Executive Retail ThinkTank: Open for Omnichannel – Achieving Seamless Customer Experiences

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Customers today expect a true omnichannel experience from retailers. They want a seamless service, across the physical stores, online shopping and when interacting with contact centres.

As the Retail industry continues to create innovative customer experiences and strengthen eCommerce capabilities, there are unique business challenges to handle like demand fluctuations, supply chain dependability and being resilient to avoid out-of-stock.

Ecosystm research finds that in the Retail industry:

  • 80% of organizations had to start or re-calibrate their digital transformation efforts in the last year
  • 50% are looking to leverage more digital technology for process automation and customer experience
  • Pricing optimization, demand forecasting, and supply chain optimization are the key focus areas of their AI investments
  • Only 21% of organizations think that they offer a full omnichannel experience

As retailers work to create that omnichannel presence – across digital, contact centre and in-store – they are forced to use a range of different systems and analytical tools to achieve a single view of stock availability, product pricing and customer data. This adds to the complexity of operations and can create delays.

We invite you to join a gathering of experienced peers from the Southeast Asia and ANZ Retail sector, such as Scott Coppock, CIO, David Jones and Country Road Group, as well as senior subject matter experts from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Infosys to discuss improvements such as:

  • Significantly improving customer experience by enhancing existing systems using headless eCommerce systems.
  • Providing customers with enhanced capabilities such as AI-based recommendation engines.
  • Reducing costs of operation through application modernization.
  • Improving sales forecasting and supply chain planning.
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Ecosystm Snapshot: Kyndryl Taps AWS to Broaden their Cloud Platform Capabilities

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5/5 (1)

Last week, Kyndryl became a Premier Global Alliance Partner for AWS. This follows other recent similar partnerships for Kyndryl with Google and Microsoft. This now gives Kyndryl premier or similar partner status at the big three hyperscalers.

The Partnership

This new partnership was essential for Kyndryl to provide legitimacy to their independent reputation and their global presence. And in many respects, it is a partnership that AWS needs as much as Kyndryl does. As one of the largest global managed services providers, Kyndryl manages a huge amount of infrastructure and thousands of applications. Today, most of these applications sit outside public cloud environments, but at some stage in the future, many of these applications will move to the public cloud. AWS has positioned itself to benefit from this transition – as Kyndryl will be advising clients on which cloud environment best suits their needs, and in many cases Kyndryl will also be running the application migration and managing the application when it resides in the cloud. To that end, the further investment in developing an accelerator for VMware Cloud on AWS will also help to differentiate Kyndryl on AWS. With a high proportion of Kyndryl customers running VMware, this capability will help VMware users to migrate these workloads to the cloud and run core businesses services on AWS.

The Future

Beyond the typical partnership activities, Kyndryl will build out its own internal infrastructure in the cloud, leveraging AWS as its preferred cloud provider. This experience will mean that Kyndryl “drinks its own champagne” – many other managed services providers have not yet taken the majority of their infrastructure to the cloud, so this experience will help to set Kyndryl apart from their competitors, along with providing deep learning and best practices.

By the end of 2022, Kyndryl expects to have trained more than 10,000 professionals on AWS. Assuming the company hits these targets, they will be one of AWS’s largest partners. However, experience trumps training, and their relatively recent entry into the broader cloud ecosystem space (after coming out from under IBM’s wing at the end of 2021) means they have some way to go to have the depth and breadth of experience that other Premier Alliance Partners have today.

Ecosystm Opinion

In my recent interactions with Kyndryl, what sets them apart is the fact that they are completely customer-focused. They start with a client problem and find the best solution for that problem. Yes – some of the “best solutions” will be partner specific (such as SAP on Azure, VMware on AWS), but they aren’t pushing every customer down a specific path. They are not just an AWS partner – where every solution to every problem starts and ends with AWS. The importance of this new partnership is it expands the capabilities of Kyndryl and hence expands the possibilities and opportunities for Kyndryl clients to benefit from the best solutions in the market – regardless of whether they are on-premises or in one of the big three hyperscalers.

Cloud Insights
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IoT is Your Next Data Silo – What Are You Going to Do About It?

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5/5 (1)

The Internet of Things (IoT) solutions require data integration capabilities to help business leaders solve real problems. Ecosystm research finds that the problem is that more than half of all organisations are finding integration a key challenge – right behind security (Figure 1). So, chances are, you are facing similar challenges.

