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 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.

IT services and digital transformation: 4Q21 insights from TBR’s Professional Services team

With IT services again enabling digital transformation, DeFi shifts blockchain into higher gear

As vendors address clients’ needs around cost optimization and IT transformation, many are beginning to eye investing in next frontiers such as sustainability, product engineering services and blockchain for growth. However, vendors must overcome skills shortage gaps in these domains before they can move forward. We do not anticipate these domains to require vendors developing a new services category, but rather augmenting existing ones, allowing vendors to build trust with new buyers while still relying on legacy capabilities to support it. Decentralized finance (DeFi) will likely become the necessary catalyst for broader adoption of blockchain.

Further, vendors must carefully message the promises of these new technologies as they relate to their core value proposition without jeopardizing service quality and partner ecosystem relationships. This is particularly important when scaling up blockchain technologies as implementation requires trust across multiple parties.

Join Patrick Heffernan, Boz Hristov, Geoff Woollacott, Elitsa Bakalova and John Croll Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, as they reveal insights into and latest trends of the IT services and digital transformation markets, with IT services revenue growth accelerating ahead of prepandemic levels, setting the stage for investments and collaboration in next frontiers. The group will also discuss recent performances of the leading 30 IT services providers and the role of blockchain among the key technologies enabling digital transformation programs.

Don’t miss:

  • TBR’s overview of performance and key trends for the 30 vendors in our IT Services Vendor Benchmark
  • Deep dive on IT services vendors’ investments and activities in APAC
  • Beyond the hype of cryptocurrency, and what’s next for DeFi

Register today to reserve your space

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].


TBR releases exclusive webinar content from July 2021

Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) announces on-demand availability of its July 2021 webinars for market intelligence and competitive intelligence teams. July webinars include a demonstration of TBR’s new data visualization tool and a look at how management consultancies are adjusting to post-pandemic challenges around ways of working.

TBR Insight Center™: An overview

Senior Data Analyst Matt Bowden and Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing Dan Demers demonstrate TBR’s new digital platform, TBR Insight Center. TBR Insight Center™ is a powerful data visualization tool that allows clients to configure and curate analysis customized to their needs using a simple and intuitive interface.

Innovation requires in-person: Digital transformation consulting in a post-pandemic world

Principal Analyst and Practice Manager Patrick Heffernan, Senior Analyst Kelly Lesiczka and Analyst John Croll discuss how management consultancies have adjusted to post-pandemic challenges around hybrid and in-person innovation sessions, digital burnout and shifting client needs, particularly regarding technology and strategy consulting. 

TBR webinars are typically held Wednesdays at 1 p.m. EST and include a 15-minute Q&A following the main presentation. To find out what we are discussing next month, check out the Webinars page of our website.

Interested in a one-on-one discussion with one of the above subject-matter experts or a private webinar with one or more of our teams?

Contact us today for more information on our free 60-day trial

2021 PC market predictions

The pandemic has accelerated some trends and slowed others within the devices market. Specifically, the role of the PC has changed during the pandemic and will continue to evolve post-pandemic from working, learning and lifestyle perspectives. Join Principal Analyst Ezra Gottheil and Analyst Eric Costa for a discussion on the state of the PC market, including impacts expected on revenue growth, profitability and unit sales, and what lies ahead for the remainder of 2021 and 2022.

Don’t miss:

  • A review of the state of the PC market and the evolving role of the PC in people’s lives
  • An update on PC vendors’ profitability and margin sustainability
  • The extent to which the pandemic-driven surge in demand is slowing down
  • An update on the price competition and the state of PC average unit revenues
  • The current state of the supply chain in the devices ecosystem

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, June 23, at 1 p.m. EDT,
and REGISTER to reserve your space.

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

OEM earnings roundup: Unpacking a quarter of ‘record growth’

OEMs boasted revenue and profit gains in the first calendar quarter of 2021

“Record growth” was a frequently repeated phrase over the last week as Dell Technologies, Lenovo, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and HP Inc. reported their earnings for the first calendar quarter of 2021. For these major OEMs in the PC and data center hardware space, record gains in revenue and profitability have been hard to come by in recent years due to several factors including slowed PC refresh cycles, stiff competition from cloud offerings, component shortages, and uncertainty about the  pandemic’s impact on businesses and consumers.

