Banks’ emerging priorities have implications for IT service providers
Banks’ emerging priorities have implications for IT service providers
The new technologies sweeping the market hold great promise of competitive advantages. But there’s a disturbing trend occurring in the services sales process for these technologies that poses a risk for buyers. Look out for providers talking about cloud, mobility, big data, the Internet of Things, and social in the same breath as SaaS/BPaas, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Providers that jumble these technologies together as though they are homogeneous really don’t understand the implications of what they’re trying to sell you. They’re basically throwing mud against your wall and seeing what sticks.
The possibilities with all of these technologies are exciting, but they have distinctly different impacts on the buyer’s business.
As illustrated in the diagram below, we can bucket one class of impacts as those that create new business opportunities. They provide new types of services that enterprises can use to change the composition of their customers or provide different kinds of services. For example, the Internet of Things holds enormous promise around allowing enterprises to provide a completely different class of services to their customers. In mobility and social technologies, the digital revolution holds the promise of changing the way businesses interact with their end customers.
The second class of new technologies (Saas/BPaaS, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence) changes how services are delivered. For example, SaaS takes a functionality that was available but delivers it through a different mechanism. Automation and robotics changes the way service is provided by shifting from FTE-based models into an automated machine-based delivery vehicle.
The two buckets of technologies have different value propositions. The first class of technologies (cloud, mobility, big data, IoT, and social) are about getting new and different functionality. The impacts in the second class are lower costs and improved flexibility and agility. Each class of technologies has different objectives and value propositions and thus needs a different kind of business case. Buyers that mix these technologies together in a business case do themselves substantial disservice.
The way you need to evaluate the two distinct types of technologies (and providers offering them) is completely different. A provider that recognizes that automation, robotics, and SaaS are about changing the nature of delivery will have a much more thoughtful conversation with you and build its value proposition around flexibility, speed, and quality of service and cost.
A provider that recognizes the impact of mobility, cloud, big data, and the IoT technologies will talk to you about a value proposition around standing up exciting new capabilities, creating new offers and changing the conversation with your end customers.
So, buyer beware. If you’re talking with a provider that mixes these technologies’ distinct value propositions together, you’re dealing with a provider that really doesn’t understand what they’re offering.
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Despite Hadoop’s and OpenStack’s adoption, our recent discussions with enterprises and technology providers revealed two prominent trends:
Big Data will need more than a Hadoop: Along with NoSQL technologies, Hadoop has really taken the Big Data bull by the horns. Indications of a healthy ecosystem are apparent when you see that leading vendors such as MapR is witnessing a 100% booking growth, Cloudera is expecting to double itself, and Hortonworks is almost doubling itself. However, the large vendors that really drive the enterprise market/mindset and sell multiple BI products – such as IBM, Microsoft, and Teradata – acknowledge that Hadoop’s quantifiable impact is as of yet limited. Hadoop’s adoption continues on a project basis, rather than as a commitment toward improved business analytics. Broader enterprise class adoption remains muted, despite meaningful investments and technology vendors’ focus.
OpenStack is difficult, and enterprises still don’t get it: OpenStack’s vision of making every datacenter a cloud is facing some hurdles. Most enterprises find it hard to develop OpenStack-based cloud themselves. While this helps cloud providers pitch their OpenStack offerings, adoption is far from enterprise class. The OpenStack foundation’s survey indicates that approximately 15 percent of organizations utilizing OpenStack are outside the typical ICT industry or academia. Moreover, even cloud service providers, unless really dedicated to the OpenStack cause, are reluctant to meaningfully invest in it. Although most have an OpenStack offering or are planning to launch one, their willingness to push it to clients is subdued.
It’s easy to blame these challenges on open source and contributors’ lack of coherent strategy or vision. However, that just simplifies the problem. Both Hadoop and OpenStack suffer from lack of needed skills and applicability. For example, a few enterprises and vendors believe that Hadoop needs to become more “consumerized” to enable people with limited knowledge of coding, querying, or data manipulation to work with it. The current esoteric adoption is driving these users away. The fundamental promise of new-age technologies making consumption easier is being defeated. Despite Hortonworks’ noble (and questioned) attempt to create an “OpenStack type” alliance in Open Data Platform, things have not moved smoothly. While Apache Spark promises to improve Hadoop consumerization with fast processing and simple programming, only time will tell.