Challenges of IoT Development

This should not be taken as a criticism of IoT; just a wake-up call for all those seeking to implement what has long been test-lab technology into an enterprise environment. I love absolutely everything about IoT. IT is an essential technology. Contemporary sensor technologies are at the core of everything. It’s just that there are a lot of organisations not doing it right.

Like many technologists, I was hooked on IoT since I first sat in a Las Vegas AWS re: invent conference breakout session in 2015 and learned about MQTT protocols applied to any little thing, and how I could re-order laundry detergent or beer with an AWS button, that clumsy precursor to Alexa.

Parts of that presentation have stayed with me to this day. Predict and act. What business doesn’t want to be able to do that better? I can still see the room. I still have those notes. And I’m still working to help others embrace the full potential of this must-have enterprise capability.

There is no doubt that IoT is the Cinderella of smart cities. Even digital twinning. Without it, there is no story. It is critical to contemporary organisations because of the real-time decision-making data it can provide into significant (Industry 4.0) infrastructure and service investments. That’s worth repeating. It is critical to supporting large scale capital investments and anyone who has been in IT for any length of time knows that vindicating the need for new IT investments to capital holders is the most elusive of business demands.

But it is also a bottom-up technology that requires a top-down business case – a challenge also faced by around 40% of organisations in the Ecosystm study – and a number of other architectural components to realise its full cost-benefit or capital growth potential. Let’s not quibble, IoT is fundamental to both operational and strategic data insights, but it is not the full story.

If IoT is the belle of the smart cities ball, then integration is the glass slipper that ties the whole story together. After four years as head of technology for a capital city deeply committed to the Smart City vision, if there was one area of IoT investment I was constantly wishing I had more of, it was integration. We were drowning in data but starved of the skills and technology to deliver true strategic insights outside of single-function domains.

IoT Quote

This reality in no way diminishes the value of IoT. Nor is it either a binary or chicken-and-egg question of whether to invest in IoT or integration. In fact, the symbiotic market potential for both IoT and integration solutions in asset-intensive businesses is not only huge but necessary.

IoT solutions are fundamental contemporary technologies that provide the opportunity for many businesses to do well in areas they would otherwise continue to do very poorly. They provide a foundation for digital enablement and a critical gateway to analytics for real-time and predictive decision making.

When applied strategically and at scale, IoT provides a magical technology capability. But the bottom line is that even magic technology can never carry the day when left to do the work of other solutions. If you have already plunged into IoT then chances are it has already become your next data silo. The question is now, what you are going to do about it?

Emerging Technology
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Ecosystm VendorSphere: Oracle’s Emergence as a Key Webscaler

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5/5 (1)

Oracle is clearly prioritising a rapid expansion across the globe. The company is in a race to catch up with the big 3 (AWS, Google, and Microsoft), and recognises that many of their customers are eager to migrate to the cloud, and they have other options. Their strategy appears to be to rely on third-party co-location providers for most of their data centres, and build a single availability zone per region, at least to start.

Oracle Cloud Rollout Ramps Up

Let us consider the following:

  • Oracle’s network spending level puts it in the range of other webscalers. Focusing only on the Network and IT portion of their CapEx, Oracle has now passed Alibaba. Oracle is also ahead of both IBM and Baidu, which are included in the “All others” category in Figure 1.
Annualised Network & IT CAPEX through 3Q21, Top Webscalers
  • The coverage of the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) is impressive. It has 36 regions today (some dedicated for government use), with a plan to reach 44 by year-end 2022. That compares to 27 overall for AWS, 65 for Azure, 29 for GCP; regional competitors Tencent and Huawei have 27 regions each, and Alibaba 25 regions. The downside is that Oracle has only one availability zone in most of its regions, while the Big 3 usually have 2 or 3 per region. Oracle needs to build out its local resiliency rapidly over the next year or two or risk losing business to the big 3, especially to AWS; but the company knows this and is budgeting CapEx aggressively to address the problem.
  • Oracle’s initial reliance on leased facilities may be an interim step. The rapid growth of AWS, Azure, and GCP in the late 2010s was a surprise and Oracle started to see serious risks of losing customers to these cloud platforms. Building out their own cloud base on new data centres would have taken years and cost them business. So, Oracle did the smart thing and leaped into the cloud as fast as possible with the resources and time available. The company has scaled their OCI operations at an impressive rate. It expects capital expenditures to double YoY for the fiscal year ending May 2022, as it increases “data centre capacities and geographic locations to meet current and expected customer demand” for OCI.
  • Finally, Oracle has invested heavily in designing the servers to be installed in its data centres (even if most of them are leased). Oracle was an early investor in Ampere Computing, which makes Arm-based processors, sidestepping the Intel ecosystem. In May 2021, Oracle rolled out its first Arm-based compute offering, OCI Ampere A1 Compute, based on the Ampere Altra processor. Oracle says this allows OCI customers to run “cloud-native and general-purpose workloads on Arm-based instances with significant price-performance benefits.” Microsoft and Tencent also deploy the Ampere Altra in some locations.

