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Quick Quantum Quips: Public investment continues to drive quantum computing development

Welcome to TBR’s monthly newsletter on the quantum computing market: Quick Quantum Quips (Q3). This market changes rapidly, and the hype can often distract from the realities of the actual technological developments. This newsletter keeps the community up to date on recent announcements while stripping away the hype around developments.

For more details, reach out to Geoff Woollacott or Jacob Fong to set up a time to chat.

April 2021 Developments:

Activities this month illustrate the burgeoning signs of early quantum commercialization more so than the research discoveries advancing the computational power of quantum architectures themselves would suggest. Microsoft landed a new enterprise partnership; QC Ware established a public military partnership; the University of Maryland furthered its goal of becoming a quantum hub by creating a quantum-focused incubator; and CQC added talent to its rich scientific team. In addition, we highlight infinityQ Technology, which introduced its first quantum computer using what it describes as “quantum analog computing.”

Microsoft: In late April Microsoft announced an early quantum partnership with Ally Financial, the parent company of Ally Bank, to explore quantum algorithm use cases. Through Azure Quantum, Ally will gain access to quantum computing expertise and the ability to upskill its team on specific quantum software development through Microsoft’s quantum development kit.

Near-term enterprise quantum activity will likely continue to look very similar to this type of partnership. While full-scale enterprise quantum applications are still several years away, enterprises will want to begin learning about the fundamental technology, current and anticipated capabilities, and high-level application and integration scenarios specific to their industries and businesses if they intend on capitalizing on early adoption advantages. As we see with the Microsoft-Ally partnership, enterprises are beginning to take the important steps to most effectively utilize the capabilities quantum computing will bring by developing these relationships with quantum vendors and cultivating talent and subject-matter expertise.

Additionally, TBR believes the leading cloud platform and infrastructure providers in enterprise, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and IBM Cloud, will play a large role in quantum computing distribution, as buying and deploying on-premises quantum computers will not always be necessary or practical in use cases that do not have strict low-latency requirements.

QC Ware: The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the primary research and development branch of the Air Force, formed a partnership with QC Ware to use its quantum machine learning algorithm, q-means, to infer unmanned aircraft mission objectives based on the observed flight paths. A core objective of the AFRL has been to facilitate the advancement of key areas of quantum algorithm development such as optimization, machine learning and quantum simulation.

University of Maryland: The University of Maryland is creating a quantum incubator to help nurture early-stage startups that spawn from the university, such as academic spinoffs and companies started by entrepreneurial graduates. Initially budgeted at $25 million, the incubator will presumably provide funding and operational resources such as access to offices and labs, high-speed internet, and networking opportunities for executive advisers, talent and potential customers.

Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC): The U.K.-based quantum startup bolstered its scientific team by naming Professor Stephen Clark as head of artificial intelligence. He transitioned from DeepMind, an AI subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., where he was a senior staff research scientist. DeepMind notably created some of the strongest AI engines with its games Chess and Go, which are well suited for AI experimentation due to the astronomically large number of permutations achievable in a bounded environment. Clark specializes in natural language processing and led a team at DeepMind that was working on grounded language learning in virtual environments. Prior to his work in the private sector, Clark was a faculty member at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.  

infinityQ Technology, Inc.: This Montreal-based, woman-founded and -led quantum startup introduced its first-generation quantum computer, which uses a unique approach the company calls “quantum-analog computing.” The approach falls outside the categories found in other system architectures that use elements of superconductivity or ion-trap technology to reap the benefits of quantum mechanics in computing.

InfinityQ describes quantum-analog computing as using “artificial atoms to exploit the superposition effect and achieve quantum computing capabilities without the error correction and cryogenics tax.” The company reported that the quantum-analog computing approach offers certain advantages, including extreme energy efficiency, a compact form factor and the ability to operate at room temperature — all characteristics that are in direct contrast to the shortcomings of the superconductive quantum architecture. The company claims it has demonstrated the ability to solve the famous traveling salesman problem for 128 cities, compared to the 22 cities that other, presumably quantum, machines have been able to solve.

