At the 2nd Annual Telco Cloud Strategies 2013 event in Singapore, I moderated a discussion on how Southeast Asian telcos are gearing up to offer cloud services. Here’s what I observed:
In the cloud era, SE Asian telcos are moving faster than they are used to. A year ago, Philippine telco Globe Telecom set up a new division, IT Enabled Services, to effectively deliver cloud services, supported by more than 100 professional services people on the ground. While revenues are still low, the new division is now freed from being part of the larger parent company’s processes and can move quicker than competitors to offer managed cloud services for specific industries. Indonesia’s Indosat, on the other hand, has brought both the IT and network divisions together to offer a bundled service — cloud with connectivity — in the same period. Others, like Singapore’s SingTel, acquired IT services company, NCS, to tap into the enterprise segment.
Telcos need partners for cloud services. This is essential, as telcos do not typically have all the pieces for an end-to-end solution. For instance, even with a solid IaaS offering, a telco still needs partners to build the value chain in their ecosystem, e.g., SaaS, and grow together. Indosat, for instance, partnered with Dimension Data to offer enterprise cloud services in Indonesia. The partnership combines Indosat’s nationwide connectivity backbone infrastructure and its 10 data center facilities in Indonesia with Dimension Data’s cloud consultancy services.
Telstra’s recent FY13 earnings announcement recorded a strong showing of its Network Application and Services (NAS) division, which saw a 17.7 per cent increase in revenue to A$1.5 billion from the previous year. Its international business delivered a combined Global Connectivity and NAS revenue of A$566 million, or a growth of 11.4 per cent from the previous year. Telstra also plans to continue to build out its NAS division, particularly in Asia.
What It Means
A beneficiary of the NAS investment is Telstra Global, nestled under its International division, offering network connectivity and services to enterprises in Asia. In my recent report, I argued that Telstra Global is a well-placed partner for medium-size to large companies in sectors like transportation and logistics, shipping, manufacturing, and professional services looking to expand their operations out from Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore into Southeast Asia and China. While this looks rosy, there are areas that require closer attention:
We recently met with Huawei executives during the launch of its latest product in China, the S12700 switch. The product, which ships in limited quantity in Q1 2014 is designed for managing campus networks, and acts as a core and aggregation switch in the heart of campus networks. While wired/wireless convergence, policy control and management come as standard features, the draw is the Ethernet Network Processor (ENP). The ENP competes against merchant silicon in competitive switch products, and Huawei claims to be able to deliver new programmable services in six months, compared to one to three years for competitive application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips. This helps IT managers respond quicker to the needs of campus network users, especially in the age of BYOD, Big Data, and cloud computing.
While it is a commendable product in its own right, Huawei will need to position its value more strategically against IT managers that have technology inertia, especially in ‘Cisco-heavy’ networks:
Tying the value of the switch to existing and future enterprise campus needs. In the age of cloud computing, big data, mobility, and social networking, IT managers need to solve network challenges like insufficient service processing capability and slow service responses. Huawei says the new switch is able to provide agile services and respond flexibly to changes in service requirements, on demand. For example, the switch has access control built in for wired/wireless access management. This is a good start. Enterprises will need to understand how the switch plays a central role in a campus network, and Huawei should continue to reinforce its agile network architecture’s storyline.
Tata Communications has emerged from its role as an incumbent Indian service provider to become a globally recognized provider of network connectivity services such as MPLS, Ethernet and IP transit as well as managed hosting in data centers, voice, data, and video.
Tata Communications is starting to measure up to global carriers. I’ve received a number of inquiries on Tata Communications’ regional and global carrier wholesale strategy, as well as its market focus. This increased interest among Forrester clients is a sign that Tata Communications is getting some things right in its carrier business, as the aforementioned global MPLS report makes clear. Its continual network and cable investments are paying off for the service provider.
Google is officially serious about the enterprise space. I met with Google Enterprise execs hosting their very first analyst day in Singapore recently, and was introduced to their enterprise suite of services, which was, unsurprisingly, similar to their consumer suite of services.
However, while they took their starting point from the consumer end, providing enterprise-ready solutions requires a different level of product calibration. To that end, Google cites spending of approximately US$3 billion annually on building/improving its data center infrastructure, investing in undersea cable systems, and laying fiber networks in the US specifically. In Asia Pacific (AP) last year, they spent approximately US$700 million building three data centers in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
In addition to infrastructure investments, Google has also acquired companies like Quickoffice to enhance their appeal to enterprises weaned on Microsoft Office, while also expanding existing offerings in areas like communications and collaboration (Gmail, Google Plus), contextualized services (Maps, Compute Engine, Big Query), access devices (Nexus range, Chromebook), application development (App Engine) and discovery and archiving (Search, Vault).
