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AT&T-AWS partnership expanded for the cloud

The cloud is perhaps the most important aspect of current and future technology, and AT&T is providing more tools to try and help its customers take advantage of their “journey to the cloud.” To do this, AT&T has ramped up its existing relationship with Amazon Web Services. The AT&T-AWS partnership has been expanded to provide more features for security, IoT, privacy, and speed.

AT&T focused on security at the AT&T Business Summit in Dallas in November because they are well aware that this is of utmost concern to all customers, especially after the particularly large data breaches occurring lately.

AT&T-AWS partnership: Security

AT&T

Roman Pacewicz, chief product officer for AT&T Business, explained that at the same time that AT&T is striving to make its customers more secure, “cloud providers like AWS have really tightened their security protocols to the point now where they are nearly almost like that of a private data center.” So, Pacewicz elaborated, many individuals’ concerns seem to be for issues that “happened more than five years ago.”

Although there are still data breaches and concerns, certainly within the past five years, it is true that cloud providers have been working to consistently provide new, better security protocols for their customers.

In Pacewicz’s opinion, security can never be perfected with just a strong firewall or educated users. Instead, he believes that an intelligent network should be able to understand what should happen on your computer or device and, from here, make an automated decision to take action. For this, data analytics and AI are vital.

Clearly, though, none of these methods are impenetrable, especially if you account for user error. However, by tackling the problem from all sides, including the cloud providers, organizations, and individuals, we can hopefully reach a time without major security breaches.

To do its part in creating more secure devices, AT&T has developed a service that allows for private mobile connectivity with AWS so their customers can access the cloud securely from a mobile device. With this service, all SaaS offerings that are able to be delivered from the AWS cloud to a mobile endpoint are also included.

According to Pacewicz from AT&T, “We take the data stream right off the radio access network, and we never touch the Internet, we just route it directly to NetBond and connect it to AWS.”

FlexWare

AT&T has made its virtual network function (VNF) management platform, FlexWare, cloud-ready which will help customers connect more directly and securely with AWS, as well as assist in edge computing.

Back in May, AT&T added the option of utilizing VNP (MPLS), dedicated Internet, and broadband connectivity with FlexWare. Now, thanks to the AT&T-AWS partnership, they’re adding more.

In addition to providing a direct and automated connection to AWS, AT&T has also integrated FlexWare with AWS Greengrass. Greengrass is “software that lets you run local compute, messaging, data caching, sync, and ML inference capabilities for connected devices in a secure way.”

Greengrass was introduced to assist edge devices in communicating with the AWS cloud as well as processing data. It also lets customers utilize AWS Lambda to run code locally on connected devices.

The integration of FlexWare and Greengrass will help with instant decisions and local connectivity by giving you local control. Pacewicz explained that the factory is often still able to run even without connectivity because local executables are still processing.

FlexWare helps prove how AT&T’s network is transforming to be more software-centric. For example, they are now shifting from integrating boxes from different vendors to “instead instantiating services on a very distributed cloud infrastructure.”

Many services related to this partnership, in which both customers and business services will be instantiated on AT&T’s own distributed cloud, will be rolled out in 2018. Many networking and non-networking functions can be instantiated via FlexWare, according to Panewicz, and could include router functions, security functions, and Greengrass.

Internet of Things

AT&T

AT&T has already assisted its customers in the Internet of Things (IoT) endeavors with the release of their IoT starter kit last year. Now, they’ve increased this offering to include a dedicated AWS starter kit as well.

This kit helps developers by giving them the basic software and connectivity that they require to have Internet-connect devices for $109. President of AT&T’s IoT business, Chris Penrose, explained, “A developer can get this box and be able to turn it on, write applications, and have that data go straight into the Amazon environment.”

The partnership between Greengrass and FlexWare discussed above will also likely help boost IoT development by supporting IoT business cases that use edge computing.

Threat Manager

AT&T is working hard to protect cybersecurity. They have now expanded their Threat Manager security platform to AWS. This functions by “combining information from client infrastructure with data from its larger network and from third-party networks that leverage AT&T infrastructure” to identify threats.”

Essentially, the Threat Manager helps AWS customers identify data patterns to proactively spot threatening activity. Described by Pacewicz as an artificial intelligence-based engine, analysis occurs in near-real time.

It has very high capabilities and is able to analyze 5 billion events within 10 minutes. While this service is already on sale to customers, AT&T just recently extended it to the AWS infrastructure. This will be available at the end of the first quarter of 2018.

Pacewicz explained, “If our customer is running their applications on the AWS infrastructure, now we’re getting the information from AWS as well and we’re getting an even more holistic view of the threats that may be emanating.”

AT&T’s cloud future

In addition to these extra services provided by AT&T, they also launched a consulting service meant to assist with the growing challenge that IT departments encounter when choosing different cloud platforms.

Even though this service does include an option for AT&T to facilitate the movement of data into a cloud environment, they don’t see it as a competitor to other system integrators, claiming that it’s not about the specific cloud provider but “It’s really about doing what’s right for the organization.”

It’s clear that AT&T is working to provide customers with secure, private connections to the cloud, and as the AT&T-AWS partnership expands, this is a step in the right direction.