OpenStack continues to struggle with a “too tough to deploy” perception within enterprises. Beyond this, there are commercial reasons for the challenges OpenStack is witnessing. Though there are OpenStack-only cloud providers (e.g., Blue Box and Mirantis), most other cloud service providers we have spoken with are half-heartedly willing to develop and sell OpenStack-based cloud services. Cloud providers that have offerings across technologies (such as BMC, CloudStack, OpenStack, and VMware) believe they have to create sales incentives and possibly hire different engineering talent to create cloud services for OpenStack. Many of them believe this is not worth the risk, as they can acquire an “OpenStack-only” cloud provider if real demand arises (as I write the news has arrived that IBM is acquiring Blue Box and Cisco is acquiring Piston Cloud).
The success of both Hadoop and OpenStack will depend on simplification in development, implementation, and usage. Hadoop’s challenges lie both in the way enterprises adopt it and in the technology itself. Targeting a complex problem is a de facto approach for most enterprises, without realizing that it takes time to get the data clearances from business. This impacts business’ perception about the value Hadoop can bring in. Hadoop’s success will depend not on point solutions developed to store and crunch data, but on the entire value chain of data creation and consumption. The entire process needs to be simplified for more enterprises to adopt it. Hadoop and the key vendors need to move beyond Web 2.0 obsession to focus on other enterprises. With the increasing focus on real-time technologies, Hadoop should get a further leg up. However, it needs to provide more integration with existing enterprise investments, rather than becoming a silo. While in its infancy, the concept of “Enterprise Data Hub” is something to note, wherein the entire value chain of Big Data-related technologies integrate together to deliver the needed service.
As for OpenStack, enterprises do not like that they currently require too much external support to adopt it in their internal clouds. If the drop in investments is any indication, this will not take OpenStack very far. Cloud providers want the enterprises to consume OpenStack-based cloud services. However, enterprises really want to understand the technology to which they are making a long-term commitment, and are cautious of anything that requires significant reskill or has the potential to become a bottleneck in their standardization initiatives. OpenStack must address these challenges. Though most enterprise technologies are tough to consume, the market is definitely moving toward easier deployments and upgrades. Therefore, to really make OpenStack an enterprise-grade offering, its deployment, professional support, knowledge management, and requisite skills must be simplified.
What do you think about Hadoop and OpenStack? Feel free to reach out to me on [email protected].
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EMC has taken a significant step forward in its hybrid cloud journey with the announcement of its acquisition of Virtustream in an all-cash transaction of US$1.2 billion. Founded in 2009, Virtustream is estimated to have clocked ~US$ 100 million in revenues last year through its cloud hosting services and management software (xStream) offerings – while cloud IaaS accounted for 60% of this revenue, the remaining 40% came from management software licenses.
The U.S.-based company will eventually become the managed cloud services division within the EMC Federation business. The transaction is expected to close by the third quarter of 2015 and be additive to EMC’s revenues starting 2016.
EMC is well known for its deep pockets. With about 70 acquisitions since 2003, the inorganic route is clearly not new to EMC (to put it mildly). The company has not shied away from flexing its muscles from time-to-time to build capabilities for its mainstay storage business and beyond.
The emergence of cloud has had a strong impact on EMC’s core storage business, which has been witnessing a sluggish demand over the past few years (the overall Information Storage division of EMC has witnessed a CAGR of ~3% over 2012-14). While EMC has rejigged its focus to cover new storage products, this “strategic tweak” in itself is not expected to arrest EMC’s plummeting revenue growth. Therefore, EMC has put its bet on the “next big thing” in the IT industry – hybrid cloud.
EMC’s association with VMWare and Pivotal has ensured that EMC is no newbie to the cloud; however, the real sign of intent from EMC came with the launch of its Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution last year. The launch also coincided with a triplet of cloud acquisitions – Cloudscaling (an OpenStack IaaS solution developer), Maginatics (a cloud-enabled storage provider), and Spanning (a cloud-based application data security provider).
