What We Talk About When We Talk About Microsoft Azure In China

Have you seen the movie Birdman — the one that just won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars? It’s about a middle-aged man who was once a popular movie star but has been criticized throughout his career and how he finally achieved a breakthrough performance and found great success in a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

The story of Microsoft Azure is similar. Microsoft was hugely popular in the age of the PC but has sailed into troubled waters in the cloud era. But now — a year after Azure’s commercial launch in China — CIOs and EA professionals must understand how and where Azure might impact their existing MSFT technology investments to achieve business transformation. Azure is one of the leading forces driving cloud adoption in China. We attribute this to the progress that Microsoft has made by:

  • Expanding product offerings.Microsoft Azure now has local products in four key categories: compute, network, data, and application. Beyond basic components like virtual machines, websites, storage, and content delivery networks, Azure also has advanced features that are important for Chinese customers to address their unique challenges, including mobile services for the rapid development of mobile apps to accommodate the massive shift to mobile; a service bus for integration to eliminate information silos in the cloud; and HDInsight for big data capabilities to gain the customer insights necessary to compete with digital disruption from local Internet companies.
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SAP Is On The Right Track To Address The Pain Points Of Chinese Customers, But It Is Not On The Finish Line Yet

On February 9, SAP announced the launch of its next-generation enterprise process application, SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (S/4HANA), in China. This is the third product launch event of SAP globally but it’s the first event during which the product is being launched with customer together.

From my discussions with Chinese customers during the event, I believe that SAP is on the right track to address their major concerns. However, enterprise architecture (EA) professionals in China should take a realistic approach when evaluating the feasibility of the architectural evolution of their enterprise process applications.

  • Chinese clients have suffered from complexity for a long time.As mentioned in my previous report, complexity is one of the key challenges that Chinese companies have faced in their drive to achieve business growth and product innovation, and product innovation must focus on simplicity to enhance customer experiences. This is particularly true when it comes to adopting mission-critical management software. It’s quite normal to hear complaints about the complex user interface, long implementation times, and the significant effort required to maintain and customize software; customization is much more popular and necessary in China than elsewhere due to the need for various types of localization.
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Time To Reset Your Knowledge Of Big Data Ecosystems In China

At the China Hadoop Summit 2015 in Beijing this past weekend, I talked with various big data players, including large consumers of big data China Unicom, Baidu.com, JD.com, and Ctrip.com; Hadoop platform solution providers Hortonworks, RedHadoop, BeagleData, and Transwarp; infrastructure software vendors like Sequotia.com; and Agile BI software vendors like Yonghong Tech.

The summit was well-attended — organizers planned for 1,000 attendees and double that number attended — and from the presentations and conversations it’s clear that big data ecosystems are making substantial progress. Here are some of my key takeaways:

  • Telcos are focusing on optimizing internal operations with big data.Take China Unicom, one of China’s three major telcos, for example. China Unicom has completed a comprehensive business scenario analysis of related data across each segment of internal business operations, including business and operations support systems, Internet data centers, and networks (fixed, mobile, and broadband). It has built a Hadoop-based big data platform to process trillions of mobile access records every day within the mobile network to provide practical guidelines and progress monitoring on the construction of base stations.
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Episode Three Of The China Cloud War: The Rise Of AWS And Azure’s Critical Moment

The cloud market in China is changing fast. The official launch of the commercial operations of Microsoft Azure (Azure) earlier this year started a new chapter (as detailed in my March blog post), while last weekend’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) summit was held in China for the first time and announced the third episode of this war. AWS is speeding up building its ecosystem and starting to challenge both Microsoft’s early-mover advantage and the market share of other global and local players.

To help CIOs and enterprise architects set up their hybrid cloud strategy in the region, we’ve put together a brief comparison of the Azure and AWS offerings and ecosystems in China:

  • Operations.Microsoft made Azure available for preview in China on June 6, 2013 and announced its commercial launch on March 25, 2014, stating that it would be operated by 21ViaNet and have a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.95%. It has two dedicated data centers in Beijing and Shanghai. AWS announced the availability of its “Beijing region” in China on December 18, 2013, but it still hasn’t announced its official commercial launch, other than a partnership with Cloud Valley. Currently, AWS has only one data center in Ningxia province.
  • Offerings.Azure offerings cover services for compute (VM, websites, cloud services, etc.); data (storage, SQL database, HDInsight, backup, etc.); applications (service bus, Active Directory, CDN, media services, notification services, etc.); and networking (virtual network, Traffic Manager, etc.). Azure also provides other solutions, such as infrastructure services, data management, and application development and deployment.
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The Cloud Foundry Foundation: The Key Driver Of A Breakthrough In PaaS Adoption

The rise of the DevOps role in the enterprise and the increasing requirements of agility beyond infrastructure and applications make the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market one to watch for both CIOs and enterprise architecture professionals. On December 9, the membership of Cloud Foundry, a major PaaS open source project, announced the formation of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

In my view, this is as important as the establishment of OpenStack foundation in 2012, which was a game-changing move for the cloud industry. Here’s why:

  • PaaS is becoming an important alternative to middleware stacks. Forrester defines PaaS as a complete application platform for multitenant cloud environments that includes development tools, runtime, and administration and management tools and services. (See our Forrester Wave evaluation for more detail on the space and its vendors.) In the cloud era, it’s a transformational alternative to established middleware stacks for the development, deployment, and administration of custom applications in a modern application platform, serving as a strategic layer between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) with innovative tools.
  • Cloud Foundry is one major open source PaaS software. Cloud Foundry as a technology was designed and architected by Derek Collison and built in the Ruby and Go programming languages by Derek and Vadim Spivak (wiki is wrong!). VMware released it as open source in 2011 after Derek joined the company. Early adopters of Cloud Foundry include large multinationals like Verizon, SAP, NTT, and SAS, as well as Chinese Internet giants like Baidu.
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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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