For all these reasons, it was a pleasant surprise to witness a series of positive earnings announcements. But as one company after the next reported breaking multiple growth records in revenue and/or profit, it led me to wonder the degree to which business growth was based on increased economic stability rather than major changes in the OEM’s go-to-market approach.

Comparing first quarter revenue figures from the last two years provides a good snapshot of how the hardware market has changed since the world was immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic. For Dell Technologies, HP Inc. and HPE, the earnings reported in the first quarter represent revenue from February to April. Looking back to 2020, this represents the time frame when many countries imposed lockdowns. Lenovo’s earnings time frame is slightly different — reporting on revenue from January through March — but remains a good comparison, particularly as Lenovo may have felt the pandemic impacts earlier than peers as a China-based company, especially given that Lenovo has a manufacturing facility in Wuhan.

All vendors but Dell Technologies saw a first quarter corporate revenue decline of at least $1 billion in 1Q20 compared to 1Q19. In 1Q21 all vendors exceeded their revenue levels from the start of the pandemic, and three of the four grew revenue by $1.9 billion to $3.9 billion compared to 1Q19. This is impressive revenue growth for these vendors operating in mature and, in some cases, declining market segments. But are all business units growing equally? The fact that HPE was the only vendor of the four to not grow revenue in 1Q21 compared to 1Q19 and is also the only vendor in the compare lacking a PC business suggests growth is not consistent across hardware segments.

PCs are the driving force in the revenue rebound

Demand for both consumer and commercial PCs has been strong throughout the pandemic as many people spent an increasing amount of screen time at home for work, school and socialization. Dell Technologies, Lenovo and HP Inc. have not only reported 1Q21 revenue gains of billions of dollars compared to 1Q20, but the OEMs’ revenue is also up significantly compared to 1Q19. In addition to pandemic-related demand for PCs, silicon supply shortages have also helped to stem the race to the bottom for PC prices. With limited chip supply available, Intel and peers have focused on producing higher-end chips for premium devices. OEMs are also less competitive on pricing while demand outweighs supply. Improving selling prices and shifting toward premium PCs benefit not only revenue but also profitability.

Data center is still not immune to the impact of cloud migration

OEMs’ data center business units tell a different story. While the three vendors all reported increased year-to-year revenue in 1Q21, both Dell Technologies’ and HPE’s data center revenues are down compared to 1Q19. This suggests that year-to-year revenue gains represent customers showing less pandemic-related spending hesitancy and resuming delayed data center projects, while declines compared to 1Q19 align to the overall trend of enterprise data center consolidation in favor of public cloud. Although with the smallest data center revenue base, Lenovo was the only vendor in the comparison that increased revenue from 1Q19 to 1Q21, possibly buoyed by its Cloud Service Provider customer segment, which has higher demand for data center infrastructure compared to the enterprise segment. Overall, the revenue trends suggest that a favorable year-to-year compare may be masking impacts of public cloud adoption, which have accelerated through the pandemic.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2021, TBR expects the trend of favorable year-to-year compares to continue for hardware vendors as businesses gain confidence in resuming IT spend. Profitability will likely also remain strong as supply constraints on chips will lead to price premiums and a focus on selling high-end devices. The data center space will likely continue to benefit from pent-up demand, but will be offset to some degree by the ongoing trend of public cloud and SaaS adoption, leaving PCs to drive the largest OEM revenue increases in 2021.

Accelerated cloud adoption will persist even after COVID-19 pandemic subsides

The outbreak of COVID-19 led to constraints around enterprise IT budgets, but the emergence of a digital workforce resulted in accelerated adoption of cloud applications, particularly those related to productivity and customer-facing suites in the front office. Enterprises needed to rapidly shift operations to the cloud to support remote workforces, increasing the value of service arms and IT services partners to mitigate client risk in the form of cloud road-mapping, migration and implementation services.

