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Verizon Business, the application hosting and outsourcing arm of the U.S. telecom giant bearing the same first name, today announced its foray into cloud computing, giving us yet another ugly acronym, CaaS, short for computing as a service.

The CaaS offering from Verizon takes x64 server from Hewlett-Packard and slaps VMware's ESX Server hypervisor and Red Hat Enterprise Linux instances atop it, allowing customers to set up and manage virtualized RHEL partitions and their applications. Based on the customer portal screen shots, the CaaS service also supports Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 operating system.

If customers want, they can use the Web portal to manage physical servers in addition to virtualized ones, and Verizon is letting customers set up virtual server farms, with a mix of trusted or public-facing networks that can be managed by Verizon or by the customer. Each virtual farm gets a virtual firewall, a virtual load balancer, and a defined network space on the Verizon backbone. The portal allows for the provisioning of physical and virtual servers, storage capacity to back them up, and backup and application services to run atop the servers.

The portal keeps track of the CPU, storage, and network resources that are deployed in the cloud and also shows the status of maintenance on any of the instances as things go wrong (as they always do whenever computers are involved). The big selling points of CaaS are the same for any cloud computing offering: You only pay for what you use, and you can scale what you use up and down at will. Verizon is also boasting about network security and bandwidth as well, which is what you expect from a telecom giant.

Verizon's CaaS service is available in the United States and Europe today and will be available in the Asia/Pacific region in August. Pricing was not available at press time.

Verizon Business has a fairly large application hosting business, with over 20 different kinds of servers and systems supported, as well as a remote virtualization and application management services, backup and caching services, and email and IM hosting services.

AT&T, Verizon's main telecom rival and also an IT infrastructure player that is also moving into cloud computing, announced a remote physical and virtual server management service back in March that complements the Synaptic Hosting utility-style computing service that AT&T launched last year. Like Verizon, AT&T did not divulge pricing for its cloud offerings.

At least with Amazon EC2, you know what it is going to cost. There is something to be said for that. If providers want IT shops to behave like it is iTunes, then they had better learn to publish list prices and give everyone the same deals. This is a lot cheaper than paying sales people and covering their health insurance and bonuses. ®

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