One of the primary attributes of cloud computing is to allow customers to service their own IT needs. But when those customers are actually your channel partners you need to find the most frictionless way to partner with each other. In the case of AT&T that means turning the entire company into a platform through which interactions and transactions are increasingly automated via a standard set of application programming interfaces (APIs).
Speaking at the recent API Strategy and Practice conference in New York, Laura Merling, vice president of ecosystems and solutions at AT&T, described how AT&T plans to transform itself from essentially being a “black box” into an open platform that is transparent to all its business partners.
Known as AT&T Partner Exchange, this new AT&T program opens AT&T’s APIs to allow solution providers to develop their own customized solutions that leverage AT&T systems, processes, and tools. AT&T is also inviting solution providers to leverage AT&T Foundry, an innovation and research center that AT&T set up to develop and showcase advanced solutions to customers.
Merling says this evolution in AT&T’s approach to business partners will come in three phases. The first is making the AT&T infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform accessible via a standard set of APIs. The second is to turn the entire AT&T telecommunications network into a set of services that can be called via an API. And then finally integrate AT&T business partners with the company’s internal business processes.
The overall goal, says Merling, is to not only reduce the cost of doing business with AT&T, but reduce cycle times by making AT&T much easier to do business with.
Merling admits this is a multi-year effort. But it’s also indicative of how the channel as a whole is going to evolve into becoming a more programmatic entity, ranging from more Facebook-style portals to federated systems that process transactions across the entire channel ecosystem in real time.
But before any of that can happen the channel as a whole needs to come to terms with how an emerging API economy is about the transform the way business is conducted both inside and out of the channel.