If you would like more detailed information about the quantum computing market, please inquire about TBR’s Quantum Computing Market Landscape, a semiannual deep dive into the quantum computing market. Our latest edition, published in December, focuses on the software layer of quantum systems.

With Nuance, Microsoft buys into healthcare and more

Microsoft announced its second largest acquisition in company history on April 12 with its intent to purchase Nuance Communications for $19.7 billion. Nuance’s presence in the healthcare vertical was touted as driving the move, but TBR believes much deeper and broader strategies were behind Microsoft’s decision.

Buying Nuance gives Microsoft an opportunity, but not a guarantee, to sustain growth

The announced acquisition of Nuance is the culmination of multiple elements of Microsoft’s recent performance, strategy and growth plans. On performance, Microsoft has benefitted from the COVID-19 pandemic perhaps more than any other technology vendor. Technology demands of businesses and consumers reacting to the pandemic boosted nearly all of Microsoft’s sprawling businesses, aside from an initial downturn in advertising spend that negativly impacted the LinkedIn business. From a strategy perspective, industry specialization has been a growing focus for Microsoft over the past five years, which is a shift in its mostly horizontal technology approach throughout its long history. Healthcare has been a frequent focus, but so too have retail, manufacturing and financial services specialization.

Lastly, in growth, Microsoft has been searching for the next $10 billion plus growth business. Microsoft Office 365 and Azure are clearly carrying Microsoft’s financial performance to date, but new addressable markets are needed to carry corporate growth and profitability for the next decade. While Nuance itself cannot assume that burden, the capabilities Microsoft will acquire will make many of its core technologies relevant to a much wider audience and set of use cases. In this way, the purchase of Nuance is similar to that of LinkedIn, with the full value of the investment hinging on successfully leveraging the technology to benefit as many other business units as possible.

Healthcare is large and ripe for IT investment

Unsurprisingly, healthcare has a profound impact on modern society, with an industry size to reflect that. In the U.S. alone, healthcare spending was $3.8 trillion in 2019, representing 17.7% of total gross domestic product (GDP). Furthermore, healthcare spending increased by 4.6% in 2019, a rate far outpacing growth of the overall economy.

Those facts are only part of the reason healthcare is such an attractive market for IT companies. While many verticals have fully embraced technology-driven transformation over the past decade, healthcare has been much slower to change. While technology has fundamentally changed the retail experience and business model, healthcare’s core operations and customer experience have remained much the same. Delaying this maturity in part are the strict regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which healthcare entities in the U.S. must meet, creating substantial risk for any IT budget decision makers planning to modernize their environments with cloud, let alone pursue innovative technologies such as IoT to improve the care they provide to patients.

There are glimmers of promise that the healthcare vertical is ready to begin transformations driven by increased technology adoption. Part of the shift is a generational change in doctors and providers. The influence that doctors have within the healthcare industry is one of the attributes that makes the healthcare vertical unique. Generational change among the physician ranks is having an outsized impact on the acceptance of technology within healthcare, but that is only one of the factors pointing to an increase in technology adoption.

Outside of shifting perception, the impact of COVID-19 has forced hospitals and patients alike to embrace solutions that have been around for years but are now a necessity to maintaining the patient-doctor relationship and safety, such as telemedicine. And with all major cloud technology providers offering HIPAA compliance, along with an ecosystem of partners that can leverage those delivery platforms, the aforementioned regulatory requirements are now less of a barrier in slow technology adoption.

Microsoft Teams in crosshairs as Salesforce announces acquisition of Slack to bolster its Customer 360 vision

Slack fits within Salesforce’s historical growth strategy

Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) has increasingly relied on inorganic growth to accelerate top-line revenue performance, such as its acquisitions of MuleSoft in 2018 for $6.5 billion and Tableau in 2019 for $15.7 billion. The addition of Slack (NYSE: WORK) would allow Salesforce to augment its robust, customer-focused products, including Sales and Service clouds, with Slack’s internal collaboration and communication platform, which contains a robust ecosystem of third-party integrations. Speaking about the acquisition during Salesforce’s 3Q20 earnings call, CEO Marc Benioff stated, “More than 90% of Slack’s enterprise customers are also Salesforce customers, but we also see how much further they can go.”

