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
“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
“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
“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.“
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.
#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)
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
HPE’s recent announcements show customers that GreenLake is an end-to-end solution for managing their IT infrastructure moving forward. It ticks all the boxes: providing flexibility and scalability; the advantage of using both data centre and cloud; and high manageability and security with a full suite of applications.
Examples are the partnership with Azure Stack HCI, to add to earlier ones with leading vendors like SAP, Citrix, and VMware. HPE is building a platform that provides customers with the comfort that they can adopt GreenLake and pretty much have access to any application they may choose to implement – offering full coverage from the Edge to the Cloud. It is extremely interesting that GreenLake allows the option of switching on and switching off processor cores as needed, and the customer pays based on usage. This is surely a first for the industry!
Another example is Lighthouse, which allows the customer to rapidly configure, and provision workloads based on dynamic needs. While all the hyperscalers provide similar services when the workload is on the cloud, Lighthouse allows the same flexibility and speed for cloud services which can be run in the data centre, on-prem, co-located, or even at the Edge.
A third example was the announcement of Project Aurora which will add an additional security layer from validating the input data all the way to verifying the workload at the start and then as it is running. It appears to use an AI/ML system that checks for unexpected behaviours to detect any kind of malware.
It makes good sense for HPE to push GreenLake and move to offering ‘everything-as-a-service’. As one of the incumbent enterprise hardware business leaders, this is a good response rather than to watch one’s business continue to shrink YoY. GreenLake is HPE’s way of futureproofing themselves and making sure they stay relevant in the new cloud world.
Cisco Secures the Hybrid Workplace
Cisco has been active launching Cisco Plus earlier this year, as their bridge to the as-a-service model with a network-as-a-service (NaaS) offering. Somewhat like GreenLake, Cisco Plus offers flexible consumption for compute, storage, and networking. They are committed to offering most of their portfolio as-a-service over time.
Cisco has shown some resilience in terms of revenue but has still been struggling to grow. After a steady growth since 2017, the revenues dropped by 7% in 2020 almost as a direct impact of COVID-19. The post-pandemic world has the potential of being a bigger threat for Cisco. Many estimates show the number of people working from home is likely to go up dramatically and Cisco’s key networking offering could rapidly become redundant. However, at Ecosystm we believe that the hybrid work model will be predominant.
Cisco is also betting on a hybrid world. No matter where one works from, there are networking needs. Cisco’s focus, therefore, is on security – this will be on the mind of virtually any enterprise as it chalks out its future strategy. With a hybrid environment, making everything secure becomes more complex while continuing to be vital. Cisco has a heavy emphasis on Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) – the idea that the security envelope now has to be a flexible form that has a presence everywhere that the enterprise needs to be. This will make a lot of sense to most enterprises as they tread the hybrid path.
Cisco will offer a portfolio of tools to make it increasingly easier for customers to use multi-cloud, multi-vendor environments, offering the best of both worlds.
Oracle Incentivises Cloud Migration
Oracle has a different approach because they are trying to solve a different problem. They are competing with the hyperscalers, while fully acknowledging a hybrid world. However, as a company with less legacy in hardware, it makes sense for them to focus on migrating to cloud rather than on hybridisation. Oracle has just announced that they will subsidise existing customers who add cloud workloads with them, by providing discounts on the existing licensing fees that the customer is paying Oracle. This discount appears to be around 25% to 33%. In essence, this means that if a customer spends about USD 100k with Oracle on licensing and decides to start moving workloads to the Oracle Cloud worth somewhere between USD 300-400k, they can potentially write off the entire license fees they are currently paying!
There is a strong effort from every vendor right now to retain and consolidate their customer share and build a vision that convinces the customer that they are the way to go. For the traditional hardware players that vision is of a hybrid world – attractive to today’s large enterprise. For the likes of AWS, Microsoft, Google, and Oracle it is all about moving the customer to their cloud. The assumption of course is that moving someone to your cloud will lead to more of your apps being used by the customer. For the hardware vendors like Cisco and HPE, it is all about moving the customer to their own platforms which empower hybridisation. In all cases, a necessary component is to offer ‘everything-as-a-service’ upending the traditional models of selling.
In my opinion, with time the IaaS portion of the cloud is likely to gradually devolve into something like a utility. There will be a lot of upheavals and market disruption before we get there, but eventually, software and other services are likely to stand separate from the infrastructure provider. All the vendors are therefore depending on capturing the customer at the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) level, but even this is likely to get commoditised over time. Eventually, the winners will be disparate providers of the best applications for different functions. Meanwhile, we are in for an extremely interesting ride as we see all the vendors jockeying for space!
Last week Zoom announced a USD 100 million Zoom Apps Fund to promote the development of Zoom’s ecosystem of Zoom applications, integrations, video, developer tools, and hardware.
As part of Zoom Apps Fund, the company will invest in a portfolio of companies that are promoting and innovating on Zoom’s video conferencing platform. The portfolio companies will receive initial investments between USD 250,000 and USD 2.5 million to build solutions. To support the practice, Zoom is providing its tools and expertise to various start-ups, entrepreneurs, and industry players to build applications and integrate Zoom’s functionality and native interface in their products.
In March, Zoom introduced an SDK designed to help programmers embed Zoom functionality inside their applications. Zoom SDK is a component of Zoom Developer platform which includes SDKs, APIs, webhooks, chatbots, and distribution for applications and integration. Last year Zoom launched Zoom Apps and Zoom Marketplace at its Zoomtopia virtual conference to bring applications and productivity into the Zoom experience.
Zoom is not alone in evolving their Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) capabilities and market. Tencent rolled out their video conferencing solution for the global market, Facebook expanded their offerings in videoconferencing applications through the integration of new features, Google announced a series of upgrades and innovations to better support the flexibility needs of frontline and remote workers in Google Workspaces, and Microsoft introduced Viva that aims to bring together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights together.
“Ecosystm research shows that 50% of organisations will continue to increase use of collaboration platforms and tools in 2021. However, if videoconferencing remains just a tool to log in to for meetings without purpose-built workflows and functionality that suit worker profiles, then it will start losing its attractiveness. Vendors need to work on user interface, UX, the lighting, security, audio quality and many other aspects that draws users to the platform.
The big question is what next for videoconferencing vendors? How can engineering teams innovate to build the capabilities organisations want when they use drawing tools, share images, have chats and discussions within collaboration platforms? How do you make the experience real so employees can “live and breathe” in the environment?
Zoom investing in understanding what apps and workflows are suited for a particular vertical or business is fundamental to the future of video and collaboration and will be a big game changer.”
“Zoom is continuing to expand the markets in which they operate and investing in start-ups increases their opportunities to grow as a platform. Their App Marketplace already offers a rich source of innovations, with Zoom themselves appearing to develop integration with market leaders such as Salesforce and HubSpot in the CRM category. This has led to Zoom integrations in close to 80 CRM products – including integrations developed in-house by Salesforce and HubSpot to supplement Zoom capabilities.
They are promoting an open web and audio-conferencing platform that does not limit users to the walled-garden approach of competitors such as Microsoft Teams.
Zoom’s strategy creates the opportunity for CIOs to access a widely used, rich functionality, digital collaboration channel – one they can integrate seamlessly into their existing digital channels knowing that their customers are likely to be highly familiar with the user experience.”
Get more insights on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and technology areas that will see innovations, as organisations get into the recovery phase.