Reaching Global Scale

Once Oracle decided to launch into the cloud, its goal was to both grow revenues and also protect its legacy base from slipping away to the Big 3, which already had a growing global footprint. Oracle chose to quickly build cloud regions in its key markets, with the understanding that it would have to fill out individual regions as time passed. This is not that different from the big 3, in fact, but Oracle started its buildout much later. It also has lesser availability zones per region.

Oracle has not ignored this disparity. It recognises that reliability is key for its clients in trusting OCI. For example, the company emphasises that:

  • Each Oracle Cloud region contains at least three fault domains, which are “groupings of hardware that form logical data centers for high availability and resilience to hardware and network failures.” Fault domains allow a customer to distribute instances so “the instances are not on the same physical hardware within a single availability domain.”
  • OCI has a network of 70 “FastConnect” partners which offer dedicated connectivity to OCI regions and services (comparable to AWS DirectConnect)
  • OCI and Microsoft Azure have a partnership allowing “joint customers” to run workloads across the two clouds, providing low latency, cross-cloud interconnect between OCI and Azure in eight specific regions. Customers can migrate existing applications or develop cloud native applications using a mix of OCI and Azure.
  • Oracle allows customers to deploy OCI completely within their own data centers, with Dedicated Region and Exadata Cloud@Customer, deploy cloud services locally with public cloud-based management, or deploy cloud services remotely on the edge with Roving Edge Infrastructure.
  • Further, Oracle clearly tries to differentiate around its Arm-based Ampere processors. Reliability is not necessarily the focus, though. The main focus is contrasting Ampere with the x86 ecosystem around overall price-performance, with highlights on power efficiency, scalability and ease of development. 

Ultimately the market will decide whether Oracle’s approach makes it truly competitive with the big 3. The company continues to announce some big wins, including with Deutsche Bank, FedEx, NEC, Toyota, and Zoom. The latter is probably the company’s biggest cloud win given Zoom’s rise to prominence amidst the pandemic. Not surprisingly, Oracle’s recent Singapore cloud region launch was hosted by Zoom.

Conclusion

Over the long run, the webscale market is getting more concentrated in the hands of a few players; some companies tracked as webscalers, such as HPE and SAP, will fall by the wayside as they can’t keep up with the infrastructure spending requirements of being a top player. Oracle is aiming to remain in the race, however. CEO Larry Ellison addressed this in an earnings call, arguing the global cloud market is not just the “big 3” (AWS, Azure, and GCP), but is a “big 4” due in part to Oracle’s database strengths. Ellison also argued that the OCI is “much better for security, for performance, for reliability” and cost: “we’re cheaper.” The market will ultimately decide these things, but Oracle is off to a strong start. Its asset light approach to network buildout, and limited depth within regions, clearly have downfalls. But the company has a deep roster of long-term customers across many regions, and it is moving fast to secure their business as they migrate operations to the cloud.

Cloud Insights
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Executive Retail ThinkTank: Open for Omnichannel – Achieving Seamless Customer Experiences

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Customers today expect a true omnichannel experience from retailers. They want a seamless service, across the physical stores, online shopping and when interacting with contact centres.

As the Retail industry continues to create innovative customer experiences and strengthen eCommerce capabilities, there are unique business challenges to handle like demand fluctuations, supply chain dependability and being resilient to avoid out-of-stock.

Ecosystm research finds that in the Retail industry:

  • 80% of organizations had to start or re-calibrate their digital transformation efforts in the last year
  • 50% are looking to leverage more digital technology for process automation and customer experience
  • Pricing optimization, demand forecasting, and supply chain optimization are the key focus areas of their AI investments
  • Only 21% of organizations think that they offer a full omnichannel experience

As retailers work to create that omnichannel presence – across digital, contact centre and in-store – they are forced to use a range of different systems and analytical tools to achieve a single view of stock availability, product pricing and customer data. This adds to the complexity of operations and can create delays.