As EMC looks to make a mark in the enterprise cloud market, the Virtustream acquisition offers multiple benefits to EMC:
Expansion of the Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution portfolio: EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution is currently an on-premise private cloud offering that provides cloud-bursting options to VMware vCloud Air and other public cloud services. The addition of Virtustream’s xStream platform provides EMC with capabilities to manage both on-premise and off-premise deployments, thereby offering a truly hybrid cloud setup
The xStream platform will be leveraged by EMC Federation service provider partners to deliver independent services based upon it
Credible cloud managed services capabilities: Virtustream has witnessed credible success in serving large enterprises with complex cloud deployments and managed services requirements, through partnerships with industry-leading vendors such as SAP (which made a US$40 million investment in Virtustream in 2013), Oracle, and Microsoft. Virtustream has been certified by SAP to offer SAP HANA as-a-service. EMC can leverage Virtustream’s managed service capabilities/experience to serve its own existing clientele as well as prospects
Datacenter footprint: Virtustream brings a credible revenue stream based on its datacenter footprint spanning locations such as the U.S., UK and the Netherlands (catering to key demand markets such as North America and Europe)
Meaningful clientele: Virtustream brings a credible roster of clients including Coca-Cola, Domino Sugar, Heinz, Hess Corporation, and Kawasaki, which will get added to EMC’s kitty (to cross-sell its broader hybrid cloud and storage offerings).
The move to acquire Virtustream seems to be a logical one for EMC (although the revenue multiple of ~12X indicates some level of desperation on EMC’s part, given the ongoing stakeholder unrest). Also, given EMC’s traditional modus operandi of allowing its acquired entities to operate autonomously, we do not expect the acquisition to grossly impact Virtustream’s innovation capabilities (barring potential integration and cultural challenges)
The development may have come across as a surprise for many market observers, given that the company was grappling with the idea of going public barely six months ago. While Virtustream was going great guns, the brand recognition of a cloud provider typically plays a huge role when it comes to large enterprises looking for sourcing options. Consequently, hitting the “next level” of growth trajectory potentially becomes a significant challenge for players such as Virtustream (especially with a large enterprise focus).
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Virtustream’s CEO, Rodney Rogers, claims to have considered multiple suitors over a period of time, before choosing EMC (based on terms offered and a chance to become a part of the EMC Federation).
The EMC-Virtustream deal has been preceded by multiple notable acquisitions in the cloud market over the past few years (Terremark by Verizon, Savvis by CenturyLink, SoftLayer by IBM, Metacloud by Cisco, and GoGrid by Datapipe). As various players in the enterprise cloud market, be it global IT service providers, telecom providers, or public cloud providers look to gain a stronger foothold, it is hard to bet against other similar acquisitions happening in the near future. The question is which company will be the next one to get gobbled up? CloudSigma? DigitalOcean? Joyent? ProfitBricks? Or even Rackspace? That only time will tell.
Photo credit: EMC
Information Services Group (ISG) publishes a quarterly “ISG Outsourcing Index,” which is widely read in the services industry. Q1 2015 wasn’t a pretty picture. The Americas saw a modest 10 percent gain in ACV, and India/South Asia showed strong. But the rest of the world took a bullet, so to speak; EMEA’s ACV declined by 25 percent, Asia Pacific by 45 percent, and Australia/New Zealand had one of the weakest quarters in a decade. So the modest gains are dramatically offset by large losses elsewhere. This is further evidence of what I’ve been blogging about for some time – the industry is at an inflection point and preparing to shift. Let’s look at where the shift is headed.
But, first, a word of caution. We at Everest Group stopped publishing our index based on publicly announced deals many years ago because we found the data was inherently flawed. If all you use is publicly announced deals, you’re only looking at the large transactions and only some of those because many deals are not published. The next-generation deals and smaller deals are typically not announced. So the data is inherently noisy. Having said that, there is some value to looking at what’s happening in publicly announced deals. As such, the ISG Outsourcing Index is as good as any.
