CenturyLink makes a bold cloud move against you-know-who

CenturyLink(S CTL) is taking on Amazon(s AMZN) Web Services on (gasp) price with enterprise-friendly service level agreements and other perks layered atop core compute, storage and networking resources, said Andrew Higginbotham, SVP of CenturyLink Cloud.
This is a bold statement in a world where Amazon has cut base-level prices more than 40 times in the last few years and now Google(s GOOG) and Microsoft(s MSFT) are matching or exceeding those cuts. And this world of cut-throat price reductions and increased enterprise-worthiness of cloud will take center stage at Gigaom’s Structure event next month.
CenturyLink, with its telco roots, may be able to out-Amazon in one key respect — bandwidth charges for CenturyLink promise to be cheaper than Amazon’s. “On bandwidth, we’ll be 50 percent cheaper on outbound pricing than AWS because we have the outbound network,” said Higginbotham (pictured above).
One thing CenturyLink has is legacy customers — Higginbotham said there are 1,000 enterprise customers using Savvis/CenturyLink services and that since CenturyLink acquired Tier 3 and its IaaS capabilities late last year, it’s seen “amazing traction” with that legacy base. Since the acquisition in November, CenturyLink has more than doubled its cloud capacity and increased virtual machines under management by 70 percent, he said.
Jared Wray, CenturyLink’s CTO of cloud, said enterprise wants to take price off the table when it comes to choosing the best cloud provider. Wray was CEO of Tier 3, an IaaS and PaaS provider CenturyLink bought in November.  CenturyLink has been arming itself via acquisition for this push for some time. Other than the Tier 3 acquisition last November, it bought Appfog in June and Savvis, the data center provider, for $2.5 billion in 2011. Wray covers the news in a blog post.
According to both execs, CenturyLink has the data center and resources for a truly large-scale cloud — from a cloud perspective, it will have 16 data centers by year’s end and 56 data centers for its overall business, which includes co-location services.
Centurylink vs. aws pricing
No doubt the marketplace for big-time clouds is getting more, um, interesting in the public cloud realm, where AWS pretty much had the market to itself until recently. Now Google and Microsoft have made big plays. VMware — a CenturyLink customer and partner — got into the act with vCloud Hybrid Services, which runs in part in CenturyLink facilities. And from the telco world, Verizon(s vz) is making a big push with its new built-from-scratch enterprise cloud.
It’s actually sort of odd that telcos, with all their networking savvy, haven’t done better in public cloud till now, but Wray said CenturyLink has assembled the resources it needs to make a splash. “Telcos need not just agility, but the core assets to assemble into a platform. In the past telcos have been silos,” he said.
For more from Higginbotham on CenturyLink’s cloudfest, check out this week’s Structure Show.
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One thing is certain: Cloud is nothing if not fluid now. Amazon is hard-charging into enterprises while enterprise companies — IBM, HP, VMware, Microsoft — hope to make a stand with their respective clouds. And telco-rooted companies like CenturyLink are now in the mix as well.
centurylink data centers