Case Study /

Case study: BT’s cloud of clouds builds on solid ecosystem foundation


  • Who? BT
  • What? Realizes global cloud of clouds vision
  • How? Central innovation progressed through Catalysts, global infrastructure based on Frameworx, leverages B2B2X partnering best practice which BT initiated
  • Results: Rapid delivery of tailored services to each customer using an optimisized mix of the customer’s IT infrastructure and that of its partners, plus BT’s infrastructure, including through partnerships from AWS to Salesforce. Provides these services to many industry sectors.

CIOs everywhere are looking to cloud services to gain competitive advantage, not just through flexibility and costs savings, but to realize cloud’s potential to enable new business models and revenues, and faster time to market. At the same time, CIOs have concerns about moving to the cloud, including securing data and the network, managing hybrid clouds, keeping control, meeting regulatory requirements, assuring performance for customers and users, and accessing the right skills.

With these issues in mind, in April 2015, BT announced “a new generation of cloud services to allow large organizations around the world to connect easily and securely to the applications and the data they need, independently of where they are hosted”. It has partnered with major cloud service providers to connect services to its own network, in effect acting as a cloud services integrator for customers.

Hence CIOs can integrate and orchestrate the IT resources hosted on their own private clouds, BT’s global cloud platform (including 20 cloud-enabled data centers globally) and those of other leading cloud providers. BT’s expanding portfolio of service partners include Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Equinix, HP, Interxion, Microsoft and Salesforce.

The new services rely on innovative technology developed by BT and its partners in the fields of diversified infrastructure management, service management, global network optimization, application performance acceleration and security. The services are managed by customers through a single user-friendly service catalog, using BT’s Compute Management System (CMS).

The journey to the vision

Over the last five years BT has turned its cloud services capability into a global offer, across 18 countries and five continents. The CMS is the central innovation. Its development and transformation was significantly accelerated through participation in TM Forum’s Catalyst projects and work in and contribution to the Forum’s Open Digital Ecosystem program. In parallel, BT’s wider OSS and BSS framework is based on the Forum’s Frameworx suite of standards, which is deployed by all kinds of service providers around the world.

Catalysts for the CMS

The CMS was conceived by BT Research and Technology and has evolved from managing virtual machines to enabling the creation and operation of digital ecosystems for each enterprise and market. BT used the Forum’s Catalyst projects to speed the progress of the CMS.

The projects act as an external R&D resource. They are championed by a service provider or providers to address a particular business needs by partnering with other companies. The participants work together closely for between three and six months to jointly develop a solution which they demonstrate at one of the Forum’s flagship events.

The findings are fed back into the Forum and frequently act as the foundation for subsequent Catalysts to speed further development. The CMS is an outstanding example of this; its roots stretch back to the Cloud 9 Catalyst in 2009, which explored the use of cloud orchestration systems, compliant catalogs and cloud brokering questions.

The Cloud Service Broker Catalyst project followed in 2010, which is where on-going relationships with key vendors began. It fired internal projects and business case leading to CMS v.2, an entirely new system with cross-platform and cross-regional capability, enabling BT’s global deployment of cloud service orchestration capabilities.

The company recognized that while the CMS’ technical orchestration capabilities were strong, it needed to address the commercial aspects of enabling open digital ecosystems – that is handling the range of commercial models between all partners, enabling appropriate pricing, packages, products and offers,  while handling the underlying accounting, revenue, and cost allocations across the ecosystem participants in direct or wholesale models. These issues were addressed by championing  the Richer Services, Richer Ecosystems Catalyst project in 2013.

The latest in the series is the Enabling the Smart City Data Hub in 2015 (see below).

As John Wittgreffe, Chief Researcher – IT Services and Data Hubs, BT, comments,

“This work resulted in the CMS which enables entire ecosystems to be launched rapidly in months, not years, and has made possible a new generation of ecosystem services that pragmatically would not have been realizable via traditional means, automating a high portion of otherwise manual administration functions.”

Leveraging and enabling ecosystems

The CMS empowers customers to set up or securely connect to applications and data. Each customer can choose an optimized mix of IT resources and services from its own data centres and those of its partners with BT’s and its partners’ services.

BearingPoint’s Infonova R6 platform is the monetization engine of the CMS; BearingPoint partnered BT in the Catalysts and the R6 platform is certfied by TM Forum as being Frameworx-conformant. The CMS can be used to monetize each partnering ecosystem as the products and services are represented in a common federated catalog for each enterprise or market, using the appropriate currency and language.

Once a service and service level agreements (SLAs) are confirmed, the service is automatically deployed to the appropriate region and compute environment of choice to meet criteria for compliance, cost, end-user proximity and application performance ­– the CMS also creates the offer, accounting, billing and the allocation of revenues and costs to each ecosystem participant.

Partners at the heart of success

To attain its goal of a cloud of clouds ecosystem, BT drew on TM Forum’s pioneering Online B2B2X Partnering Step by Step Guide, which includes the processes for business, contractual, financial and operational models it contains as well as application program interfaces (APIs). The guide’s grew out of a wholesale model contributed to the Forum by BT, which was expanded and enhanced, in part through Catalyst projects, to include other kinds of partnerships as part of the Forum’s Open Ecosystem program.

Today more than 200 network operators around the world use some part of the Forum’s B2B wholesale specifications.

Scale, flexibility and interoperability

Scale, flexibility and interoperability are all key to running a global, cloud-based ecosystem, which is why BT’s global infrastructure is based on the Forum’s Frameworx suite of standardized tools and best practices. As a founding member of the Forum, BT has contributed to many aspects of Frameworx, the major elements of which were used to consolidate and unify a large portion of BT’s global matrix of OSS/BSS and common information model into a uniform set of operational platforms.

Tailored services for industry sectors

Examples of services provided through BT’s Global Services, enabled by the CMS, include:

• BT Life Sciences supports an ecosystem of pharmaceutical companies, academia, tech partners including software and genome labs, application providers, government and content partners including for health.

BT Trace provides services to those managing complex supply chains – an ecosystem comprising customers, distributors, hosted drop box service, warehousing apps and more.

• BT Compute’s cloud compute sites, combined with an ecosystem of partners’ and customers’ own services and infrastructure, and security service providers, supports more than 50 application providers. There are additional services for each channel, and the option to combine them and their go-to market partners via the Applications Service Store, where customers simply click to deploy applications.

• The Milton Keynes’ smart city initiative (MK:SMART) through an ecosystem of sensor network providers, device providers, data providers, local government councils, academia, applications and analytics providers, application developers. The economy of this English town is predicted to grow by up to 64 percent by 2026. The project is expected to deliver up to 20 percent in water savings and to reduce traffic congestion by 50 percent.

Milton Keynes is incubating up to 90 new small and medium-sized businesses to deliver Internet of Things (IoT) applications as ecosystem partners and create hundreds of new jobs: the town’s council has already identified over £105 million ($159.5 million) cost savings and new revenues. Over the next 18 months, the trial will be extended, as highlighted in the Catalyst demonstration at TM Forum Live!, in Nice, in June 2015, Enabling digital ecosystems for smart city data hubs.

It will be exciting to see what developments arise from this latest Catalyst, but given BT’s track record so far it seems safe to assume that more cloud-of-clouds services and innovations are on their way. Certainly progress so far has put BT in a strong position to address many vertical markets, which will generate new revenues and business models for itself, its partners, its customers and their partners and customers.

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