We invite you to join a gathering of experienced peers from the Southeast Asia and ANZ Retail sector, such as Scott Coppock, CIO, David Jones and Country Road Group, as well as senior subject matter experts from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Infosys to discuss improvements such as:

  • Significantly improving customer experience by enhancing existing systems using headless eCommerce systems.
  • Providing customers with enhanced capabilities such as AI-based recommendation engines.
  • Reducing costs of operation through application modernization.
  • Improving sales forecasting and supply chain planning.

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AWS to Open Data Centres in New Zealand

5/5 (1)

5/5 (1)

Last week AWS announced their plans to invest USD 5.3 billion to launch new data centres in New Zealand’s Auckland region by 2024. Apart from New Zealand, AWS has recently added new regions in Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Ningxia, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo; and are set to expand into Indonesia, Israel, UAE and Spain.

In a bid to deliver secure and low latency data centre capabilities, the infrastructure hub will comprise three Availability Zones (AZ) and will be owned and operated by the local AWS entity in New Zealand. The new region will enable local businesses and government entities to run workloads and store data using their local data residency preferences.

It is estimated that the new cloud region will create nearly 1,000 jobs over the next 15 years. They will continue to train and upskill the local developers, students and next-gen leaders through the AWS re/Start, AWS Academy, and AWS Educate programs. To support the launch and build new businesses, the AWS Activate program will provide web-based trainings, cloud computing credits, and business mentorship.

New Zealand is becoming attractive to cloud and data centre providers. Last year, Microsoft had also announced their Azure data centre investments and skill development programs in New Zealand. To support the future of cloud services and to fulfil the progressive data centre demands, Datagrid and Meridian Energy partnered to build the country’s first hyperscale data centre, last year. Similarly, CDC Data Centres have plans to develop two new hyperscale data centres in Auckland.

An Opportunity for New Zealand to Punch Above its Weight as the New Data Economy Hub

Ecosystm CEO, Amit Gupta

The flurry of data centre related activity in New Zealand is not just a reflection of the local opportunity given that the overall IT Market size of a sub-5 million population will always be modest, even if disproportionate. Trust, governance, transparency are hallmarks of the data centre business. Consider this – New Zealand ranks #1 on Ease of Doing Business rankings globally and #1 on the Corruptions Perception Index – not as a one-off but consistently over the years.

Layered on this is a highly innovative business environment, a cluster of high-quality data science skills and an immense appetite to overcome the tyranny of distance through a strong digital economy. New Zealand has the opportunity to become a Data Economy hub as geographic proximity will become less relevant in the new digital economy paradigm. 

New Zealand is strategically located between Latin America and Asia, so could act as a data hub for both regions, leveraging undersea cables. The recently initiated and signed Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between Singapore and New Zealand – with Chile as the 3rd country – is a testimony to New Zealand’s ambitions to be at the core of a digital and data economy. The DEPA is a template other countries are likely to sign up to and should enhance New Zealand’s ability to be a trusted custodian of data.

Given the country’s excellent data governance practices, access to clean energy, conducive climate for data centres, plenty of land and an exceptional innovation mindset, this is an opportunity for global businesses to leverage New Zealand as a Data Economy hub.

New Zealand’s Data Centre Market is Becoming Attractive

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Alan Hesketh

The hyperscale cloud organisations investing in New Zealand-based data centres is both a great opportunity and a significant challenge for both local data centre providers and the local digital industry. With AWS and Microsoft making significant investments in the Auckland region the new facilities, will improve access to the extensive facilities provided by Azure and AWS with reduced latency.

To date, there have not been significant barriers for most non-government organisations to access any of the hyperscalers, with latency of trans-Tasman already reasonably low. However, large organisations, particularly government departments, concerned about data sovereignty are going to welcome this announcement.

With fibre to the premise available in significant parts of New Zealand, with cost-effective 1GB+ symmetrical services available, and hyperscalers on-shore, the pressure to grow New Zealand’s constrained skilled workforce can only increase. Skills development has to be a top priority for the country to take advantage of this infrastructure. While immigration can address part of the challenge, increasing the number of skilled citizens is really needed. It is good to see the commitment that AWS is making with the availability of training options. Now we need to encourage people to take advantage of these options!

