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Digital transformation, cybersecurity and cryptocurrency: How the war in Ukraine will change technology forever

The war in Ukraine and ICT vendors: 3 coming challenges in a changed world

Less than two weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, TBR’s assessment of the effects on the ICT market remains necessarily constrained. The majority of the largest ICT vendors TBR covers do not have tremendous local market and/or client exposure to Russia or Ukraine, so the impact of the war on ICT companies, if the conflict remains limited to those two countries, will be marginal — not insignificant, but marginal — with some exceptions, such as Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and SAP (NYSE: SAP). Longer term, absent either a miraculously positive or an existentially negative development (peace blooms or mushroom clouds), TBR expects the pressures detailed below will force IT services, cloud and software, data center and infrastructure, and telecom vendors to adjust their strategies and their business models.

 

Digital transformations slow, opening new opportunities

Already stressed supply chains will experience additional sand in the gears, slowing down deliveries of essential hardware and delaying build-outs of data centers, enterprises’ IT infrastructures, and even the physical towers needed for telecommunications. While IT services vendors and consultancies have sold digital transformation (DT) as a method of addressing business problems through agile application of emerging technologies, enterprises and their technology suppliers need the actual physical components to make the “digital” part of digital transformation work. A slowdown in hardware availability will convert into a slowdown in enabled applications and soon everything around DT will become slower and more expensive.

 

In this DT winter, consultancies advising on supply chain issues and global systems integrators (GSIs) and their technology partners enabling hybrid cloud while bolstering on-premises enhancements will flourish. Chip manufacturing investors will receive government backing and may find technology vendors across the entire ecosystem willing to make long-term commitments to mitigate the risks they are facing now. In a reversal of fortune from the last few years in IT, third-party maintenance specialists — the very boring techies who are keeping the old systems running while the young geeks play with AI and the metaverse — may see a boom as a constrained chip supply and slowed digital transformations make keeping the current technology operational increasingly important.

 

Cybersecurity commands center stage (hopefully, for real this time)

In every survey TBR has conducted around IT services and digital transformation, buyers have prioritized cybersecurity as a top three — and frequently No. 1 — concern. And yet, enterprises underinvest and remain vulnerable, humans fail to take precautions and fall prey to ransomware attacks and worse, and cybersecurity remains more talked about than acted upon. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will change that. While pre-invasion predictions anticipated an aggressive Russian cyber campaign, the first week of fighting featured exclusively kinetic military action, with limited, negligible cyber strikes. Analysis conducted in the middle of combat rarely survives intact once the smoke clears, but TBR believes a couple of scenarios could account for Russia’s relative cyber silence. The most encouraging one is that Ukraine’s defenses worked. While NATO, particularly the U.S., shared near-real-time intelligence in the lead-up to the invasion as a means of applying diplomatic pressure and denying Putin a war narrative suited to Russia’s needs, the West and Ukraine would be less likely to share cybersecurity victories in the same way military successes have been touted and with the same divulgence of critical intelligence. A less-encouraging scenario would be that Russia is saving its cyber strikes for an anticipated second stage of the war, when the shooting slows and economic and political wills are tested. Cyberattacks that take critical energy infrastructure offline in Western Europe would be damaging now but would have a greater effect on NATO countries’ populations during a prolonged economic slowdown tied to a standoff in Ukraine. In either scenario, consultancies, GSIs and technology vendors providing cybersecurity services and infrastructure will benefit from renewed concentration in the C-suite on cyber risks, provided those vendors have invested in country-specific, locally sourced, certified talent.

 

 

Russian aggression will not dampen pandemic-driven cloud demand

After benefiting from COVID-19 disruption, cloud should fare well yet again in the face of the war in Ukraine

We expect cloud vendors to experience limited financial and operational disruption as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Most cloud and software vendors generate a small percentage of their revenue from the two countries combined and maintain limited direct investment, partly due to Russian business regulations. The larger potential impact, in terms of the cloud market, is a slowdown in adoption and investment. The effects of the invasion on the global economy, COVID-19 recovery, and energy markets are all still uncertain.

