Tag: cloud

Politics and Technology in the Post-Pandemic World Will Drive Sovereign Cloud Adoption | Blog

Discussions around data and cloud sovereignty have been gaining momentum over the past decade for multiple reasons, including unsecured digital documents, varied data-related laws in different countries, scrutiny and liability issues, the dominance of US hyperscalers, and low visibility into and control of data. However, the biggest trigger for increased focus on sovereign cloud is the US CLOUD Act of 2018, which gives US law enforcement agencies the power to unilaterally demand access to data from companies regardless of the geography in which data is stored.

What is a sovereign cloud?

A sovereign cloud essentially aims to maintain the sovereignty of data in all possible ways for any entity (country, region, enterprise, government, etc.). Thus, it demands that all data should reside locally, the cloud should be managed and governed locally, all data processing – including API calls –  should happen within the country/geography, the data should be accessible only to residents of the same country, and the data should not be accessible under foreign laws or from any outside geography.

Multiple sovereign cloud initiatives have been undertaken in the past

In 2012, France launched a national cloud called Andromede. It failed to gain traction and was split into two clouds – Cloudwatt and Numergy. After struggling, Numergy was acquired by a telecommunications company in 2019, and CloudWatt was shut down in 2020. In another such initiative, Microsoft set up a dedicated German cloud in 2015 but decommissioned it in 2018 due to limited traction.

In 2019, in response to the US CLOUD Act, Germany, in partnership with France, launched Project GAIA-X, with the aim of creating a high performance, competitive, secure, and trustworthy infrastructure for Europe. The two governments invited many companies, including Bosch, Deutsche Telekom, Festo, Orange Business Services, and SAP, to collaborate on the project. While the original intent was quite aspirational and intended to create a completely independent hyperscale cloud, everyone quickly realized that this goal was illusory, and the project evolved into building something that brings the best of all worlds with “European DNA” at its center.

A novel mix of politics and technology makes GAIA-X interesting

While previous sovereign cloud initiatives have not been very successful, project GAIA-X promises to be different. When the project was first launched in 2019, it was largely seen as a political gimmick aimed at driving nationalistic sentiments in Europe. Many enterprises believed that the project could be completely scrapped if the government changed. Most were unconvinced of its potential success given their previous experiences with national clouds. The hyperscalers, AWS and Azure, dismissed GAIA-X’s potential to scale and become competitive, and called out that a national cloud was interesting only in theory.

However, the story that has unfolded and continues to evolve is completely different. While some of the intent may be political, various governments across Europe are strongly backing this initiative and coming together to create Europe’s own digital ecosystem. By June 2020, the GAIA-X Foundation had expanded to 22 organizations – including digital leaders, industrials, academia and associations – and the project is being supported by more than 300 businesses.

On the technology front, GAIA-X is now much clearer than when it began. It released a detailed technical architecture in June 2020, and primarily focuses on building common standards that enable transparency and interoperability by aligning network and interconnection providers, Cloud Solution Providers (CSP), High Performance Computing (HPC), and sector-specific clouds and edge systems. It has built use cases across industries including finance, health, public sector, agriculture, and energy, and horizontal use cases spanning Industry 4.0, smart living, and mobility.

There are still a few issues – including an unclear roadmap, unrealistically aggressive timelines, a lack of detail on hybrid or multi-cloud architectures, lower performance and higher costs, and a gap in the requisite skills – that need to be sorted for GAIA-X to succeed.

Nationalism and the coronavirus will push sovereign clouds beyond theory

Growing nationalistic sentiments sweeping various geographies/nations such as the US, Europe, and India, will add fuel to the sovereign cloud discussion. The Huawei ban in the US, the ban on Chinese apps in India, and reducing dependencies on China across sectors are indicators of emerging nationalistic sentiments. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced enterprises to reevaluate their external exposure. The fact that cloud is the core pillar of enterprises’ data strategies falls right at the center of this entire discussion, and the idea of a national or sovereign cloud is destined to become more than mere theory.

Recommendations on how you can begin to incorporate elements of sovereign cloud in your cloud strategy

Enterprises around the globe need to pay immediate attention to this sovereign cloud trend. Here are our recommendations on how your organization can stay ahead of the curve.