Top Cloud Providers Continue to Drive Data Centre Investment

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Matt Walker

Capital investments in data centres have soared in recent quarters. For the webscale sector, spending on data centres and related network technology account for over 40% of total CapEx. The webscale sector’s big cloud providers have accounted for much of the recent CapEx surge. AWS, Google, and Microsoft have been building larger facilities, expanding existing campuses and clusters, and broadening their cloud region footprint into smaller markets. These three account for just under 60% of global webscale tech CapEx over the last four quarters. The facilities these webscale players are building can be immense. 

The largest webscalers – Google, AWS, Facebook and Microsoft – clearly prefer to design and operate their own facilities. Each of them spends heavily on both external procurement and internal design for the technology that goes into their data centres. Custom silicon and the highest speed, most advanced optical interconnect solutions are key. As utility costs are a huge element of running a data centre, webscalers also seek out the lowest cost (and, increasingly, greenest) power solutions, often investing in new power sources directly. Webscalers aim to deploy facilities which are on the bleeding edge of technology.

An important part of the growth in cloud adoption is the construction of infrastructure closer to the end-user. AWS’s investment in New Zealand will benefit their positioning and should help deliver more responsive and resilient services to New Zealand’s enterprise market.

Cloud Insights
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Cloud Adoption Creating a Land Grab in the Data Centre Market

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5/5 (3)

The emergence of COVID-19 last year caused a rapid shift towards work and study from home, and a pickup in eCommerce and social media usage. Tech companies running large data centre-based “webscale” networks have eagerly exploited these changes. Already flush with cash, the webscalers invested aggressively in expanding their networks, in an effort to blanket the globe with rapid, responsive connectivity. Capital investments have soared. For the webscale sector, spending on data centres and related network technology accounts for over 40% of the total CapEx.

Here are the 3 key emerging trends in the data centre market:

#1 Top cloud providers drive webscale investment but are not alone

The webscale sector’s big cloud providers have accounted for much of the recent CapEx surge. AWS, Google, and Microsoft have been building larger facilities, expanding existing campuses and clusters, and broadening their cloud region footprint into smaller markets. These three account for just under 60% of global webscale tech CapEx over the last four quarters. Alibaba and Tencent have been reinforcing their footprints in China and expanding overseas, usually with partners. Numerous smaller cloud providers – notably Oracle and IBM – are also expanding their cloud services offerings and coverage.

Facebook and Apple, while they don’t provide cloud services, also continue to invest aggressively in networks to support large volumes of customer traffic. If we look at Facebook, the reason becomes clear: as of early 2021, they needed to support 65 billion WhatsApp messages per day, over 2 billion minutes of voice and video calls per day, and on a monthly basis their Messenger platform carries 81 billion messages.

The facilities these webscale players are building can be immense. For instance, Microsoft was scheduled to start construction this month on two new data centres in Des Moines Iowa, each of which costs over USD 1 billion and measures over 167 thousand square metres. And Microsoft is not alone in building these large facilities.  

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#2 Building it all alone is not an option for even the biggest players

The largest webscalers – Google, AWS, Facebook and Microsoft – clearly prefer to design and operate their own facilities. Each of them spends heavily on both external procurement and internal design for the technology that goes into their data centres. Custom silicon and the highest speed, most advanced optical interconnect solutions are key. As utility costs are a huge element of running a data centre, webscalers also seek out the lowest cost (and, increasingly, greenest) power solutions, often investing in new power sources directly. Webscalers aim to deploy facilities that are on the bleeding edge of technology. Nonetheless, in order to reach the far corners of the earth, they have to also rely on other providers’ network infrastructure. Most importantly, this means renting out space in data centres owned by carrier-neutral network operators (CNNOs) in which to install their gear.

The Big 4 webscalers do this as little as possible. For many smaller webscalers though, piggybacking on other networks is the norm. Of course, they want some of their own data centres – usually the largest ones closest to their main concentrations of customers and traffic generators. But leasing space – and functionalities like cloud on-ramps – in third-party facilities helps enormously with time to market.

Oracle is a case in point. They have expanded their cloud services business dramatically in the last few years and attracted some marquee names to their client list, including Zoom, FedEx and Cisco. To ramp up, Oracle reported a rise in CapEx, growing to USD 2.1 billion in the 12 months ended June 2021, which represents a 31% increase from the previous year. However, when compared to Microsoft’s spending this appears modest. Microsoft reported having spent USD 20.6 billion in the 12 months ended June 2021 – a 33% increase over the previous year – to help drive the growth of their Azure cloud service.