In the long term, internal service capabilities and IT services partners will become critical to enabling enterprises’ digital transformations, particularly as front-office cloud deployments mature and as clients explore migrating more customized environments like ERP to cloud or pursue industry-based solution deployments in highly regulated industries like healthcare and the public sector.

The bulk of enterprises are employing a best-of-breed approach to the development of their cloud IT architectures, evidenced by 42% of respondents stating that they currently use three or more SaaS vendors. As a result, application vendors have been driving alliance activity with infrastructure providers to give clients more flexibility around how they consume cloud, evidenced by SAP’s decision to offer SAP Business Suite 4 HANA with leading infrastructure players like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. While best-of-breed IT will remain prevalent, cloud players have increasingly driven investments to tighten the integrations of complementary suites to expand share of client wallet by enabling multiproduct deals, a tactic that has been effectively employed by Salesforce and Microsoft in 2020.

Cloud players aim to accelerate the proliferation of their IP by employing industry-based go-to-market capabilities to provide clients with prebuilt data models that alleviate concerns around data compliance and governance. This tactic aligns with clients’ needs, as 51% of respondents who deployed industry solutions cited compliance and regulatory standards as a key benefit. To strengthen the value of industry clouds to clients, vendors are offering prebuilt integrations with leading data providers, such as Microsoft’s integrations with electronic health record providers through Cloud for Healthcare. These types of integrations will be critical to accelerating client time to value, while ensuring the integrity of data by meeting industry-specific regulations.

TBR’s Cloud Applications Customer Research tracks how customers are modernizing application environments and choosing between different cloud delivery methods. Leveraging in-depth conversations between TBR and enterprise customers, the Cloud Infrastructure & Platforms Customer Research provides subscribers with actionable insight that they can use to better understand their customers’ behavior and win cloud infrastructure deals. Topics covered for both reports include public, private and hybrid delivery options; decision-making involvement and criteria; leading vendor perception; field positioning and competition guides; and the impact of emerging trends (e.g., containers, security, platforms).

COVID-19 changes everything: What’s next for devices and IoT?

In pandemic recovery, IoT will contribute to organizations’ resilience, while PC sales will suffer from saturation

The COVID-19 outbreak has had two effects on pre-existing trends: In many cases, such as the migration to remote working, it has accelerated them, and in others, like the deployment of voice solutions in workplace environments, it has interrupted them. Where trends are accelerated, we can expect a slowdown or temporary rebound as the economy recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, followed by a resumption of the trend. Where trends are interrupted, resumption will often be delayed until later in the recovery, when there is less uncertainty.

Under these circumstances, it is worthwhile to look back at last year’s predictions:

  • There will be less talk of IoT, as it will be increasingly viewed as one technique among many for delivering digital transformation.

This trend was accelerated by the pandemic, as organizations focused on operating in the crisis and preparing for greater uncertainty during and following the recovery. In a sense, once IoT was better understood by customer organizations, including IT, operational technology (OT) and business management, it no longer required special attention. The focus shifted from the enabling technology, IoT, to the problems to be solved using all techniques including IoT.

  • AI in IoT will increasingly be encapsulated in specific functions like recognition and detection.

This trend was also accelerated by the pandemic, as organizations focused on point solutions that included IoT and strategic solutions that incorporated data from all sources, including from IoT. At the edge, AI is aimed at improving operations by increasing efficiency and reducing errors as well as recognizing things like anomalies and patterns that imply a need for service. IoT-generated data contributes to AI-enabled business analysis, but that is as part of a larger body of data, including data from other sources, and is typically done either in the cloud or in on-premises data centers.

  • Conversational user interfaces, based on voice or typed communication, will play an increasing role in business solutions.

Many natural language processing (NLP) projects have been deferred or slowed due to pandemic constraints as well as organizations diverting attention and dollars to more pressing needs or to husbanding resources for a more uncertain future. A minority of NLP projects, especially ones already in use, have been accelerated because they reduce dependency on human operators. While conversational solutions remain in the digital transformation tool kit, TBR believes NLP will remain a lower priority for the first stages of recovery, as organizations look to solutions that increase resilience and transparency.