The services industry is now in a mature state. As such, it has four major characteristics or themes in what’s happening:
Cyclical impact. As a mature industry, the services business is affected by the cyclical economy to a much larger degree than it has been in the last 15 years. To wit, where we have a growing economy in North America, the industry has share increases; where there are struggling economies in the rest of the world, the industry has share and ACV decreases.
Brownfield deals. The services world now is largely defined as brownfield deals in that the majority of activity is recompeting existing scope rather than capturing new scope. In this world, awards are smaller transactions for shorter durations.
Pricing pressures. In a recent blog post, I detailed the pricing pressures now hitting service providers and resulting in a major downward spiral and pricing wars. The ISG data also reported the downward-pricing situation. Brownfield deals also exacerbate this situation as they’re hinged on winning recompetes with existing customers, which are intent on driving prices down.
Shift toward smaller transactions. In addition to the brownfield impact there is an uneasiness in the market due to customers’ desire to break up current deals and shift to next-generation models that are automation based, as-a-service or digital. We see this movement clearly as we look at the unannounced deals that we track at Everest Group. Our observation is that these unannounced deals are taking share but with small ACV awards.
This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the infrastructure martketplace, where there has been a secular shift from large, bundled, asset-heavy transactions to asset-light, unbundled transactions with shorter duration. The emerging markets of cloud computing and as-a-service accelerate this movement. Finally, we see tangible evidence of enterprises preparing to make large-scale shifts to cloud by adopting shorter, more flexible transaction structures for their legacy infrastructure and applications.
The industry faces the prospect of a maturing market impacted by economic cycles, pricing pressures, brownfield focus, and customers shifting to new models. The good news is that the new models and technologies are growth areas for the industry. However, these deals are smaller and are not usually announced deals and therefore don’t show up in the ISG Index.
As I’ve blogged before, the healthcare space is at the cusp of a transformative change. Consumers are assuming greater ownership, control, and responsibility of health outcomes. Consequently, the decision making is shifting to the individual. Consumption patterns have undergone a significant change owing to disruptive mobile computing, rapid adoption of social media, next-generation sales/engagement channels, and ‘‘anytime-anywhere’’ information access. As individual consumers (patients and physicians) become more empowered, healthcare is transitioning to a principally patient-centric operating paradigm, with focus on cost, efficacy, and equity.
Analogous to what Uber has done to transportation, in progressive (and controversial) ways, there is a fundamental transformation in healthcare, placing patients at the center of all the action. These changes are reflected in the way reimbursements are distributed (moving from volume-based to outcome-based) and the onset of personalized medicine therapies based on real-world evidence. These gamut of changes are also aided by various cultural and socio-economic forces. The disruptive shift – from a healthcare provider-centric to a more customer-centric model – is driving significant healthcare investments in digital enablers of consumerization – social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud.
These winds of change have given rise to an immense opportunity to cater to this new patient-centric paradigm leveraging next-generation technology channels and enablers. Which brings us to Oscar, a New York-based health insurance start-up. Health insurance in the United States has conventionally been complex and non-transparent. With the advent of PPACA and health insurance exchanges (HIX), there has been a greater sense of accountability. Oscar aims to bring big data/analytics, design thinking, and transparency to the often-puzzling world of health insurance, making it smart, intuitive, and simple for consumers.
The idea for Oscar was born when one of its co-founders received his health insurance bill and realized that none of it made sense to him. The complexity and high entry barriers to health insurance can be gauged from the fact that Oscar was the first new health insurance provider to launch in the state of New York in more than a decade. The start-up sells coverage to individuals through insurance marketplaces in New York and New Jersey. The insurance plans offer free basic care including doctor visits, phone calls with doctors, preventative care, and generic drugs.
The company is backed by seasoned venture investors Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla as it attempts to bring Silicon Valley mojo to health insurance. It was co-founded by venture capitalist Josh Kushner (an early stage investor in Warby Parker and Instagram), Kevin Nazemi (a Microsoft veteran), and Mario Schlosser (MIT Media Lab and hedge fund experience). The company’s strong digital health ethos is reflected in the senior leadership team – CTO Fredrik Nylander is a former Tumblr executive, Dave Henderson (ex-Cigna and EmblemHealth) is Oscar’s president of insurance, board member Charlie Baker is former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and senior medical executive hires from EmblemHealth, a leading health plan in New York state.