One reason behind Oracle’s more modest spending is how heavily the company has relied on colocation partners for their cloud buildouts. Oracle partners with Equinix, Digital Realty, and other providers of neutral data centre space to speed their cloud time to market. Oracle rents space in 29 Digital Realty locations, for instance, and while Equinix doesn’t quantify its partnership with Oracle, Oracle’s cloud regions across the globe access the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) via the Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric. Oracle also works with telecom providers; their Dubai cloud region, launched in October 2020, is hosted out of an Etisalat owned data centre.

#3 Carrier-neutral data centre investment is surging in concert with webscale/cloud growth

As the webscale sector has raced to expand over the last 2 years, companies that specialise in carrier-neutral data centres have benefited. Industry sources estimate that as much as 50% or more of the cloud sector’s total data centre footprint is actually in these third-party data centres. That is unlikely to change, especially as some CNNOs are explicitly aiming to build out their networks in areas where webscalers have less incentive to devote resources. It’s not just about the webscalers’ need for space; the need for highly responsive, low latency networks is also key, and interconnection closer to the end-user is a driver.

Looking at the biggest publicly traded carrier-neutral providers in the data centre sector shows that their capacity has expanded significantly in the last few years (Figure 1)

Data Centres and Rentable Space in the Carrier Neutral Sector, 2011-20

By my estimation, for the first 6 months of 2021, CapEx reported publicly for these CNNOs increased 18% against 1H20, to an estimated USD 4.1 Billion. Beyond the big public names, private equity investment is blossoming in the data centre market, in part aimed at capturing some of the demand growth generated by webscalers. Examples include Blackstone’s acquisition of QTS Realty Trust, Goldman Sachs setting up a data centre-focused venture called Global Compute Infrastructure; and Macquarie Capital’s strategic partnership with Prime Data Centers.

Some of this new investment target core facilities in the usual high-traffic clusters, but some also target smaller country markets (e.g. STT’s new Bangkok-based data centre), and the network edge (e.g. EdgeConneX, a portfolio company of private equity fund EQT Infrastructure).

EdgeConneX is a good example of the flexibility required by the market. They build smaller size facilities and deploy infrastructure closer to the edge of the network, including a PoP in Boston’s Prudential Tower. The company offers data centre solutions “ranging from 40kW to 40MW or more.” They have built over 40 data centres in recent years, including both edge data centres and a number of regional and hyperscale facilities across North America, Europe, and South America. Notably, EdgeConneX recently created a joint venture with India’s property group Adani – AdaniConneX – which looks to leverage India’s status of being the current hotspot for carrier-neutral data centre investment.

As enterprises across many vertical markets continue to adopt cloud services, and their requirements grow more stringent, the investment climate for new data centre capacity is likely to remain strong. Webscale providers will provide much of this capacity, but carrier-neutral specialists have an important role to play. 

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Zoom Joins the Contact Centre Fray with Five9 Acquisition

4.8/5 (6)

4.8/5 (6)

An Update (1 October 2021): This acquisition did not go through even after the boards of directors of both companies had approved it. It was voted down by Five9 shareholders, citing growth and valuation concerns. This is an unusual example of an acquisition not going through because of unwillingness of one of the companies. In recent times, regulators have stopped some acquisitions. Incidentally, there were some concerns raised by the by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as Zoom is based in US. but has product development operations in China.

The partnership arrangement between the two companies will continue including support for integrations between their respective Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solutions and joint go-to-market initiatives.

Zoom has announced their intention to acquire cloud contact centre service provider Five9 in an all-stock deal for about USD 14.7 Billion. This is Zoom’s largest-ever acquisition as the communications platform continues to expand their services and launch new products. The deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022 and Five9 will be an operating unit of Zoom.

The last year has seen Zoom scaling up their product offerings, including cloud calling solution – Zoom Phone, conference hosting solution – Zoom Rooms, and applications and productivity tools – Zoom Apps and Zoom Marketplace. Zoom also acquired real-time translation startup Kites GmbH to offer multi-language translation capabilities, and Keybase – a secure messaging and file-sharing service to build end-to-end encryption for its video conferencing platform.