During the last prolonged economic downturn in 2008, the cloud market was still very early in its development and still quite a small part of most customers’ IT environments. That challenging economic environment was a boon for cloud adoption, largely due to the cost reduction and capital expense avoidance benefits it could provide to customers. The general perception and value of cloud have evolved since then to be more focused on agility and innovation rather than just cost savings, a change we believe may again benefit the cloud market.

In times of uncertainty, cloud’s ability to help customers change business processes, gain greater insight into data, and ensure IT services are available regardless of geolocation have proved invaluable. While prolonged economic uncertainty could pressure IT budgets, we expect cloud to remain a priority given the value customers have realized especially during challenging times. The cloud space may not directly benefit from this invasion as it did with COVID-19, but we expect its growth will continue.

Global hyperscalers do not stand to lose significant revenue streams, but will see delays in the already lagging eastern European cloud markets

The most obvious and direct impact of the war is the disruption of revenue streams for cloud vendors with business and footprints in Ukraine and Russia. Especially in Ukraine, business operations have been all but halted as citizens flee, protect their families, and defend their nation from the Russian military.

While the magnitude is not overly significant to most cloud vendors due to the relatively small size of Ukraine in population, economy and overall cloud adoption, certain global vendors, specifically Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), have a sizable presence and generate revenue streams within the country. Microsoft announced a partnership with the Ukrainian government for cloud services and security in 2014 and in 2020 was discussing plans to invest up to $500 million, including two new data centers, to service the Ukrainian market. That investment has not yet come to fruition, but Microsoft’s relationship with the Ukrainian government has intensified as it works to thwart cybersecurity threats arising from the war.

Russia is certainly a larger economy, but also should not lead to material pressures for cloud vendors during the war and its aftermath. As the aggressor, Russia does not face security threats like Ukraine does, but sanctions have wreaked havoc on Russia’s economy. With the ruble plummeting, Moscow Stock Exchange closed, and financial systems facing chaos, the IT and cloud spaces are impacted along with every other industry in Russia. The effects are mitigated by the fact that cloud adoption has been quite low in the country. Europe in general lagged the U.S. in the acceptance and implementation of cloud solutions, and Russia is even farther behind.

According to industry estimates, 5% or less of IT spend in Russia is cloud related, well below worldwide rates in the 25% range, which means that Russia accounts for less than 1% of the total cloud market opportunity. For the U.S.-based cloud leaders, the revenue effects are mitigated even further by the regulatory challenges of competing in the country. Similar to China, Russia’s laws prevent direct operations by foreign firms. Local providers like Yandex, SberCloud and Mail.ru control a majority of the market. Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) (Nasdaq: AMZN) have partnered with some of these local providers to participate in Russia, but we do not believe those relationships have grown into significant revenue streams. The war will mean cloud revenue will be delayed further for AWS, Microsoft and other leading global cloud providers, and some vendors might opt to shutter their operations in the country.

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Logicalis: The partner for helping with today’s problems and providing solutions for the future  

In February 2022 TBR spoke with Logicalis Group Chief Operating Officer Michael Chanter and Chief Technology Officer Toby Alock for an update on the company’s strategy as well as an overview of the company’s new Global Services Organization (GSO), including its solutions portfolio and road map. The conversation, which contained specific details on strategy, was a continuation of the journey Logicalis embarked on nearly two years ago when it appointed Bob Bailkoski as CEO.  

In TBR’s special report Know-your-tech strategy could be invaluable as Logicalis aims to disrupt peers in cloud managed services, we wrote, “Logicalis’ efforts to optimize its legacy operations while doubling down on key growth areas such as cloud will largely depend on the company’s ability to develop integrated scale to ensure standardized service delivery.” The launch of Logicalis’ GSO highlighted these efforts and marked a new stage in the company’s ability to deploy practical solutions that build a foundation of trust with partners, employees and clients.  

