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AT&T joins 'Linux for cloud', boosts HTML5 apps

Smartphone, TV, web code-jockey play

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AT&T – one of America's largest internet, phone and TV service providers – is throwing up an open-source cloud running OpenStack to court application developers.

The giant has announced AT&T Cloud Architect, a planned service of elastic public, private and bare metal servers wrapped with different storage, network and monitoring options. AT&T Cloud Architect is a developer-centric service due in the "coming weeks".

The carrier has promised a LAMP stack for CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Red Hat and Windows Server for AT&T Cloud Architect, with plans to add a "full API framework" letting devs "fully tap" into AT&T's cloud.

At the same time, meanwhile, AT&T has become the first US telco to sign up to OpenStack – the project initiated by Rackspace and NASA in 2010, tasked with building a Linux for the cloud.

AT&T chief technology officer John Donovan said OpenStack would be hosted at three of the telco's vast data centers – Dallas, San Diego and Secaucus in New Jersey – but will be expanded to more than double this year. "We plan to more than double the number of our centers with open-source capabilities in 2012," he said.

There was no word on why AT&T has joined OpenStack; Donovan claimed AT&T had been working with the project for a year. AT&T joins Hewlett-Packard, Citrix and Dell among others in the OpenStack pool who are either working on or have already delivered OpenStack clouds.

The full-throttle embrace of open source is interesting given AT&T has been a major customer of Microsoft and long-serving partner on TV – latterly with the delivery of TV content to Xbox 360 through AT&T's U-Verse service.

The cloud and OpenStack news were announced at the AT&T Developer Summit in Dallas, Texas, taking place in the shadow of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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It appears as if AT&T's cloud play is designed to scoop up developers who are building applications that can potentially enrich AT&T's web, TV and fixed and mobile phone service offerings for customers – while also ensuring new apps plug directly and easily into AT&T's billing systems. Such devs might currently be using Amazon's cloud to develop and test their new apps.

There was much talk in AT&T's announcement of support for HTML5, talk that made it clear AT&T is clearly hoping to stimulate greater interest in its runtimes among devs.

For example, there are plans for a new AT&T App Store in HTML "with a fresh format that will benefit developers and customers" while there will also be support for the development of HTML5 mobile apps with an "add-that-to-my-bill" feature.

It's not clear who exactly the HTML5 app store is aimed at. If it's smartphone customers, then AT&T's network is already catered for: AT&T is one of the two US carriers serving Apple's iPhone, which is fed by apps from Apple's App Store. And AT&T has been named as the exclusive service provider for Nokia's Lumia, which runs Window Phone, Microsoft's smartphone operating system, which also has its own marketplace – erected and controlled by Microsoft.

Meanwhile, carriers including AT&T have traditionally fared badly at attracting software devs to stores which handicap portability to rivals' networks and phones. This would suggest AT&T is courting software jockeys who can work across its different networks and devices. Tools have been promised for the IP-based U-verse TV service, which comes with internet access and phone, while AT&T said it is opening up its U-verse receivers. The receivers are Cisco-built devices for the home that allow users to receive digital and HD TV, video-on-demand and to pause live TV.

In its announcement, the company highlighted the fact that its API Platform comes with in-app billing so that developers can "receive payment for their apps through the convenience, speed and security of the AT&T customer bill".

The focus on app developers comes as open-sourcers tap their native constituents to serve the growing market of interactive TV. Ubuntu just announced Ubuntu TV while Opera Software has announced the Opera TV Store. Both want to bring web applications and content to your TV. ®

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