Ecosystm Analysts share their thoughts on Zoom’s strategy and roadmap, how Five9 will augment Zoom’s capabilities, and the impact the acquisition will have on Zoom’s competitors and the market.

Why Contact Centre?

Ecosystm Principal Advisor Tim Sheedy says, “Zoom is moving beyond its period of ‘organic hypergrowth’ brought on by the pandemic. While the paying customer base for their core video collaboration service will continue to grow, growth rates are likely to begin to track the market. To grow beyond market rates, Zoom needs to move into new markets – through product development or acquisition.”

Talking about the importance of voice services, Sheedy adds, “Voice services are an obvious adjacent market to help drive growth, and Zoom already has seen some success with their Zoom phone service and associated devices – in fact, they already have 1.5 million users. The Five9 acquisition gives the company a stronger and deeper capability in the voice sector; buying them a significant chunk of the voice services in business – the contact centre. In many businesses, the contact centre already accounts for over 50% of their voice minute usage, so winning this space will go a long way towards winning the overall voice and collaboration supplier in enterprises.”

Ecosystm Principal Advisor Audrey William predicts exciting times ahead for Zoom. “With Zoom already having a platform for video, then bringing voice into that equation and now a contact centre solution, makes them take on their competitors in an all-native cloud stack. There is a still a large installed base of on-prem UC customers and with Zoom seeing success with Zoom phones in the short time frame since its launch, this is where this will get exciting for Zoom. The telephony piece is still important in the race to simplify how we work, communicate, and collaborate today. It is that same voice/telephony discussion that can lead to a routing discussion, which then leads to a contact centre discussion.”  

Ecosystm research shows that 54% of organisations are challenged in their customer experience delivery because of integration issues between multiple platforms. William sees this as an opportunity for Zoom. “The use cases to integrate workflows into the video environment is going to be important for Zoom. Video is now being used to solve customer service issues like letting the agents take over the screen to see how to help solve the customer problem immediately by using video and contact centre applications. The ability to bring this natively together will be very powerful. Zoom is investing heavily into apps and working to partner with ISVs who can develop workflows suitable for easy customer communication in specific industries such as Healthcare and Financial Services.”

Why Five9?

Five9 is considered a pioneer in cloud contact centre solutions and owns a comprehensive suite of applications for contact centre delivery and customer management operations across different channels. Five9 has made several acquisitions and enhancements to their CCaaS solution in recent years to make their stack more complete with richer AI offerings. They include Inference Solutions to offer their customers a Conversational AI solution and Whendu’s iPaaS platform which provides a no-code, visual application workflow tool.

William says, “More contact centres want to do away with monolithic IVR systems that confuse customers with too many long menus. The Agent Assist solutions are also gaining importance especially in the hybrid work model where agents face challenges working in isolation and not being on a floor with their colleagues and managers.”  

Five9 has acquired a cloud workforce optimisation provider Virtual Observer. “So, we are not looking at just a basic level contact centre solution but an offering with important capabilities demanded by customers,” says William. “During the investor call this week, Zoom’s Eric Yuan and Rowan Trollope made it clear that they have been listening to customer feedback on how effective it would be to have a single platform that can accommodate UC and contact centres in the cloud. Zoom also sees Five9 as a good fit culturally; and their goal now will be to disrupt all legacy systems with cloud-native communications.”

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What lies ahead?

William thinks that Zoom’s competitors will be watching this integration closely, especially those that lack an all-in-one native cloud UCaaS and CCaaS stack. “However, some of Zoom’s competitors have an established base of large enterprise customers and have done well to grow revenues and defend their base over the years. Working with in-country partners and ISVs will be critical for Zoom’s growth across regions.”

Sheedy thinks that the most important takeaway from this acquisition is not that Zoom is moving into the contact centre space. “It is that Zoom realises they have a “once in a generation” opportunity to grow beyond their core and cement their position as a supplier of collaboration and communication services – and that they are willing to flex their balance sheet and share price to create their future. The competition – from Microsoft in particular – will be strong. Google, AWS, Salesforce, and Facebook are also making a play for this market. Zoom has found themselves in their current position of strength due to good luck and good timing – and they appear to be telling the market that they aren’t going to give up their leadership without a significant battle.”

“Enterprises will be the true winners in this battle – with better, more integrated, lower cost and easier to implement communications and collaboration solutions for their employees and customers,” adds Sheedy.

Experience Economy
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