWS cloud and that is where the data goes and can be stored, and they can use the data and analytics as they want.
CW: Wasn't AT&T doing its own analytics around IoT?
MK: At the end of the day, we can do analytics around IoT for our customers and make that data available to them, but from an AT&T perspective, we think partnering is important a lot of our end customers want to use AWS cloud for storage and additional value-adds that come on top of that and we are comfortable with that. We think it is a good fit and our customers are asking for it.
CW: In terms of future features, is what you are doing with Amazon exclusive or would you be doing similar things with IBM or Microsoft or Google.
MK: The NetBond platform connects to multiple clouds. We have 16 clouds that we announced today and we continue to invest in that entire ecosystem because end customers might have their own preferences on who they use. I was just looking at some stats: Over 80% of enterprises now use multiple clouds.
As part of strategic alliance, the things we will build will be unique to AWS because of AWS, and it will inherently drive those unique capabilities. A lot of clouds bring unique capabilities to the customers that are using them, either as software-as-a-service on infrastructure-as-a-service. So there are going to be unique capabilities that we built with them, tied to the unique capabilities of AWS.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large Light Reading