  • Be aware of the GAIA-X trends in Europe: While the project is still in its initial stages, it is evolving very quickly and gaining significant traction. You should proactively track and understand GAIA-X adoption as it will be an excellent preview of what could happen in the rest of the world.
  • Factor the political angle into your future cloud strategy: Europe is an excellent example of the political influence in enterprise cloud decisions. You need to be aware of the political environment in your country and whether or not it could pose risks to your existing cloud strategy. The idea of a nationalistic or sovereign cloud will be driven by the government, which might pass laws enforcing some kind of implementation. You should be prepared for this potential eventuality.
  • Ensure technological flexibility in your cloud architecture: Cloud architecture flexibility will be key to integrating sovereign cloud with the rest of your environment. Hyperscalers like AWS and Azure are increasingly leveraging techniques such as increased licensing prices, full stack services, contractual terms, data transfer charges, and limited interoperability to lock in enterprises. You need to be wary of these techniques and adopt an agnostic, interoperable, multi-cloud strategy to ensure easy migration to sovereign cloud in the future.

How do you think sovereign cloud will evolve in Europe and other geographies? Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected].

Role Transition for Cloud Vendors in OTT Media Streaming | Blog

Over-the-top (OTT) streaming – or, simply, delivering media content directly over the internet – has redefined the media content consumption landscape. In 2019, the number of active global monthly OTT video subscribers surpassed 750 million, accounting for more than 30 percent of digital video viewers globally. Cloud vendors have significantly contributed to this exponential growth by providing core cloud-native delivery infrastructure to OTT players at lower costs, making it much easier for them to reach global audiences and dynamically scale their workloads with just a few clicks. In fact, over the years, the role of cloud vendors has shifted from infrastructure providers to prime drivers of technology for the OTT industry – so much that they now lead media technology altogether. Initially, cloud vendors’ core offerings comprised storage, processing, transmission, packaging, and transcoding, which enabled OTT players to gain scale, cost, and flexibility benefits. Now, the cloud has become the default infrastructure provider for OTT delivery. In fact, all of the flagship OTT players have migrated to cloud-based OTT workflows. For example, Netflix completed its migration to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2017, and Spotify completed its Google Cloud Platform adoption in 2018. The major cloud vendors, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, lead the global technology landscape, and they are leveraging their expertise in advanced technologies to offer not only their core functional offerings but also compelling value-added services over the cloud. These value-added services include:
  • Direct content ingestion Cloud providers like AWS and Azure offer direct content ingestion capabilities to OTT players, enabling them to either ingest content directly from a camera to a cloud-based management system or stream it live to various platforms. They also enable content creators to shoot videos through smartphones and send them via mobile networks to production and content management systems operating in the cloud, bypassing camcorders and live production trucks.
  • Native language translation Cloud providers such as Google offer application programming interfaces (APIs) with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities for native language translation, which allows audiovisual content localization and translation, making it convenient for OTT players to expand their reach globally.
  • AI-powered encoding Vendors like AWS and IBM have integrated AI with their cloud-based offerings, and cloud-based OTT workflows intensively leverage AI to provide a better viewing experience. AI helps to better monitor network traffic, improves compression techniques, and offers adaptive encoding techniques to stream HD videos over low bandwidth networks.
  • Video indexing Video indexing services, such as Azure’s video indexer, automatically extract advanced metadata from audio and video content, including spoken words, written text, faces, brands, and scenes. OTT players can leverage the extracted data to generate insights and increase the discoverability of their content, improve the user experience, and enhance monetization opportunities.
  • Advanced targeting Cloud providers like AWS and IBM leverage advanced analytics services such as device ID-based content tagging to provide recommendations for better viewer targeting, which enables advertisers to reach out to specific, targeted, and identified audiences. OTT players can utilize these recommendations for better content monetization.
These additional services have become core differentiators for cloud vendors versus traditional Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that offer media streaming solutions. They’re also enabling OTT players to create true differentiation in their offerings. Additionally, the cloud has become a great leveler for players who are entering the OTT market relatively late, as it provides them the latest cutting-edge technology at the click of a button, saving them precious time in getting up and running. It will be interesting to see how the market shapes up in the next 12-18 months, as more content and production houses start setting up their OTT platforms and make the existing battle of viewer acquisition and retention fiercer. For more industry-leading insights on the OTT industry, please reach out to Akshat Vaid and Shivank Narula.

