AT&T recently announced the availability of its Internet Protect service in Canada and Latin America. This is an impressive offering, but we’re still waiting for the icing on the cake: the opening of AT&T’S Canadian data centre.

Internet Protect is a complementary service to carrier IP Data services, such as AT&T Managed Internet Services and Managed Virtual Private Network (VPN). David Denault, AT&T’S president and general manager of global services Canada, makes clear that there are multiple products.

“There is My Internet Protect,” says Denault, “as well as AT&T DDoS Defense, which can be either manual or automatic, and Private Intranet Protect.”

My Internet Protect is a knowledge-mining, alerting and notification service for threats targeted at a customer’s IP network. The DDoS Defense is for distributed denial of service identification and mitigation within AT&T’s backbone. Private Intranet Protect is more particular, and only sold to AT&T Internet Protect customers who are also AT&T VPN customers and use managed VPN services. In Canada, AT&T’s customer base consists of large enterprises with global exposure.

“For these companies the network becomes your security device,” says Denault. “Companies in the global marketplace need flexibility. They are dealing with mergers and acquisitions, hooking up with suppliers, and need to take mitigation architecture into the network.”

AT&T is arguing for the relevance of this service off of research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The EIU data suggested that many executives are nervous about holding sensitive customer data on their network makes. Part of the problem is that the process of analyzing and acting upon detailed customer data can increase vulnerability.

Jon Arnold, an independent telecommunications research analyst specializing in IP communications, believes that AT&T’s offering is comprehensive.

“Their security-based offerings are pretty complex. It’s hard to envision until you see it all. There are so many layers. AT&T is really pushing the hosted model, which brings business continuity and assurance. This gives companies a higher comfort level.”

The service is accessed through AT&T’s BusinessDirect portal with the company’s IP backbone acting as a proxy for Internet traffic. Given the hosted model, and the possibility of a commoditized service that drives costs down for clients, it is fair to assume that AT&T would like a piece of the mid-market in Canada. If the regulations governing foreign ownership loosen that might happen, but there are other hurdles.

“They have all these wholesale agreements with the last-mile guys,” says Arnold. “If they start going after the same customers that might be a problem. It would be a messier situation. Suddenly, you might not get such a great wholesale deal, because Bell and Telus need these customers.”

Certainly the message from AT&T Canada is that it is sticking with large enterprise accounts.

“For our customers it’s a given that they’ll have to compete in the global marketplace,” says Denault. “Our Canadian customers know that we can give them a local footprint with global resources.”

Denault says that Canadian investments are on track, and that the data centre is set to open later this year. Arguments for keeping the data centre in Canada range from improved access speeds to legal concerns. All data resident in the United States, for example, is subject to the U.S. Patriot Act. This situation is extremely fluid; in September a federal judge struck down a portion of the Patriot Act, saying that investigators needed court approval before ordering ISPs to turn over records without customer knowledge.

AT&T has quoted the EIU as saying that identity theft was becoming one of the greatest concerns. Surely breaching privacy should be up the list, too, with a Canadian data centre offering protection from overzealous lawmakers south of the border.

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