Look under any cloud computing environment and what you find is a lot of dependency on telecommunications and networking infrastructure. Many solution providers, however, historically have had to deal with provisioning times of weeks, sometimes even months, for these services.

To address that issue carriers such as AT&T and Verizon are embracing open application programming interfaces (APIs) that make their telecommunications infrastructure programmable. AT&T, for example, just announced it will be providing a range of self-service networking capabilities enabled by the APIs the company is exposing across its recently launched User-Defined Network Cloud (UDNC).

Currently only available for customers looking for Ethernet services in Austin, the goal is to expand those self-service capabilities as rapidly as possible across multiple classes of networking services, said Josh Goddell, vice president of Network on Demand for AT&T.

“We transforming the way we provision network resources," Goodell said. “We moving toward delivering dynamic network capacity.”

Verizon, meanwhile, is extending its reach into the channel in anticipation of extending its market reach by enabling solution providers to resell network services that they and their customers can provision themselves. Helen Donnelly, chief marketing director for Verizon, said the carrier obviously prefers its own networks, but in terms of the cloud services it provides, the telecommunications giant is “carrier-neutral.”

As part of that effort, Verizon is becoming more cloud-neutral as well. The company just announced a new services model under which it will offer different tiers of cloud services, including virtual private network (VPN) connections to Amazon Web Services in support of a growing hybrid cloud computing trend across the enterprise.

The implications of having programmable network services in terms of the level of competition that will create will be nothing short of profound. Given the fact that the cost of switching drops substantially in world where network infrastructure becomes programmable, in the not-too-distant future customers will pit carriers against one another to provide network bandwidth on demand.

“As cloud computing continues to mature I think you’ll see a more peaceful coexistence,” noted Donnelly. “The days of a single source providing all things in the cloud are gone.”

In fact, there already are a number of interesting initiatives that have the potential to reshape how telecommunications services are used and sold.

For example, Global Capacity buys network bandwidth wholesale and then makes that bandwidth available on demand to customers via a One Marketplace platform. Most recently, Global Capacity acquired the Network Services business unit of MegaPath to help ensure it has access to network bandwidth to offer its customers, while also continuing to buy available network bandwidth wholesale.

Global Capacity's president Jack Lodge said it’s critical to be able to have as much control over networking services as possible.

“You could think of us as an Uber for data connections,” Lodge said. “In our case we’re buying network bandwidth based on the demand we see from our customers."

Meanwhile, Pertino, which just launched a channel program, has taken the whole networking-services-in-the-cloud concept one step further. Todd Krautkremer, chief marketing officer for Pertino, said the company’s software is designed to allow users to create their own virtual private network leveraging software-defined networking (SDN) software to logically segment wide area network (WAN) bandwidth that multiple cloud service providers make available.

“We’re building WANs in the cloud,” said Krautkremer. “We have our own SDN stack that we deploy to create a control plane and then we make the data plane programmable.”

Given all these technological advances, it’s pretty clear competition is coming to the once-staid telecommunications space in a way that clearly benefits the channel. Understanding how to leverage programmable networks in the age of the cloud will be nothing short of crucial. Without it, most solution providers will find it increasingly difficult to succeed in an age where the line between programmable networks and the cloud itself is rapidly becoming indistinguishable.