As always each year, Huawei hosted its analyst event in April, with hordes of analysts descending on Shenzhen. Here are a few observations from the event:
In 2015, Huawei’s revenues grew by 37% to €61 billion and its EBIT grew by 34% to €7 billion, keeping the operating margin stable at just under 12%. Huawei’s strategy paid off across all of its divisions in 2015. Huawei’s Carrier Business pushed deeper into carrier transformation support and grew by 21% in 2015. Its Consumer Business operations entered the mainstream: The division grew by 73% in 2015, with Huawei gaining the No. 3 spot in the global smartphone league table. Huawei’s Enterprise Business is gaining traction and grew by 44% in 2015.
There are four distinctive aspects that go some way to explaining why Huawei keeps on outgrowing its peer group. First, Huawei’s heart beats in its R&D division, and most of Huawei’s top managers have come through the ranks of the R&D team. Second, Huawei benefits from strong internal collaboration and flexibility. Compared with other vendors, Huawei seems a lot less process-driven. Instead, Huawei seems to tolerate, even encourage, self-organization among employees — despite strict management hierarchies. Third, Huawei has a flexible and unconventional approach to customer experience. Huawei completes projects that overrun without overanalyzing whose fault it is. Fourth, Huawei is not listed and therefore not answerable to external shareholders. This gives it the freedom to experiment and take a long-term view.
I’ve written and commented in the past about the inevitability of a new class of infrastructure called “composable”, i.e. integrated server, storage and network infrastructure that allowed its users to “compose”, that is to say configure, a physical server out of a collection of pooled server nodes, storage devices and shared network connections.[i]
The early exemplars of this class were pioneering efforts from Egenera and blade systems from Cisco, HP, IBM and others, which allowed some level of abstraction (a necessary precursor to composablity) of server UIDs including network addresses and storage bindings, and introduced the notion of templates for server configuration. More recently the Dell FX and the Cisco UCS M-Series servers introduced the notion of composing of servers from pools of resources within the bounds of a single chassis.[ii] While innovative, they were early efforts, and lacked a number of software and hardware features that were required for deployment against a wide spectrum of enterprise workloads.
This morning, HPE put a major marker down in the realm of composable infrastructure with the announcement of Synergy, its new composable infrastructure system. HPE Synergy represents a major step-function in capabilities for core enterprise infrastructure as it delivers cloud-like semantics to core physical infrastructure. Among its key capabilities:
Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent have entered into a memorandum of understanding under which Nokia will make an offer for Alcatel-Lucent in an all-share transaction. The deal values Alcatel-Lucent at €15.6 billion: Alcatel-Lucent shareholders will own 33.5%, with Nokia shareholders owning 66.5%.
Is this a “marriage of desperation” or two network solution vendors coming together to work on a broader vision for an increasingly connected world? The combination of two relatively small network solutions vendors won’t automatically translate into the formation of a new network solutions powerhouse. Most importantly, will the new Nokia truly differ from its main rivals Huawei and Ericsson as an end-to-end carrier network solution provider? Nokia’s competitors will not only face a larger new competitor but also experience the formation of a different one. This deal will mean that:
Nokia joins the small club of converged network solutions vendors. Customers expect experiences that support multiple screens and applications; equipment vendors must deliver solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial Internet requirements by offering next-generation network technology and services. Nokia can’t cater to this market demand alone.
Nokia rejoins the premier league of network solutions providers. The deal means that Nokia’s total pro-forma 2014 revenues will more than double to €25.9 billion. The new Nokia will be the second-largest provider of carrier-grade telecoms networking solutions, with revenues in this segment of €25.0 billion, just behind Ericsson (€25.1 billion) but ahead of Huawei (€23.5 billion). With its newfound size, Nokia will gain access to scale benefits.
Forrester’s Infrastructure and Operations research team has been on the leading edge of infrastructure technology and its proper operational aspects for years. We pushed the industry on both the supply side (vendors) and the demand side (enterprises) toward new models and we pushed hard. I’m proud to say we’ve been instrumental in changing the world of infrastructure and we’re about to change it again!
