Windstream, Comcast crack open their cloud strategies

Executives from Comcast and Windstream shed light on how cable and fiber players are using the cloud for their internal operations, weighing in on a conversation that has hitherto largely been dominated by wireless players like AT&T and Verizon.

Windstream CIO Stephen Farkouh told Fierce the company’s journey to the cloud started with privately-owned data centers before it began using private clouds and eventually the public cloud. He noted it adopted select applications from Amazon Web Services (AWS) about five years ago but said its commitment to using the public cloud really crystalized in 2020. It now has workloads served by a wide range of vendors, including AWS, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and Salesforce.

“To date, Windstream moved nearly 100% of its customer-facing products, services, portals and applications to the public cloud along with over a dozen mission critical BSS/OSS applications and its entire big data environment and associated data lake,” he said. Farkouh added the operator expects “to shift over 75% of its IT workloads to the public cloud over the next 18 months.”

He explained Windstream’s decision to team up with multiple vendors was driven primarily by a desire to increase agility and avoid vendor lock-in. But he added each vendor’s technology has certain strengths.

“We’ve found, for example, Azure to be a solid fit for web hosting, databases and general IT workloads; AWS to be strong in web/content hosting and also a good all-around fit; Salesforce (Snowflake) to be strong in PaaS-based data warehousing and science; Oracle to be strong in delivering its applications and platforms as a service; and Google to be strong in offering containers and big data analytics solutions,” Farkouh said.

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Until now, conversations about the public cloud have largely revolved around how it can be used by wireless players to improve network operations and offer new services.

Indeed, TelcoDR’s Cloud City stand was the highlight of this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And in the U.S., AT&T and Verizon’s cloud strategies have made headlines. The former notably went all-in on the cloud in a deal to move its 5G mobile network core to Microsoft Azure, while the latter has espoused a more cautious approach.

Farkouh said Windstream “has yet to find an application that was inherently not suited for the cloud but fully recognizes that the cloud is not a good cost-fit for all applications and workloads.” He added the cloud is “most attractive for highly variable or unpredictable workloads or for where self-service provisioning is key.”

Comcast offered a less detailed picture of its cloud use. But Comcast Cable VP and Head of Cloud Product and Customer Success Sona Venkat told to Fierce it uses “a mix of public and private cloud solutions” for both “internal and customer-facing functions.”

Like Farkouh, Venkat said Comcast’s multi-cloud strategy is “built on the principle of leveraging the right cloud environment and technology for the right workloads.” She pointed to technical feasibility, reliability and security as some of the key factors it considers when choosing which cloud environment is the right one for a given workload.