The Asia Pacific mobile payment landscape is currently in an exciting phase of development, but remains fragmented. Asian telcos will likely need to wait at least another two to three years to see traction with mobile payments. Here’s why:
User readiness. Let’s face it: Cash and credit/debit cards still dominate the payment landscape, and are a lot more convenient to use. While penetration of feature and smartphones has grown substantially in Asia, not many people actually use their phones for mobile payments. Even in markets like Australia and South Korea, cash and credit cards remain highly popular among consumers. And if demand remains low, merchants will not deign to accept mobile payments — creating a vicious cycle.
Infrastructure development. Telecom infrastructure in many Asian countries remains uneven with spotty coverage, (e.g. India and Indonesia). Without proper network access, mobile payments will not propagate outside of urban areas, if at all. While Globe’s Gcash has seen some level of success, the truth is that mobile payments remain nascent in the Philippines specifically and in Asia more broadly. In addition, there is still limited handset support for mobile payments (e.g. some Android models are not able to work with a service). Australia’s Commonwealth Bank went ahead with its m-payment launch after deciding not to wait for incompatible handsets to catch up.
At a recent Enterprise Mobility event, I spoke with a few Asia-based IT directors about their journey in the age of consumerization of IT, and how they were dealing with Bring-Your-Own Technology (BYOT) at work. Their responses ranged from ‘fear of the unknown’ – as in ‘how do we deal with this trend?’ to ‘paralysis by analysis’ – as in ‘let’s arm ourselves with as much information as possible, and analyze it to death.’
The issue is – their employees are already accessing corporate email on their own mobile devices – which means that these IT managers are scrambling to catch up to managing BYOT in their organizations. In fact, an IT head at a large FMCG organization admitted that he did not know where to start managing BYOT.
Security and compliance were key concerns for these IT folks, and their concerns are valid. Trend Micro predicts, for example, that 91% of targeted attacks begin with spear-phishing, a highly targeted type of phishing aimed at specific individuals or groups within an organization. This was heightened in a recent spear-phishing attack on a South Korea bank. The security provider also predicts that there will be 1 million malicious Android apps in the wild by the end of 2013 – another red flag for organizations coping with the rise of Android devices at their work place.
My trip to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year drew mixed emotions: excitement over the vast changes in the mobile world, followed by frustration at having my laptop bag stolen. The last time I was there, in 2008, Motorola was a phone and infrastructure manufacturer, Nortel Networks was still in business, and Nokia Siemens Networks was barely a year into its merger.
Today, Nortel (and my bag) is but a distant memory, Motorola Mobility is part of Google, and others, like Alcatel Lucent, have battled to stay relevant in an age of cheaper products and services. Nokia Siemens Networks, for instance, is today a more focused, leaner company, recently announcing a return to profitability after quarters of losses. Even the venue has shifted from the old grounds to a newer, larger facility.
The GSM Association (GSMA) projects in a global report that developed economies will save US$400 billion in healthcare costs from mobile health services by 2017, and a reduction in carbon emissions of 27 million tons (the equivalent of planting 1.2 billion trees) via smart metering technology in the same period.
In business, it’s very rarely just about what you know, but also who knows you, that determines success or failure.
At their global analyst summit last week, Parallels’ CEO, Birger Steen, welcomed Cisco and IBM as new global systems integrator partners, joining the likes of Microsoft and Symantec. In fact, Cisco has even taken a small equity stake in the company, meaning they will jointly go to market to deliver cloud services. Parallels and Cisco also agreed to expand joint development, marketing, and industry initiatives. While there was no similar equity investment as part of the IBM deal, both companies will jointly engage with large telcos and service providers to offer an integrated IBM/Parallels solution.
Here are some other key takeaways from the event:
Parallels noted that the global SMB cloud services market grew to $45 billion in 2012 and will reach $95 billion by 2015, with a CAGR of 28% (see its SMB Cloud Insights research report). In fact, both Cisco and IBM view Parallels as a gateway to tap the growing SMB need for cloud services (see Tim Harmon’s report Opportunities In The SMB Cloud Services Market).
The momentum Parallels is gaining from expanded global SI partnerships is paralleled (pun intended) by its moves to better leverage the growing cloud investments being made by large telcos as they move from simply “getting into the cloud” to actively converting their customers from using on-premises apps to cloud apps. Already, companies like American Movil have started to offer SaaS and IaaS services to their Latin American users using the Parallels marketplace platform, thanks to a Cisco-led deal.