Transforming into a modern managed services provider  

Logicalis Group’s executives understand the need to develop an ever-evolving strategy that allows the company to stay abreast of market trends. Pivoting from historically employing a regional focus to now building outcome-based solutions that are global in nature paves the way for Logicalis to build scale. Ensuring internal organizational silos are removed will be key, as clients expect vendors to deliver services locally through globally integrated operations.  

At the same time, Logicalis realizes the importance of nurturing local relationships, ensuring its consultants and professional services organization continue to operate as close to the customer as possible. Developing a “modern managed services organization,” as Chanter describes the company’s transformation, is not an easy task, especially when executed at scale.  

Accounting for the permeation of automation to drive efficiency and fine-tuning operations and business models to facilitate cloud-enabled sales, service delivery and support are among the key pillars of GSO. Continuing to provide existing clients with support also enables GSO to secure foundational revenues and maintain relevance, as often clients take time to move to the next phase of their digital transformation (DT) programs.  

When TBR asked about the change management that typically comes with such evolution, especially due to the increased use of automation in service delivery, Chanter provided a strong use case for how the company is handling it. Starting with the appointment of an executive dedicated to overseeing transformation, the main focus then has been teaching staff how to be agile while also considering new compensation models in connection with cloud-enabled service delivery.  

Providing support to external clients has been enabled by a three-part framework: Align, Transform, Scale. Logicalis first assesses where clients are in their DT journey compared to their desired outcome. The company then maps out the kind of support it can provide at different points in the journey, relying on its professional services organization to feed regional market nuances. With sales teams trained and certified before going to market, Logicalis also tries to align and close the feedback loop with staff at the Centers of Excellence (CoEs), which are typically responsible for the development and management of global solutions.  

As Logicalis Group aims to increase its share of the managed services market, we believe the company will continue to work toward striking the right balance between developing automation-enabled services P&L and achieving integrated scale. Previously, TBR wrote, “Logicalis has begun to identify areas across geos, industry verticals and horizontal areas that can support its goal of expanding share of highly profitable ‘as a Service’ managed service sales, which currently garner about 25% of its global revenues. … As Logicalis works out the details around managing its partner ecosystem, Bailkoski and [Chief Customer Experience and Service Transformation Officer Vincent] DeLuca are also increasing the company’s investments in internal portfolio offerings that will not simply standardize global service delivery but also pave the way for an innovative approach to engaging with clients. Launched in June, we believe Logicalis’ AI-enabled Digital Service Platform (DSP) will be the center node of Logicalis’ solutions and services ecosystem, similar to how iTunes has helped Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) build a community of die-hard brand followers.”  

Logicalis is on the right path to achieving its managed services goals, but like many of its peers, it needs to partner better and differently than it has in the past, especially as buyer expectations around managing partner ecosystems also evolve. Meanwhile, expanding its global footprint, similar to opening an engineering center in Portugal to house about 200 employees in support of the Agile, Transform, Scale framework, will continue to bolster Logicalis’ resource bench for building and delivering solutions at scale as clients seek support around migrating and transforming operations. Chanter noted that the new Portugal facility will “help transform clients quickly and help Logicalis transform.” TBR notes this dual-track approach has proved successful for other IT services vendors undergoing their own digital transformations.  

As the pandemic continues to push customers to hybrid IT, vendors aim to meet demand with flexible, cloud-like pricing models

Average revenue growth for vendors in TBR’s Cloud Components Benchmark increased 12.6% year-to-year in 3Q21, partly due to a favorable year-ago compare considering the economic impacts of COVID-19 in mid-2020. Further, with many vendors operating transactional-heavy business models, rebounding demand for license products supported revenue growth during the quarter, especially for software-centric vendors like Microsoft and VMware. COVID-19 is causing customers to reevaluate their digital transformation plans; this may include migrating completely to a cloud environment, which will erode opportunities for some vendors while others will expand their existing data center investments through solutions like hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI).