This focus on digital transformation for resilience and transparency, giving organizations the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in the pandemic recovery and economic unpredictability, is, TBR believes, the next phase in the evolution of commercial IoT. At the same time, the PC industry faces a saturation-driven reduction in demand following a pandemic-driven surge in 2020.

2021 Devices & Commercial IoT Predictions

  • The emergence of the chief data officer role will increase organizational clarity, accelerating IoT adoption
  • Packaged solutions and components will become more important
  • Despite enjoying an increase in TAM, PC vendors suffer from market saturation, a weak global economy and demand for resale units

Technology Business Research 2021 Predictions is a special series examining market trends and business changes in key markets. Covered segments include cloud & software, telecom, devices & commercial IoT, data center, and services & digital.

Amid the pandemic, new offerings and new footprints for IT services vendors

As the COVID-19 pandemic upended every business, some IT services vendors looked for new opportunities to address clients’ rapidly changing business and technology needs, including adjustments to massive-scale remote working and heightened cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Internally, a number of IT services vendors reacted to the pandemic by examining their own global headcount and sourcing resources needed to deliver services. TBR’s various special reports on products and offerings developed specifically to address pandemic-related challenges and a few changes in vendors’ global footprints provide the background for understanding marketwide trends and anticipating changes coming in 2021. 

Join Patrick Heffernan and Kelly Lesiczka as they detail a few of the most notable new pandemic-sparked products and offerings and then examine the larger trends among vendors’ responses to COVID-19, including recent and expected shifts in global staffing.

Don’t miss:

  • Which IT services vendors and consultancies came to market fastest with solutions specific to COVID-19
  • What portfolio and talent trends started during the pandemic are most likely to be sustained through 2021
  • How global staffing for IT services will change in the near term, and which countries might see a boost in IT services-related jobs

5G investment will accelerate in the post-pandemic era as CSPs target advanced use cases amid the new normal

5G investment will accelerate in the post-pandemic era as CSPs target advanced use cases amid the new normal

Communication service provider (CSP) spend on 5G infrastructure will scale faster and peak higher than originally anticipated due to the vast amount of support by governments in a range of countries, including but not limited to China, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, South Korea and Singapore. As a result, typical historical deployment curves for cellular technologies will not apply to the 5G market, which is now expected to be widely deployed globally by the middle of this decade instead of in the later years of the decade.

The pull forward and broadening of infrastructure investment are primarily due to attempts by leading countries to support their economies amid the COVID-19 crisis as well as to keep pace with China’s aggressive and broad investment initiative for competitive reasons. Over the past 12 months, 5G has become a highly political issue, and the unprecedented government involvement and funding are being justified on national security, economic competitiveness and public health grounds.

TBR’s 5G Telecom Market Landscape includes key findings, market size, customer adoption, operator positioning and strategies, geographic adoption, vendor positioning and strategies, and acquisition and alliance strategies and opportunities.

Public sector entities besides the U.S. federal government bear a disproportionate share of pandemic-related impacts

The predominance of the U.S. federal market is on display in Figure 1 as most of the observed deceleration owes to the diminishing impact of strategic acquisitions made by federal IT vendors prior to 2019 and the sharp slowdown in overall M&A through 1Q20. The latter trend will be exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak as acquisition activity grinds to a near complete halt in conjunction with the turbulence in global capital markets. IT spending by the civilian agencies of international governments was also affected by the pandemic, with some ongoing IT programs furloughed temporarily or indefinitely, while others saw their funding redirected to emergency public health initiatives in response to the outbreak. Buffering these headwinds was the continuance of defense modernization programs, particularly in Europe, Australia and the Middle East, though the negative effects of declining oil prices may impact the latter market.

Figure 1

TBR’s Public Sector IT Services Benchmark compares and contrasts the included vendors’ go-to-market models, recent investments and key deal wins. Additionally, the benchmark reviews a number of key financial performance metrics and highlights vendors that have been particularly successful in expanding market share and improving profitability.