CenturyLink Launches Runner To Ease 'Administrative Workload' Of Cloud And Hybrid Management

CenturyLink intends to make cloud management easier for its partners and end customers with Runner, the provider's new multi-cloud automation and orchestration service introduced Monday.

Runner is a cloud-based configuration management and orchestration service for hybrid IT and cloud environments. CenturyLink channel partners and end customers can use Runner to automate cloud or data center infrastructure, whether the infrastructure lives within the CenturyLink Cloud, a third-party cloud provider's data center, or even on-premise within a customer's facility, according to CenturyLink.

C3DNA, an application life cycle management provider and CenturyLink partner, will be using its own application operation product on top of Runner.

[Related: CenturyLink Gets Serious About Security, Acquires Security Services Firm netAura]

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"I think providing complete life cycle management -- from the infrastructure and resources to the application delivery and operation -- that level of capability and solution set is not offered by anyone today," said Paul Camacho, co-founder of Santa Clara, Calif.-based C3DNA.

"From our perspective, the ability to deliver an application and provision resources to support those applications is what our promise to customers is, so our capabilities around application operations pairs very nicely with Runner, which we can use to deploy resources to support applications anywhere," Camacho said.

Many businesses and solution provider partners are configuring and tracking cloud performance manually using open source tools such as Puppet or Chef. Runner will help reduce the "administrative workload" of cloud and hybrid IT environment management for partners and end customers, Chris Kent, senior lead product manager for CenturyLink Cloud told CRN.

Runner -- a cloud-based service that uses open-source automation technology from Ansible, which was acquired by Red Hat last year -- lets customers, or partners managing a client's cloud environment, quickly provision or dial up and down resources across multiple cloud platforms.

By managing the infrastructure more efficiently and easily, businesses will be able to save money, CenturyLink's Kent said.

"If you have an application stack you run during work hours, and then everyone goes home for the day, being able to power that down at night and up in the morning automatically gives immediate cost savings to either a one-person shop or a global enterprise," Kent said.

The cost-savings impact for customers will be absolutely immediate, C3DNA's Camacho said.

"The level of agility this brings to organizations will go beyond just cost savings -- I think customers will be able to respond faster to business needs," he said.

So far, both enterprises and small businesses have shown interest in Runner for managing hybrid IT environments. CenturyLink has also made Runner available to the majority of its channel partners, Kent said.

Runner will also be helpful to channel partners looking to bring new products into their clients' IT environments, Kent said.

CenturyLink's answer to cloud automation is different from the solutions that competing carriers are bringing to the market, according to the provider. While other carriers' solutions require an agent living on every device to be managed, one Runner "minion" sits within the customer's network to manage all devices. Runner's use of Ansible technology also is differentiating the service from its competition, Kent said.

"We've taken Ansible and kind of blown it apart and put it back together using our connectivity. Ansible has become the leader in the [automation] space in terms of adoption and support," he said.

Unlike some of its competing solutions, Runner works across a true hybrid IT environment, C3DNA's Camacho said. "CenturyLink really does want to be able to provision across any cloud or a private data center. This is really where it differentiates -- there's no lock-in," he said.

CenturyLink is still exploring whether it will hang on to its data center assets, and the provider has adopted an "anywhere services" approach to the cloud for 2016, Kent said. Runner will be useful for CenturyLink customers with entities outside of the CenturyLink cloud.

"Gone are the days when a company just has one provider -- now there are multiple clouds and different environments existing, but there are few products out there to help management that entire environment," Kent said. "We want to still be the holistic solution for them regardless of where their data sits. Runner doesn't tie you down to one particular data center provider."