Software-centric circles are blue. Hardware-centric circles are orange.

Given some customers’ reluctance to move outside the data center, opportunities arise for vendors to push ‘as a Service’ offerings

According to TBR’s 2H21 Cloud Infrastructure & Platforms Customer Research, 42% of respondents plan to keep most of their workloads inside the data center over the next three years. As COVID-19 accelerates customers’ cloud migration timelines, many enterprises turn to self-built private cloud environments as an intermediary step to a fully managed vendor-hosted private or public cloud model.

Further, many larger, established enterprises are looking to protect their existing investments in IT and find that their own data centers are a better fit for certain workloads, particularly those with stringent security or latency requirements. These customer trends present opportunities for hardware-centric vendors such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dell EMC to capitalize on demand for cloud-like consumption services on premises in the coming years.

Data center consolidation persists

Many self-built private cloud customers adopt HCI solutions to modernize their legacy systems and consolidate their overall data center footprint, a trend brought on by cloud migrations and exacerbated by the pandemic. Colocation is emerging as a notable alternative to privately owned data centers in this model, as customers are offered a secure landing spot for their hardware while providing high proximity to major public cloud platforms. Recognizing this trend, OEMs are partnering with colocation providers to offer central management and governance capabilities that facilitate customers’ workloads.

Vendor competition ramps up amid high demand for cloud-like economics on premises

The cloud components market is consolidating around select vendors, such as Microsoft and VMware, specifically in the virtualization space. However, on the hardware side, vendors are emphasizing their consumption-based pricing offerings, seeking differentiation by taking a workload-by-workload approach. While in general IBM has been lacking in consumption-based hardware, the company is expanding its investments in the area, evidenced by the release of the company’s Tailor Fit Pricing solution for hardware consumption, which applies a pay-as-you-go model to a highly scalable, premium solution like IBM Z.

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Rebounding demand for licensed software and pay-as-you-go models supported vendors’ revenue growth in 3Q21

In 3Q21 average revenue growth for benchmarked vendors increased 12.6% year-to-year, partly due to a favorable year-ago compare considering the economic impacts of COVID-19 in mid-2020. Further, with many vendors operating transactional-heavy business models, rebounding demand for license products supported revenue growth during the quarter, especially for software-centric vendors like Microsoft and VMware. COVID-19 is causing customers to reevaluate their digital transformation plans; this may include migrating completely to a cloud environment, which will erode opportunities for some vendors while others will expand their existing data center investments through solutions like hyperconverged infrastructure.

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Hyperscalers’ cloud-based modern network architecture provides strategic advantage over legacy network technologies

Hyperscaler-built networks will look very different from traditional networks

Hyperscalers are building end-to-end networks that embody all the attributes and characteristics coveted by communication service providers (CSPs) as part of their digital transformations. The most significant differences are in the software stack and the access layer, where new technologies enable hyperscalers to build dense mesh networks in unlicensed and/or shared spectrum bands and build out low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite overlays for access and backhaul. Mesh networks will likely be used to provide low-cost, wireless-fiber-like connectivity in urban and suburban environments, while satellites will primarily be leveraged to provide connectivity to rural and remote environments.

Hyperscalers are starting from scratch, completely reimagining how networks should be built and operated. Their clouds, numerous network-related experiments over the past decade, plus the raft of new network-related technologies on the road map will enable hyperscalers to build asset-light, automated networks at a fraction of the cost of traditional networks.

Hyperscaler networks will cost a fraction of traditional networks

TBR estimates hyperscaler networks cost 50% to 80% less to build than traditional networks (excludes the cost of spectrum, which would make the cost differential even more pronounced because hyperscalers will primarily leverage unlicensed and shared spectrum, which is free to use). Most of the cost savings stems from innovations, such as mesh networking, carrier aggregation, LEO satellites and integrated access-backhaul, that enable significantly less wired infrastructure to be deployed in the access layer for backhaul and last-mile connection purposes.