How much further Slack’s clients can go on their deployments will be contingent on Salesforce’s ability to articulate the value of the Customer 360 vision to the acquired clients. Execution of this portfolio strategy will be critical to complementing Salesforce’s inorganic growth by driving demand of existing front-office suites like Sales and Service clouds, in addition to broadening the company’s presence beyond the front-office with recent product launches like middle- and back-office-focused suite Revenue Cloud.

Integrating Slack’s value proposition with existing go-to-market efforts

The acquisition of Slack would bolster Salesforce’s Customer 360 portfolio strategy by adding a robust collaboration product at the center of the platform. This tactic mirrors recent investments by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) around Teams, such as tighter integrations with products like Dynamics 365, which, combined with enterprise needs as a result of the pandemic, accelerated Teams’ daily active user growth by a reported 53% from April to October. Further, the acquisition will increase the competitiveness of Slack in larger-scale multiproduct engagements, a dynamic the company struggled with in the past, given its lack of portfolio breadth compared to Microsoft. This is evidenced by Slack’s July filing of an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in the European Union, citing unfair market competition as the company frequently included Teams as a free trial within multiproduct bundles, such as Microsoft 365.

With this in mind, TBR believes the planned acquisition’s success will be contingent on Salesforce’s ability to integrate Slack’s value proposition as an internal collaboration into its customer-focused suites, thus allowing Salesforce to generate cross-sale opportunities within the acquired install base. For instance, Salesforce used investments around Work.com, a platform the company released in May in response to the pandemic, to create revenue opportunities from support for remote workforces. Specifically, Salesforce launched updates in September around employee engagement and productivity, including Employee Workspace, which provides users with a central hub to access and manage resources like learning platforms, payroll systems and collaboration applications, providing a clear path for integration with the capabilities that will be acquired from Slack. Aligning Slack capabilities with products like Work.com could help Salesforce differentiate Slack and use it to strengthen the Customer 360 portfolio strategy with clients.

After a week of market speculation, Salesforce confirmed ahead of its 3Q20 earnings call the company’s intent to acquire Slack for $27.7 billion, which would be the largest acquisition in the company’s history. The deal, which is expected to close in 2Q21, will be funded by a combination of new debt and cash on hand. The planned acquisition would inject an estimated $600 million in revenue in 2021, supporting Salesforce’s 2021 revenue guidance of approximately $25.45 billion to $25.55 billion, representing a yearly growth of about 21%.

2Q20 gives cloud vendors hope the worst COVID-19 impacts are over

2Q20 was better than expected and sparks more long-term optimism

Results in 2Q20 reflect a full quarter’s worth of COVID-19 impact, and the sigh of relief from executives at leading cloud providers was almost audible. That is not to say negative impacts were not felt, though. Transactional activity was once a nice growth driver for cloud providers, laying additional revenue on top of the long-term contracts that typically provide the majority of cloud revenue. Those revenue streams have been hardest hit in the cloud space, as businesses across the board initially looked to trim expenses amid pandemic-driven disruption and financial challenges. Some long-term projects have been delayed, particularly among smaller customers that lack the same degree of financial stability their larger counterparts possess to weather challenging times. And lastly, there remains a considerable amount of uncertainty as to how the economy and customer demand will change in 2H20.

Despite these challenges, numerous positives occurred for cloud providers during 2Q20. Those positive elements not only yielded a better-than-feared performance in the quarter but also gave vendors a reason to believe there could be even more improvement in the back half of the year. One factor spurring this optimism is that, for the most part, COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends within the competitive landscape, rather than dramatically altered them. Customers are not scrapping planned cloud investments, although they may be delaying or paring them back temporarily. The largest vendors, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), saw deceleration in their revenue growth rates, but that has been occurring for years. SAP (NYSE: SAP) needed to rely on remote services to take new deployments live, but that too has been a trend for quite some time. Lastly, Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) saw a decline in cloud revenue growth and continues to trail competitors in pace of cloud growth, but that is the latest chapter in an ongoing story.