Let the Cloud Wars Begin: Notes from Oracle OpenWorld Europe 2020

Oracle held the European edition of its flagship event, OpenWorld, in London recently. Against the backdrop of cloud wars, leadership changes in the ecosystem (Mark Hurd’s untimely demise and the change of guard at SAP), and blazing growth by hyperscalers (the two boutique firms in Seattle), the market is keenly watching what Oracle has in store. Here are my take-aways from the event.

1. Cloud FOMO: Oracle is investing heavily in its datacenter footprint and expects to have 36 regions by the end of the year, with a datacenter opening every 23 days. It claims it will have more regions than AWS by the end of 2020.

This is turning out to be a common trend among hyperscalers and cloud vendors, creating an asset bubble. Capital spending is at an all-time high, as the exhibit below shows. Will this create further price wars and overcapacity in the market? Only time will tell.

2. Doubling down on data: Oracle announced a slew of initiatives aimed at infusing data and, to a lesser extent, AI across its offering stack:

    • Expanded DataFox’s data pool across AI and managed data. Oracle acquired DataFox in 2018 because of its sizable data assets covering ~2.8 million public and private businesses to enable predictive decision making. Now, DataFox natively integrates across the Oracle SaaS stack, sourcing over a billion data points annually to improve the data quality of Eloqua and Sales Cloud as well as third-party applications.
    • Launched a new Oracle Cloud Data Science Platform to build and deploy AI and ML models.
    • Expanded its Autonomous Database offering to support the integration of algorithms within databases and added new ML capabilities, with support for Python and automated ML.

3. Ecosystem bets in a multi-cloud world are crucial: Oracle is now sharpening its focus on partnerships and the ecosystem to compete in the multi-cloud environment – this is on the back of its Azure and VMware partnerships. With Microsoft Azure, it announced a new interconnect facility based in Amsterdam. Because Amsterdam is a crucial European datacenter location and hub for Oracle, this facility will help companies in the region share cross-application data and move on-premise workloads to the cloud, according to Oracle.

4. Cloud interoperability – are we there yet?: With Google Anthos and Azure Arc, interoperability is back. While the partnership with Azure did highlight some degree of interoperability progress, I didn’t see enough. This is likely a prickly concern for enterprises as cloud vendors start erecting their own walled fortresses, hindering true interoperability. We have opined on cloud interoperability before, and it’s going to be a key issue for the ecosystem to solve over the next 18-24 months, especially as the cloud-native conversations gather momentum.

5. The dawn of the new CEO mindset: One of the highlights of the event was a client showcase. The CEO of Italian coffee major, illycaffè, Massimiliano Pogliani, spoke to Oracle CEO Safra Catz about a critical aspect of modern business – the changing role of the new CEO. He described it as being the activator of collective intelligence across the organization's human capital. He also described his company's mission around three themes: good (product obsession), goodness (sustainability), and beauty (the experience.) We are seeing greater recognition by some forward-looking CEOs of their purpose and impact, including Novartis CEO Vas’ focus on the journey to unboss and Salesforce chief Marc Benioff’s call for a new type of capitalism.

 The cloud landscape is becoming very interesting as all segments attack the opportunity: hyperscalers continue to invest in expanding their datacenter footprint; enterprise platform providers are focusing on verticalization (e.g., ServiceNow under Bill, Salesforce acquiring Vlocity); and system integrators are trying to keep up with the massive implementation opportunity while battling a talent shortage. We are going to see share shifts as these changes gather steam. From an enterprise perspective, the cloud conversation is now veering toward journey-in-the-cloud versus journey-to-the-cloud, aka lift-and-shift. This shift is bringing total cost of ownership (TCO) back into the picture. We are in for interesting times ahead. What’s your take on today’s cloud wars? Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected].

Hyperscale Cloud Providers Shaping The Platform Marketplace | Blog

Today, nearly all companies invest in assembling digital platforms as a source of significant efficiencies and competitive advantage. Platforms enable a data-driven world and allow companies to create new business value in improving experiences for customers, employees and partners. Multiple platforms and other software components usually comprise the platform a company assembles. For example, a consistent component of almost all platforms is the heavy use of cloud and the rich set of capabilities available from the hyperscaled platforms. But companies need to understand the consequences of the presence of this component in the platform they build.

Read more in my blog on Forbes

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