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May 24, 2013updated 19 Aug 2016 9:26am

Cloud or on-premise? A Telefonica Digital Q&A

Jason Stamper talks to Tim Marsden, global cloud services director at Telefónica Digital about performance and latency around the cloud and mobile.

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Tim  Marsden
Tim Marsden, Telefonica Digital.

Could you tell my readers a little about Telefónica Digital?

Telefonica Digital is one of the four main business units in Telefonica, and it was set up to help Telefonica grow on the back of digital services. We’re able to leverage the core assets of Telefonica, such as its customer reach and global infrastructure.

We’re focused on products and services that are complementary, such as machine to machine connectivity and applications, for example fleet management. We also have a large cloud business, because a lot of cloud services like communications and messaging, mobility are related to telco services. We have a strong presence in financial services, helping them embrace mobility for example e-payments.

We do e-health as well, and then in different regions we have other businesses, for example in Spain we have Terra, which is one of the largest web portals in Latin America: video is a key area and of course video needs networking.

You mentioned mobility. Why is that lucrative for Telefonica Digital in the enterprise?

Mobility is challenging in the enterprise because employees are taking it for granted that they should be able to access all of their applications on the move just like they can in their personal lives. Corporates need to embrace that, because if they can get it right there are huge benefits. If staff can do more of their work on the move it will benefit the business.

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So how does Telefonica Digital help?

We get involved helping customers embrace mobility, for example enabling mobile devices to access work applications. Also, is there the right level of security on these devices? Can they be remotely wiped, for example?

The second area is application deployment. How do you get apps on employees’ devices? You can’t just put them in a Google application store because it’s not very secure. You need a secure way to deploy apps because applications can give people a way into your corporate systems. You also need to link mobile applications to back-end systems, and we have solutions to all of those issues.

I know you offer cloud services too. Do you specialise in a particular ‘as a service’: platform as a service, for example?

Telefonica Digital offers infrastructure as a service [IaaS]. We have an Instant Servers offering which we can use to help firms deliver mobile applications. With Instant Servers, companies can have their own applications on-premise and burst into our cloud when they need extra capacity or have new applications or projects. We also have a number of SaaS [software as a service] applications that we can offer through our own application store.

But we do also do platform as a service [PaaS] as part of our mobility offerings. So businesses with developers can access our platform and develop applications in the cloud, without having to worry about having to build all the infrastructure themselves. That’s powered by Joyent, our technology partner, and its Node.js [runtime language for today’s data-intensive, real-time applications]. It’s a platform that’s completely optimised for mobile applications.

A lot of organisations today of course have a mix of cloud and on-premise. How do you envisage that mix changing in the next few years, if at all?

We’re seeing a very fast movement towards the cloud. If today there are, say, 30% of applications running in the cloud and 70% in-house, I can see that swapping over to 70-30 in the next five years. Ultimately I think every new application will be able to run in a cloud environment, but of course today there are some older, customized applications that need work to be cloud-enabled. How long those ‘dinosaur’ applications last will dictate whether everything can ever run in the cloud.

But aren’t there some applications that require low latency, where the processing is always going to need to be done closer to the user than in the cloud?

It’s a good question because it highlights the importance of an end-to-end infrastructure. There’s the cloud infrastructure but also the network that applications run across. Some applications don’t have performance limitations but others such as trading applications clearly do. They can’t be sitting on the public internet.

This is where telcos like Telefonica have an advantage, because they have huge fixed line networks, which enable them to control the performance between two sites, and prioritise certain types of traffic according to need. Cloud providers that are not part of telcos may have a Ferrari-like data centre but the applications are like driving on a bumpy dirt track. We can deliver the Ferrari but run it on a Formula 1 circuit.

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