What Utilities Need to Know to Gain Competitive Advantage From the Cloud

By Renàƒ© Dufrene, AT&T

Companies are deploying cloud computing to increase efficiencies and manage costs. Businesses use cloud based apps for all sorts of tasks, from resource planning to collaboration. The cloud is here to stay, its use is skyrocketing and many industries, including energy, are using it.

AT&T, as well as other companies, have addressed concerns associated with moving to the cloud through continued innovation. Working with more than 3,500 business customers, we at AT&T routinely see three key ways cloud is changing the business as usual.

No. 1: Flexibility and Cost Savings

Because cloud computing is managed by a service provider, companies that adopt it can free up resources and provide more flexibility in their organizations. Cloud computing’s pay-per-use model is similar to the model utilities use to bill customers for their services. Cloud service providers also manage the infrastructure, further improving cloud’s economics. Companies that use the cloud can employ a smaller IT staff, avoid the need to build facilities to store, manage and run their apps or both. This value allows businesses to focus on their growth instead of the latest technology trends.

For example, energy companies see cloud computing as a tool to help them reduce costs while addressing their toughest business problems, like continued innovation. Cloud service providers can help utilities quickly develop and deploy custom cloud apps. This alleviates the need for utilities to invest in infrastructure and resources. They can quickly develop and implement solutions without a large upfront cost.

Let’s take the energy example one step further. A large electricity provider recently came to AT&T to upgrade its smart grid system, save money and improve customer service. By deploying smart grid applications to receive near real-time information on electricity use and voltage, the energy company can now receive alerts when power is out or voltage levels are abnormal so techs can take immediate action.

No. 2: Security and Performance

Breaking down barriers to cloud adoption is important. To do this, the cloud service provider must offer secure cloud connectivity solutions that respond to customer bandwidth needs on-demand. The ability to extend a company’s VPN to the cloud is a game-changer for most utility and IT executives. Secure cloud connectivity solutions ease the security and performance concerns associated with the public Internet. This is key given many businesses hesitate to put sensitive data in the cloud unless they know it is highly secure.

AT&T allows customers to access the cloud using their own VPN through a product called NetBound. This solution keeps the data off the Internet, which is the most common way to access a cloud service. It offers the high performance and security companies expect from their VPN. It eliminates the need for engineers to calculate bandwidth needs in advance, which helps with performance, especially in big data analytics and disaster recovery.

Another example is an oilfield services company that needed a secure solution to connect to its cloud and adjust to its workload spikes in real-time. The company needed to extend the network security of its VPN and it wanted it to expand on-demand. The company used NetBond to connect to its cloud solution provider. This resulted in a highly secure solution that addressed the companies current needs and provided flexibility for longer term planning.

No. 3: Multi-Cloud Strategy

Another trend is the use of multiple cloud services. According to RightScale’s 2015 State of the Cloud Survey, enterprises plan to use a portfolio of clouds with 82 percent establishing a multi-cloud strategy. Using a common network strategy can simplify this by linking these different clouds and keeping them secure. AT&T is working with several companies to build ecosystems that offer choice, advanced security and networking services. This is ideal when transitioning a business to the cloud.

Cloud services will continue to grow in energy and other industries. Flexibility, cost savings, enhanced security and performance are all driving cloud adoption. This year we at AT&T have seen an inflection point for increased cloud adoption across all sectors, particularly energy.


Renàƒ© Dufrene is the AVP of Network Enabled Cloud (NEC) at AT&T. His team is responsible for business and offering development, product management, sales enablement and alliance relationships.

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