AT&T sought to open up a whole new dimension for its business Tuesday with the introduction of AT&T Platform as a Service (Paas), intended as a platform upon which business professionals can build and deploy their own cloud-based business apps.
The launch makes AT&T (NYSE:T) the first telecommunications service provider to offer enterprise-grade PaaS in the US. Research firm Forester Research believes the cloud computing market will grow from $0.8 billion this year to $12.15 billion by 2018.
The PaaS, integrated with AT&T's network-based cloud, is based on the cloud applications platform of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based LongJump. AT&T said business professionals can use the service to reinvent business processes without knowing how to code, but the platform is also robust enough to serve developers who want to use it to deploy cloud-based apps accessible from any device.
"AT&T Platform as a Service is like rocket fuel for developing cloud apps," said Steve Caniano, vice president of Hosting and Cloud Services at AT&T Business Solutions. "This is another step in our commitment to helping businesses deliver cloud-based solutions, and we are unique in our ability to surround the ease of use of Platform as a Service with the flexibility, reliability and security of the AT&T global network."
He added, "The service itself is intended to provide an application framework for customers such that you don't have to be a techie or programmer in order to have the ability to stand up applications. You can be [technically adept], and it will allow you to do some pretty slick things. But it also enables a business user to create applications, which we think is a pretty cool and powerful thing."
The new offering consists of a cloud-based development and deployment platform, with Web tools and customizable templates for software development, including a library of 50 pre-built apps that users can customize or simply use as is. The pre-built apps include back-office applications for management of expenses and IT assets, inventory management, purchasing and so on.
"Very rapidly, by pointing and clicking, you can stand up and customize applications," Caniano said.
AT&T PaaS also includes development tools to simplify the process of making mobile versions of applications and integrated social networking features. Users can choose to use AT&T's online Application Development Environment graphical user interface (GUI), or leverage standard development tools like IDE and Eclipse.
AT&T said its high-performance, redundant and scalable infrastructure is ideal for running online applications and databases and features around-the-clock infrastructure monitoring, management and support.
The communications company said independent software vendors (ISVs), corporate line-of-business leaders and IT departments can all benefit from its PaaS. It noted that line-of-business managers can create new enterprise-grade applications and distribute and manage them across an entire user base without causing application slow-down or downtime. Meanwhile ISVs can use the PaaS to accelerate time-to-market of their apps and enterprise developers can consolidate back-office applications onto a single, fully managed and secure environment that makes them accessible from any Internet-connected device.
"We see this as supporting both enterprise customers and ISVs," Caniano said. "This is a next step in making cloud-based development and cloud-based applications a reality for customers."
The service is billed monthly on a per-user basis and can scale up or down based on demand, with billing adjusted accordingly.
"Platforms for application development and deployment are usually either highly productive and narrow in scope, or challenging to use but able to address complex activities," said Stephen D. Hendrick, group vice president for application development and deployment research at IDC. "Vendors that can provide the best of both worlds by combining comprehensive enterprise-class application development capabilities, simplified management and lifecycle support and a secure reliable network find success in the market. AT&T appears well positioned to address these emerging Platform as a Service needs."
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