The IBM/Tencent China Partnership: The New Dance Of The Elephants

On October 31, IBM and Tencent announced that they will work together to extend Tencent’s public cloud platform to the enterprise by building and marketing an industry-oriented public cloud.

Don’t be fooled into looking at this move in isolation. With this partnership, IBM is turning to a new page of its transformation in China, responding to the challenges of a stricter regulatory environment, an increasingly consumerized technology landscape, and newly empowered customers. The move is a crucial milestone in IBM’s strategy to localize its vision for cloud, analytics, mobile, and social (CAMS). IBM has had a strategic focus on CAMS solutions and is systematically building an ecosystem on four pillars:

  • Cloud and social. This is where IBM and Tencent are a perfect match. IBM’s cloud managed service, operated by its partner 21ViaNet, officially went live on September 23. It can support mission-critical applications like ERP and CRM solutions from SAP and Oracle from both the IaaS and SaaS perspective. This could help Tencent target large enterprise customers beyond its traditional base of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) and startups by adding social value to ERP, CRM, and EAM applications.
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Meet China’s Cloud Innovators: Automation Is Key For Cloud User Experience

My January 2013 report “PaaS Market Dynamics in China, 2012 To 2017,” forecast that China’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market would remain in flux until 2015. But now I think it will take even longer for the cloud landscape in China to consolidate and stabilize, for three reasons:

1. The boundary between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and PaaS is breaking down.

2. Emerging technologies like Docker are having an impact on technology and mindsets.

3. China has emerging startups in both the IaaS and PaaS segments.

The startups mainly focus on differentiating the cloud user experience by automating various layers to deliver unique value to potential adopters of cloud solutions. They include:

  • QingCloud.Founded in 2012, QingCloud raised US$20 million in Series B funding in January 2014. Its IaaS offerings for public and virtual private cloud include computing (image and instances), network (VxNet, routing, elastic IP, and load balancing), storage (volume and snapshot), database (MySQL-based, master/slave synchronization support with auto-snapshot), security (group policy and SSH key pair login), and management features (web console to deploy, manage, and monitor resources), which are billed on a per-second basis.
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It’s Time To Consider Enterprise B2B Solutions In China

Previously, when CIOs and enterprise architecture professionals talked about “business-to-business” (B2B) commerce in China, most people thought of third-party B2B marketplaces like Alibaba.com or HC360.com. Very few companies use professional B2B solutions internally, instead relying on a combination of order management systems, customer relationship management, and third-party B2B marketplaces to trade with their business partners.

This is going to change. We have observed a few trends in the Chinese market that will become major drivers for the adoption of enterprise B2B solutions. These trends were further validated during the SAP summit last week in Shenzhen.

  • The legacy application architecture on the market won’t address the challenges of the age of the customer. Most of the companies currently doing business in China’s B2B market are small and medium-size companies with low IT systems maturity — many of them still exchange business information by emailing Excel files. These firms must rely on third-party marketplaces for business collaboration.
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HP Joins The Battle Of Mobile Application Delivery Management in China

HP was the first US company to create a joint venture subsidiary in China; three decades later, the vendor has become a major player in the country’s consumer and enterprise markets. Among enterprises, HP has strong brand awareness for its server products and services, traditional software solutions, and IT services, but rather less for holistic application life-cycle management (ALM), especially on the mobile side. I think it’s time for technology decision-makers and enterprise architects to seriously consider adopting mobile app delivery management solutions and to evaluate HP for that purpose. Here’s why:

  • HP’s portfolio now covers the entire mobile app life cycle.The products HP will bring to market as part of its latest strategy will eventually cover the entire mobile application life cycle from app design, development, and optimization to distribution and monitoring. For example, at the design stage, HP Anywhere — based on popular open source product Eclipse — allows developers to write once to multiple devices within its integrated development environment. And its service virtualization feature can help virtualize third-party cloud services and make them consumable across each layer of the system architecture, including web servers, application servers, and web services.
  • HP’s solution has rich optimization features suitable for Chinese enterprises. At the mobile app optimization stage, HP’s Mobile Center uses a comprehensive approach to functionality, interoperability, usability, performance, and security to consolidate and automate mobile testing. Mobile Center is integrated with LoadRunner, one of the most popular performance engineering tools in Chinese market.
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Global Vendors Should Accelerate Their Partnerships In China

It's never been as challenging for global companies in China as it is right now. First, we've seen a continuous stream of news about the Chinese government requiring greater regulatory governance, starting with the cybersecurity vetting of IT products that relate to national security and public interests in May. Second, leading Chinese Internet companies equipped with emerging technology, such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, are engaging consumers with enriched products and services, expanding into the enterprise business via innovative business models, and extending their reach from tier-one and tier-two cities to tier-three to tier-six ones.

To gain extensive geographic and vertical coverage in the huge market that is China, vendors have had to engage with partner ecosystems for business operations. Now, it’s even more critical for multinational corporations to enable their local alliances to overcome these disruptions and achieve mutually beneficial strategic business growth. Some vendors have already started doing so, with IBM being a leading example. Its initiatives include:

  • Launching a strategic partnership with Yonyou. On September 13, 2014, IBM announced the start of its strategic cooperation with Yonyou during the latter's 2014 user conference. IBM will optimize DB2 with BLU Acceleration for various Yonyou products, such as NC (Yonyou’s ERP offering) and its supply chain management, customer relationship management, and human resources management products. In return, Yonyou will offer NC on top of DB2 with BLU acceleration to its customers, based on its evaluation of IBM’s product in June 2013.
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How To Become A Trusted Cloud Service Provider In The Chinese Market

Practice makes perfect. In daily life, if someone has proven experience and a good reputation in specific area for relatively long time, we would normally consider them to be trustworthy. For example, if Amazon Web Services claimed that it was a trusted public cloud service provider — if not the most trusted provider — not many professionals in the US would argue against that.