The silver lining that was consistently reported across 2Q20 earnings calls is that customer demand for cloud solutions long-term is expected to strengthen. Many vendors are looking to endear themselves to customers now by helping customers reduce expenses and by aiding in COVID-19 response. On the pricing front, vendors strategies range from pricing flexibility to discounts to assisting customers in finding efficiencies that reduce costs. To help customers respond to COVID-19, cloud vendors have developed targeted solutions and IP that support shifts in business operations, many of which are being offered free of charge or at a deep discount in the near term. These efforts may dampen some of the short-term growth for cloud solutions. However, cloud vendors have growing reason to believe they will reap the benefits of accelerated cloud investment once the economy and their customers’ businesses improve.

Cloud Revenue Growth Trending 2Q19-3Q20E

COVID-19 has not impacted all industries equally. Though cloud proved resilient during 1Q20, there was still trepidation about how customers in harder-hit industries like travel, entertainment and transportation would react through the remainder of 2020. Not only were results in 2Q20 stable for leading cloud vendors, there is optimism that demand for cloud technologies will remain robust through year’s end regardless of how other industries and the broader economy perform. 

Hybrid-influenced vendors respond to customer demands, including limited vendor lock-in and seamless, secure integrations

Hybrid-influenced vendors sit in a high-growth market as they rely on proprietary infrastructure to architect in-demand hybrid solutions. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is separating itself from much of the market as many enterprises use Office 365 in a hybrid environment and as the vendor wins legacy VMware (NYSE: VMW), Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) and SAP (NYSE: SAP) workloads. Among vendors competing for legacy workloads, TBR expects Amazon Web Services’ hybrid-influenced revenue will continue to grow as the vendor strongly competes against Microsoft for the enterprise migrations.

TBR’s Hybrid Benchmark helps providers of hybrid environments and their partners align to growing opportunity, highlighting the market size of hybrid-influenced public cloud, hosted private cloud and traditional software; the go-to-market strategies vendors are using to drive revenue in the hybrid IT space; gaps in the current ecosystems for enterprises; how vendors are addressing customers’ integration challenges; and more.

Trailing vendors collaborate to better compete against market leaders, which are expanding globally

Public Cloud Market Summary

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft remain leaders in public cloud, but their cloud strategies are extending well beyond the segment as they also enable hybrid environments with internal hybrid cloud offerings such as Azure and Azure Stack that entice enterprises with latency-sensitive or regulated workloads to leverage cloud environments. Microsoft is improving its competitive position against AWS through partnerships, notably its direct data center connections with Oracle. Although only a limited number of regions support these direct connections currently, the Microsoft-Oracle partnership is expanding with new direct connections in Canada. However, AWS holds significant IaaS market share and remains the leading IaaS provider as of 4Q19.

While both vendors still offer IaaS, IBM and Google have taken unique approaches to winning enterprise customers through vendor-agnostic and Kubernetes-based PaaS. IBM holds a greater share of this market as it attained a strong IBM Cloud Private customer base prior to the launch of Anthos, and IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat grew IBM’s position in the space. TBR expects that both IBM and Google will be successful with this vendor-agnostic strategy as many enterprises look to leverage Kubernetes-based PaaS for their hybrid environments, evidenced by IBM’s customer base of more than 2,000 clients using Red Hat and IBM container solutions — such as IBM Cloud Paks — as of 4Q19.

Public cloud remains the largest and fastest growing segment of the cloud market. Changes in customer acceptance, data integrations and innovation have combined to sustain the rapid growth of public cloud adoption. TBR’s Public Cloud Benchmark details how hybrid deployments, new use cases for enterprise apps, and trends in emerging technology will make public cloud even more relevant in the future.

