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Clear or Cloudy Forecast?
Gartner's Pescatore says the carriers' cloud services model resembles what security managers are used to from bandwidth providers--services across a shared infrastructure. The difference is that enterprises would no longer have to manage expensive hardware or pay licensing fees.

There are several sticking points the carriers must iron out before cloud services become viable, especially for larger enterprises. Primarily, Pescatore says, security managers are concerned about sharing routers, servers and switches with others on the carrier network, and whether carriers would limit configurations or policy options to reach a particular price point. Security managers aren't willing to be flexible in most cases and will demand dedicated equipment at the carrier.

Control loss is another issue; AT&T offers customers a portal service where they can monitor device status and alerts.

Pitney Bowes' Ramsey is an AT&T portal customer and shrugs off the control question. "Trust but verify; we have a stipulation [in our SLA] that we can monitor anytime we want," Ramsey says. "You miss something and we're hit financially, you're partly responsible."

Carriers must also provide availability guarantees, and reporting and auditing capabilities. The biggest worry, especially for SMBs going with a smaller telco or ISP, is the long-term viability of the provider.

"If a [provider] goes under, now I don't

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even have a firewall," Pescatore says. "I'm stuck. It's not so much an issue of loss of control and not being able to control policy, but the issue of what happens if the service provider goes away and I don't have protection."

This was first published in January 2006

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