Oscar’s value proposition is on being a more personalized health insurance provider, with a strong sense of convenience and personal attention, aided by marketing, design, and consumer service practices that are aligned to the needs of the millennial generation. It has a sizable emphasis on telemedicine (offering it free of charge), and lets customers speak to doctors 24×7 with a goal of 10 minute wait time or less. To help answer medical questions, the company has doctors on call to chat online or over the telephone with customers. Oscar also lets customers check prices for procedures ahead of time and offers three free in-person doctor visits and free generic drugs.
The company faced minor bumps in the beginning with poor reviews and complaints (an average Yelp rating of 2 stars), but has instituted a feedback input mechanism based on customer interactions. The company aims to productize every customer interaction by implementing feedback as soon as it receives it. It has a slew of partners and tie-ups in line with its strategic focus.
In December 2014, Oscar announced a partnership with Misfit (a wearable tech company), by offering members free fitness trackers, along with Amazon gift cards, as part of an attempt to incentivize healthy behavior and bring down employee healthcare costs. Oscar also offers services at many hospitals and retail locations such as New York CVS CareMark. It is a health insurance company that resembles a technology start-up rather than a faceless insurance behemoth, sort of a health insurance start-up for “born digital” natives.
Since commencing operations in July 2013, Oscar has had a reasonable start. It had about 15,000 members and estimated revenues of U$72 million in 2014. It doubled that member base to 30,000 in January 2015, with one month of enrollment left to go. Oscar is seeking approval to enter California’s individuals exchange by 2016. The primary litmus test for Oscar is going to be the same as for any health plan – managing risk, keeping premiums reasonable, maintaining margins, handling payer-provider convergence, and improving health outcomes. Oscar is a prime example among modern companies looking to shape consumer-driven healthcare in the United States leveraging next-generation technology. As it looks at a reported valuation of significantly more than US$1 billion (implying a handsome 14x sales multiple!), the bet might just pay off.
Photo credit: Oscar
Despite investing significant effort, enterprises are struggling to understand and meaningfully evaluate cloud contracts, due to vast variations in contract details across service providers
A famous teaching of Jesus explains that it’s a mistake to pour new wine into old wineskins because it will burst the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. New wine belongs in new wineskins. I think we’re seeing this principle playing out in technology – where the consequences are profound.
New wine expands and grows fast; so it requires a supple, pliant container to allow for that expansion. Old wine is stable and mature; it does better in a stable, consistent environment.
For the most part, now that the cloud experiment is over, we see that new technologies and functionalities have many of the properties of new wine. They are effervescent, change continually, move quickly and often rely on heavy iteration. They constantly expand and change. They are best suited for new architectures such as cloud infrastructure and SaaS services. New technologies also have new requirements; thus, they require new structures, new and more flexible governance vehicles to allow them to capture their full value.
Legacy applications, the systems of records in which enterprises have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, are mature and were designed for their traditional environments, which tightly govern change. They are in data centers that have the requisite management support and requisite talent pools.
The services industry is starting to recognize the profound truth of the new and old wineskins: At this point in time, legacy applications are best left in their old, original containers where they can continue to operate in a mature fashion. Old applications or systems of record need to remain in their existing frameworks or architectures. They should be changed only slowly. Furthermore, new functionalities and technologies need to go into new wineskins, or architectures, that allow for and encourage agility and other attributes that support evolving change.
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Three years ago global services industry was abuzz that the world would be set on fire by cloud computing. Today, although CIOs and senior executives, accept the cloud model and are looking to implement it, they are increasingly excited about infrastructure and the digitization of business. The digital revolution is shading out cloud, capturing the imagination and mindshare of the C-suite.
Cloud is certainly important, but its impact is just starting to take traction and already the C-suite is moving on to a new horizon. My, how short our attention spans are.