For example, Meta’s Terragraph mesh access point can autonomously hop signals through multiple other access points before sending the data through the nearest available backhaul conduit. In the traditional architecture, some form of backhaul would need to connect to each access point to backhaul the traffic. Mesh signals could also be backhauled through LEO satellites, further limiting the need to deploy wired infrastructure in the access layer, which is one of the most significant costs of traditional networks.

Another key area of cost savings stems from cutting out certain aspects of the traditional value chain. By open-sourcing some innovations, such as hardware designs, hyperscalers can foster a vibrant ecosystem of ODMs to manufacture white boxes to compose the physical network. The white-boxing of ICT hardware can lead to cost savings of up to 50% compared to proprietary, purpose-built appliances.

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Conversion, integration and ecosystems drive SaaS growth

Applications serve as the vessel for cloud’s business value 

Value, in the form of agility, innovation and efficiency, is now the driving force behind customers’ cloud investments. Applications, in the form of SaaS, are the purest vessel for customers to implement and achieve the value they so desperately want in order to improve their businesses. It is for that reason that TBR published our first Cloud and Software Applications Benchmark, tracking the nuances of the applications space from a workload and subworkload perspective.

Customers’ growing reliance on SaaS solutions is shown in the market growth of the 10 vendors covered in the inaugural report — their aggregate revenue increased by 26.4% year-to-year in 3Q21, a rate that has accelerated over the past year. Business Applications workloads, which include ERP solutions, was the fastest-growing segment, with aggregate revenue for the 10 vendors covered increasing by 28.5% year-to-year during 3Q21. The drivers of this expansion are threefold: conversion of existing customers to cloud; the integration of solutions through hybrid deployments; and revenue driven by the ecosystems that are critical to the innovation and go-to-market strategy for SaaS solutions.  

Providers from all backgrounds now look to existing customers as their first growth option 

For both traditional software providers and companies that were born on the cloud, customers with existing traditional software installations have become one of the main drivers of SaaS growth. Traditional software providers did not always see the market this way. In fact, SaaS was a threat to their existing license and maintenance businesses for quite some time. After years of customers voting with their dollars and selecting SaaS-delivered solutions over the traditional license and maintenance delivery model, nearly all applications vendors currently see their existing bases as the first opportunity for growth.

In some ways, this transition has played out on a workload-by-workload basis. Sales and marketing applications, led by CRM, are on the periphery of most enterprise applications suites and were the earliest to see a shift to SaaS over traditional software purchasing. Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) led this trend, converting many existing customers from traditional leading providers like SAP (NYSE: SAP) and Oracle (NYSE: ORCL). The dynamics in CRM served as a warning shot for many traditional providers. Even the most reluctant SaaS providers, like Oracle, are now focused on offering cloud solutions to their existing customers before their competitors can.

The shift in strategy is well timed for traditional providers, as cloud demand in the Business Applications segment is beginning to accelerate. As shown in Figure 1, Business Applications has the lowest cloud revenue mix for the vendors included in TBR’s Cloud and Software Applications Benchmark, making it the largest opportunity for traditional customer conversion.  

Figure 1

Amid a sea of portfolio offerings, Accenture’s TS&A practice helps the company translate tech into business outcomes

Accenture’s TS&A practice provides path into re-architecting clients’ DT programs 

Accenture’s value proposition continues to revolve around the company’s ability to deliver services through integrated scale, addressing clients’ pain points across the various stages of the advise-build-run life cycle. In mid-December TBR had a chance to hear from the leaders of Accenture’s Technology Strategy and Advisory (TS&A) practice, which, in TBR’s view, has been one of the industry’s best-kept secrets as it provides a bridge between the various parts of Accenture’s organization. Launched following the company’s pivot to the Next-Gen Growth model in March 2020, the TS&A practice is part of Accenture’s Strategy & Consulting business, which is focused on architecting and translating the value of technology to both tech and business clients.