Zoom videoconferencing booms amid COVID-19, but Microsoft and Google will win with broader SaaS

Zoom’s rapid adoption highlights security concerns; Microsoft and Google are better positioned

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOGL) were relatively well prepared for the unexpected demand for videoconferencing, with global data centers and strong security measures in place, while Zoom’s security was not ready for the same scaling. There have been numerous reports of “Zoombombing,” which is when hackers join a Zoom meeting and disrupt the workflow, particularly in online classrooms. While some educators did not use password protection to make their online classrooms private, TBR believes this security lapse also occurred because Zoom lacks end-to-end encryption. Microsoft and Google Cloud have experienced difficulty with outages but have performed well in terms of security with end-to-end encryption in Teams and Meet. The regularity of these hacks has led to a recent investigation by the FBI and caused some government agencies, companies and educational institutions to ban the use of Zoom. In TBR’s special report Security measures taken to combat impacts of COVID-19 on businesses will have long-term implications, Senior Analyst Nicole Catchpole discusses the security concerns with Zoom and other cybersecurity threats that have risen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoom, Microsoft and Google remove pay barriers, increasing usage and setting the foundation for a much larger base of paying customers post-COVID-19

Use of videoconferencing solutions is skyrocketing, but modernization of these platforms will be a long-term strategy

Zoom, Microsoft and Google are offering their video-collaboration tools for free to support the unexpected global shift to remote work and learning environments. For six months, Microsoft is removing paywalls for Government Cloud and certain Office 365 subscriptions — including Office 365 E1 for businesses and Office 365 A1 for educational institutions, both of which include Microsoft Teams. Google Cloud is also offering Meet for free until Sept. 30, but only to existing customers, which makes it slightly more restrictive than Microsoft’s offer. Finally, Zoom has also removed the 40-minute time limit on its free basic subscription tier for K-12 schools in numerous countries, including the U.S., where the company boasts roughly 60,000 customers as of mid-March. Within the “freemium” tiers that are available, Zoom customers can have up to 100 participants in a virtual meeting, whereas Teams and Meet can support up to 250 people in a meeting. Given that each of these vendors has reduced cost-related barriers to adoption, customers can select the vendor that best fits their broader IT environment.

The global shift to a virtual work-from-home and learn-from-home environment has drastically increased demand for SaaS solutions that support collaboration and remote workflows, particularly videoconferencing as companies and educational institutions try to maintain as much face-to-face communication as possible. Among the numerous SaaS offerings available, some of the most popular are Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. Zoom quickly rose in popularity and became a household name, growing from 10 million users in December 2019 to 200 million users in March 2020. While Zoom’s (Nasdaq: ZM) number includes individual nonpaying consumers, the vendor has also signed paying business and organizational customers including IAC Group, Rubrik and Texas A&M. Microsoft Teams and Google Meet experienced growth spikes as well. The number of users on Teams more than doubled, from 20 million daily active users in November 2019 to 44 million in March 2020, including enterprises such as EY, SAP (NYSE: SAP), Continental AG and Accenture (NYSE: ACN). Google Meet grew by more than 25 times from January to the end of March and is adding 2 million new users per day, with customers such as Korean Air, Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) and TELUS (NYSE: TU). While Zoom’s total user growth is strong and its offerings are widely used, TBR expects Microsoft and Google Cloud will start to poach Zoom customers due to their value-add hardware and SaaS offerings Office 365 (200-plus million users) and G Suite (6-plus million users).

IaaS and PaaS leaders maintain their current positions in the public cloud market but face mounting competition

Coopetition is growing among vendors to outcompete leaders in the public cloud market, and customers have responded positively by integrating multivendor environments. TBR expects this coopetition will enable multiline vendors to attain notable growth, but likely not until roughly 3Q20, after the COVID-19 pandemic abates, as enterprises manage remote workforces rather than undergo vast integrations.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google and Alibaba will continue to lead the global public cloud market, with Google and Alibaba driving the most significant total public cloud revenue growth among large vendors due to their smaller revenue bases. While these rivals battle globally, TBR expects competition will be greatest in Europe.

Public cloud remains the largest and fastest growing segment of the cloud market. Changes in customer acceptance, data integrations and innovation have combined to sustain the rapid growth of public cloud adoption. TBR’s Public Cloud Benchmark details how hybrid deployments, new use cases for enterprise apps, and trends in emerging technology will make public cloud even more relevant in the future.