Although digital can incorporate aspects of cloud computing, its impact compared to cloud is enormous in proportion and potential.
I wonder what will be next in line to capture our imaginations and how quickly that will come to gain prominence.
Do you ever think about the lamp in your living room? Probably not today, as it serves its purpose well. But its newness, beauty, and usefulness gave you great satisfaction when you first bought it.
SaaS adoption is much the same. In the last decade, clients bought SaaS applications because they were “SaaS,” outside their premises, and offered interactive interfaces, better access, quicker new features, and cost savings. Adopting SaaS used to be a priority…SaaS was the means and the goal. But in and of itself, SaaS is now a table stake that is being relegated to the background by four key trends.
Mobile has taken the center stage: All SaaS providers worth their salt, (e.g., Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Workday.com), and traditional vendors that have embraced SaaS, (e.g., Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft), are now focusing on offering mobile services leveraging their SaaS solutions. Therefore, enabling mobility is taking a priority over being a “SaaS company.” Salesforce.com, the global SaaS leader, acknowledged this market trend and launched “Lightning,” its mobile platform, to enable developers to quickly develop and deploy mobile apps. I expect other providers to make mobile their chosen computing platform and architect their SaaS offerings accordingly. Making end-user mobile leveraging SaaS concepts will take precedence over offering “SaaS” applications.
Platform service has become crucial: All the major SaaS providers cited have developed their platform offerings to enable developers to create application extensions and integration. SaaS may lose its sheen when not accompanied by a meaningful platform service. To scale, every SaaS provider will require a platform service to integrate with the legacy and broader enterprise IT landscape. Think about Salesforce.com, which integrated its disparate platform services (Force.com, Heroku, etc.) within the Salesforce1.com umbrella to create an integrated platform offering that assists developers and IT operation teams. Private platform providers such as Apprenda, Cloud Foundry, and Engine Yard, as well as traditional integration vendors such as Dell Boomi, Informatica, and IBM, are also eyeing this opportunity for application integration, and are exploiting the gaps left by SaaS offerings running in standalone environments. Technology providers that continue to offer point solutions will experience a natural ceiling to growth once they generate a critical mass. These providers may be acquired by other larger players that can offer more comprehensive, end-to-end services integrating different cloud components.
Analytics has become integral: In the last six months, both Salesforce.com and Workday committed to their vision of analytics services by launching multiple applications and platforms such as Salesforce Wave and Workday Insights. This is market leader acknowledgment that clients need value from their SaaS offerings that goes beyond day-to-day operations. SaaS companies are sitting on a treasure trove of client data, and mining it could provide significant benefits to their customers. While these applications are generally delivered in a SaaS model, companies will not buy them for delivery ease or cost savings, but for functionality and value. I expect most other serious SaaS providers will offer analytics services, especially in domains that require data crunching by vast numbers of humans or machines (e.g., Social, CRM, HR, Finance, IT spend, and M2M.)
SaaS’ novelty has faded away: SaaS has become one of buyers’ preferred mechanism for deploying applications. Even if they are hesitant to leverage a public cloud service, they end up in a private SaaS model and make their developers create “SaaS-like” applications. As most applications are now available in the SaaS delivery model, SaaS’ newness and cachet as a point solution are gone. Most buyers now incorporate “SaaS architecture” in their applications, regardless of whether they are delivered as a SaaS or not. SaaS is now so entrenched as a concept that it is no longer a novelty or a David competing with the Goliath’s of the traditional application world.
Today’s buyers expect SaaS to be better than on-premise systems. They no longer adopt SaaS just because it’s delivered in an “as-a-service” model. They want SaaS because it can solve business problems that on-premise systems may not (or may be exorbitantly costly and time consuming). Buyers no longer buy delivery models; rather, they buy solutions and outcomes.
SaaS as we knew it is gone. However, now it will drive the broader ecosystem of IT consumption, aid clients in running and transforming their businesses, and help end-users perform meaningful tasks. It is the backbone of the entire application landscape. SaaS needs to perform this work in the background and let the new-age concepts and value drivers take the front seat. SaaS needs to become the lamp in the enterprise living room.