 

TBR estimates Accenture’s IT consulting revenue, which we believe largely maps to the TS&A practice portfolio, grew 30% year-to-year to $4.7 billion in 2021. Backed by over 4,000 dedicated practitioners across seven capability groups — Cloud Acceleration and Innovation, Data-led Transformation, Enterprise Agility, Future Tech, Technology Value Realization, Trust and Security, and Tech Mergers and Acquisitions. Accenture Cloud First is a significant contributor in the TS&A’s performance.  

 

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With tools such myNav, myDiagnostic and Transformation Office at its disposal, TS&A, in TBR’s view, has an opportunity to further accelerate its performance, provided the practice’s account management does not overlap with that of other parts of Accenture’s business, especially as the unit also targets Accenture’s traditional buyer personas, including the CIO and chief technology officer (CTO). Accenture sees CIOs and CTOs as the “new corporate rock stars,” which is a logical position considering Accenture’s established enterprise footprint and decades-long relationships with these personas.

 

TS&A strives to elevate the value of Accenture’s portfolio around its ability to include innovation while also supporting CIOs and CTOs in, as Accenture calls them, the “5Rs”: Resilience, Restructuring, Reinvention, Reskilling and Reduction. We see Accenture bringing innovation into these discussions in two ways: by embedding and relying on its network of luminaries, who can infuse cross-industry use cases to support engagements; and by utilizing its global network of innovation hubs.

 

With Accenture again investing in physical centers, including the recent openings of a smart-city-centric hub in Singapore; Innovation Center for Cloud in Indonesia; Advanced Technology Center in Thailand; Innovation Showcase at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Interactive Studio in Munich, Germany, we believe TS&A has a new set of opportunities to increase awareness of the practice across the company’s broader portfolio, especially as the practice seems to have been withstanding the industry trend of increased employee turnover, with flat attrition over the past year. (See TBR’s Innovation and Transformation Centers Market Landscape for additional details.)  

 

TBR views Deloitte Digital as the most direct competitor to TS&A; however, Deloitte’s member firm structure often challenges Deloitte Digital to execute on a cohesive strategy, creating an opening for TS&A. [Tweet this!] Relying on industry- and function-specific playbooks, which Accenture updates as often as every six months, also helps the company stay abreast of new trends and support clients through their transformation agendas. Additionally, the exclusive alignment of TS&A’s portfolio capabilities with partner offerings enhances the practice’s value proposition.

 

For example, TS&A aligns with Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure for industry solutions; with Atlassian for enterprise agility; with Celonis, ServiceNow and Splunk for data-driven transformation (since we spoke with TS&A’s leadership, Accenture has expanded its relationships with Celonis and Splunk and recently launched the Accenture Splunk Business Group); and Apptio for technology value. This strategy could disrupt Accenture’s partner model if it scales up, especially as the company continues to tout vendor agnosticism. In the long term, though, we believe as services vendors retune their partner messaging and go-to-market efforts to meet enterprise buyers’ expectations, pivoting from being vendor agnostic to capability aligned will help separate winning vendors from laggards. Accenture is in its typical market-making position, and the TS&A practice could signal the company’s plans to make a market-leading change once again. ​ 

 

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2022 Predictions: Cloud

Join Practice Manager and Principal Analyst Allan Krans, Senior Analyst Catie Merrill and Senior Analyst Evan Woollacott Thursday, March 10, 2022, at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST for an in-depth, exclusive review of TBR’s three 2022 Predictions special reports on the cloud market — Cloud Partnerships, Cloud Applications and Cloud Infrastructure & Platforms — each part of TBR’s Predictions special series examining market trends and business changes in key markets, such as cloud, IT services, digital transformation and telecom. 

Don’t miss:

  • Customization becomes the standard for cloud applications
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