As the entire technology management profession evolves into the Age of the Customer, the whole notion of infrastructure is morphing in dramatic ways. The long-criticized silos are finally collapsing, cloud computing quickly became mainstream, and you now face a dizzying variety of infrastructure options. Some are outside your traditional borders – like new outsourcing, hosting and colocation services as well as too many cloud forms to count. Some remain inside and will for years to come. More of these options will come from the outside though, and even those “legacy” technologies remaining inside will be created and managed differently.
Your future lies not in managing pockets of infrastructure, but in how you assemble the many options into the services your customers needs. Our profession has been locally brilliant, but globally stupid. We’re now helping you become globally brilliant. We call this service design, a much broader design philosophy rooted in systems thinking. The new approach packages technology into a finished “product” that is much more relevant and useful than any of the parts alone.
The enterprise network is the ugly duckling of enterprise technology landscape, looked at disparagingly by CIOs and often ignored by the business. The enterprise network is much less exciting than all the fancy projects like cloud, mobility, and big data.
Yet the enterprise network represents the vital underpinning for all these projects and increasingly evolves into a business-critical asset for companies looking to succeed in the age of the customer. It becomes the nervous system of the digital business. It facilitates deeper customer engagement by connecting manufacturers, sellers, and buyers of products in new ways, and it helps drive more operational efficiencies as it supports closer collaboration and connects previously disjointed assets. For most business leaders, the network infrastructure isn't much more than a utility, such as electricity or plumbing, while most CIOs don't know how to monetize it. This is a business challenge for the connected business as:
The enterprise network enables business success in the age of the customer. Customer engagement, internal collaboration, and the emergence of digital products and services all rely on a quality network infrastructure. Moreover, network data and business intelligence turn the network into an asset for monetization. As a result, the enterprise network no longer functions as a commodity but becomes a key function for success in the age of the customer.
At its recent analyst event, Ericsson outlined its strategy, product, and service ambitions. Ericsson remains the overall benchmark for network infrastructure vendors. The company has a leading market position in the growth segments of mobile broadband and network services and delivers a solid financial performance — despite the disappointing Q3 2012 results. Still, in my view, Ericsson has several challenges that it needs to address:
· The cloud strategy is built on a questionable assumption.Clearly network infrastructure is becoming more, not less, important for cloud-based solutions. Ericsson therefore assumes that carriers are well positioned to be cloud providers. But CIO perceptions suggest otherwise. CIOs tell us that carriers are far from the preferred choice for cloud-solutions (see Figure 9 in the “Prepare For The Connected Enterprise Now” Forrester report). Carriers therefore need help in addressing the potential of cloud computing. For instance, Ericsson’s cloud solutions ought to help carriers cooperate with cloud partners regarding embedded connectivity in devices and applications.
Last week I attended Telefónica’s leadership event, which is held annually in Miami, reflecting its very strong basis in the Americas. This year’s event attracted around 700 visitors from 130 countries, comprising Telefónica’s customers, vendor partners, and analysts. There were several external keynote speakers, like the CIO of the US government, futurologist Michio Kaku, and the chief economist of the Economist Intelligence Unit, that outlined the macro context for society and the economy over the coming 10 to 20 years. Presentations by partners like Huawei, Microsoft, Nokia, amdocs, and Samsung highlighted visions of the future from a vendor angle. Telefónica itself used the opportunity to present its own vision of how technological progress will affect society and business — and how it intends to address the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Telefónica stands out from its peer group of incumbent telcos by having revamped its overall organizational structure. The firm had already announced this new structure last fall; it effectively sets up one division that focuses on global internal administration and procurement (Global Resources), one division that focuses on emerging Internet-based solutions (Digital), and two geographically focused go-to-market-facing business lines (Americas and Europe). Telefónica Multinational Solutions is part of Global Resources and is the division dedicated to delivering services to the MNC segment.