However, this does not necessarily hold true in China; cloud service providers need to receive an official authorization from the government that certifies them as a provider of trusted cloud services (TRUCS). I recently attended the International Mobile and Internet Conference, where I got an update on TRUCS.

  • TRUCS is an official recognition of standards compliance and quality. TRUCS is issued by the trusted cloud servicesworking group of the China Academy of Telecommunications Research of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The working group defined the basic principles in June 2013; earlier this year, it finalized the evaluation standards in the form of a cloud service agreement reference framework.
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Visionary Chinese Banks Show How Customer-Oriented Architectures Support Innovation

Five of the top 10 companies in the latest Forbes Global 2000 company list (published in May) are from China, and four of them are commercial banks. If you think this is only due to China’s massive consumer base, and that you can easily apply your global innovation strategy to the Chinese market, you’re almost certainly wrong. Enterprise architecture (EA) professionals at companies doing business in China should take a look at what the country’s banking and financial services industry (BFSI) is doing to enable customer-centric innovation.

I recently published two reports focusing on China’s BFSI. In these reports, I analyzed the Chinese banking landscape and the business challenges banks face, described a systematic approach to innovation that EA pros should consider when planning their transformations, and shed light on how they use both mainstream and emerging technologies to unleash the power of innovation around products, operations, and the organization. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Chinese banks suffer from their own customer experience issues. As a longtime monopoly, China’s BFSI has suffered from inefficiency, quality problems, and an uncompetitive ROI — and thus can no longer meet the high bar for customer satisfaction in the age of the customer. EA pros must find innovative ways to resolve these issues.
  • Internet companies and regulatory changes are challenging BFSI players. Visionary Internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent have launched financial services products, including innovative products like Yuebao, that are disrupting China’s BFSI with higher profits, lower barriers to entry, and better flexibility. The government is also making regulatory changes that will open up the market and intensify competition.
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Docker Will Disrupt Virtualization And Drive Cloud Adoption

On June 9, Docker.com announced that it will release version 1.0 of Docker, an open source platform that could automate the deployment of various types of applications as lightweight, portable, self-sufficient containers and run them virtually on any infrastructure. This announcement indicates that the platform is ready for commercial use, including lightweight, portable runtime support and packaging via Docker Engine and cloud services for application sharing and process automation via Docker Hub.

We talked to some early adopters of Docker, including global ISVs and local solution providers. We believe that Docker-based solutions will disrupt the server virtualization market segment and further drive the adoption of cloud because of their:

  • Technology advantages. Today’s componentized applications often rely on other components, applications, or services. For instance, your Ruby on Rails applications might rely on MongoDB as a persistence layer while using nginx as a web server. Each component might also have its own set of dependencies, which could conflict with each other. Docker can easily package the necessary dependencies and separate them within their own containers.
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Cisco Is Transforming Its DNA Toward Customer Experience

In the Cisco Collaboration Connection event for Asia Pacific early this week, I had the opportunity to try newly designed Cisco collaboration products, as well has have in-depth discussions with senior executives from Cisco.  And  I was also able to observe the response from the partners and customers I met from across APAC, including China, India, Singapore and Indonesia, and exchange my thoughts with them as well. I feel that the DNA of Cisco is changing, from technology-centric toward customer experience focused, starting with the collaboration business. Here is evidence beyond slogans on their Power Point slides.

  • Design. When people talk about the design of Cisco’s collaboration products, usually it would be with words like high-tech, standardized or professional, but seldom about fashionable design, beauty, simplicity, or ease of use – attributes  typically used to describe the leading consumer electronic appliances from Apple or Samsung. Now, with the latest product announcements, it’s totally different, and Cisco has won several Red Dot industrial design awards in 2014.
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Microsoft Leads The China Cloud War Into Episode II

Microsoft is officially launching the commercial operations of its cloud offerings in China today. It’s been only nine months since Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, made the announcement in Shanghai that Windows Azure — now renamed Microsoft Azure — would be available for preview in the Chinese market.

I call that Episode I of the China Cloud War. In the report that I published at the time, “PaaS Market Dynamics in China, 2012 To 2017”, I made three predictions — predictions that are now being fulfilled. More global players are joining the war; customers have gotten familiar with cloud concepts and are planning hybrid cloud implementations for their businesses; and traditional IT service providers have started to transform themselves into cloud service providers.

I talked with Microsoft and Citrix last week, and I strongly believe that Episode I has ended and Episode II has just begun. In the battle for partner ecosystems and real customer business, here are the three major plots that enterprise architects and CIOs in China should watch unfold:

  • The thrree kingdoms will fight with the gloves off. In my blog post last year, I described three kingdoms of global vendors in Chinese cloud market: Microsoft, Amazon, and vendors behind open source technology like OpenStack and CloudStack.
    •  Microsoft is leading the market as the first company in China to provide unified solutions for public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud across infrastructure (IaaS) and middleware (PaaS). This builds on its deep understanding of enterprise requirements, its massive developer base, and the ease of use on the Windows platform.
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