Network infrastructure is the basis for all funding of telco activities; as such, telcos must not only keep the cash cow alive, but also strengthen it. Management of network infrastructure is easily belittled as a subject for engineering nerds — but it must be treated as a key strategic matter.
Outsourcing the management of or sharing network infrastructure delivers many benefits, and we expect telcos to do this more and more in the years ahead. Telcos need to balance the simultaneous requirements of cost control, enhanced business flexibility, and innovation to incorporate the right approach to external network infrastructure management into their future strategies. Equipment vendors, meanwhile, must adjust their business to keep up and partner with traditional IT services providers.
Many more telcos are moving toward sharing or outsourcing some or all of their network assets and operations to partners or suppliers, becoming “telcos without networks.” This provides an opportunity for some telcos to shift their focus and resources to:
Cost control and transparency. The decision to share or outsource network assets and their operation is primarily driven by financial needs, in particular to bring the total cost of ownership down, spread expenditures over time, and allocate costs in a more transparent manner.
A better customer experience. Increases in data traffic require telcos to enhance their network and service delivery infrastructures and improve network coverage in order to maintain the quality of the customer experience. Moreover, telcos face regulatory requirements for improved rural network coverage, which can be more readily satisfied by network outsourcing.
Corporate CIOs should not ignore the network-centric nature of cloud-based solutions when developing their cloud strategies and choosing their cloud providers. And end users should understand what role(s) telcos are likely to play in the evolution of the wider cloud marketplace.
Like many IT suppliers, telcos view cloud computing as a big opportunity to grow their business. Cloud computing will dramatically affect telcos — but not by generating significant additional revenues. Instead, cloud computing will alter the role of telcos in the value chain irreversibly, putting their control over usage metering and billing at risk. Alarm bells should ring for telcos as Google, Amazon, et al. put their own billing and payment relationships with customers in place.
Telcos must defend their revenue collection role at all costs; failure to do so will accelerate their decline to invisible utility status. At the same time, cloud computing offers telcos a chance to become more than bitpipe providers. Cloud solutions will increasingly be delivered by ecosystems of providers that include telcos, software, hardware, network equipment vendors, and OTT providers.
Telcos have a chance to leverage their network and financial assets to grow into the role of ecosystem manager. To start on this path, telcos will provide cloud-based solutions that are adjacent to communication services they already provide (like home area networking and machine-to-machine solutions), such as connected healthcare and smart grid solutions. Expanding from this beachhead into a broader role in cloud solutions markets is a tricky path that only some telcos will successfully navigate.
We are analyzing the potential role of telcos in cloud computing markets in the research report Telcos as Cloud Rainmakers.
It does not come as a real surprise that the deal aimed at merging AT&T's and Deutsche Telekom's US wireless operations got nowhere. We were expecting as much back in autumn. In our view, there are no winners as a result of this dropped deal, not even the US consumer. The US consumer can look forward to poorer network infrastructure and a weakened T-Mobile as the low-end market provider. Hence, the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department attained somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory.
Whilst the collapsed deal is a major irritant for AT&T, it is a disaster for Deutsche Telekom, as it leaves T-Mobile US in a very difficult position. With about 10% of the US wireless subscribers, T-Mobile US remains subscale. Its image is increasingly trending toward cheap rather than good value, given its patchy network coverage, especially in rural areas.
The reluctance by Deutsche Telekom to prepare for a "no-deal scenario" leaves T-Mobile without a clear strategy. This lack of direction is very risky and only pushes T-Mobile further down a slippery slope toward increasing churn and revenue and margin challenges. Deutsche Telekom needs to communicate its plans for 4G roll-out, spectrum purchases, partnerships for network sharing, and device portfolio. Above all, Deutsche Telekom needs to decide soon whether to pursue an IPO, a sale to another operator or a financial investor, or target a merger with the likes of Dish, Leap, Clearwire, Sprint, or even LightSquared. Ultimately, we expect Deutsche Telekom to opt for a merger scenario.