The one area where they were impacted most is security. In his report, Cybersecurity Considerations in the COVID-19 Era, Ecosystm Principal Advisor Andrew Milroy says, “The extraordinary growth of Zoom has made it a target for attackers. It has had to work remarkably hard to plug the security gaps, identified by numerous breaches. Many security vulnerabilities have been discovered with Zoom such as, a vulnerability to UNC path injection in the client chat feature, which allows hackers to steal Windows credentials, keeping decryption keys in the cloud which can potentially be accessed by hackers and the ability for trolls to ‘Zoombomb’ open and unprotected meetings.”
“Zoom largely responded to these disclosures quickly and transparently, and it has already patched many of the weaknesses highlighted by the security community. But it continues to receive rigorous stress testing by hackers, exposing more vulnerabilities.”
However, Milroy does not think that this issue is unique to Zoom. “Collaboration platforms tend to tread a fine line between performance and security. Too much security can cause performance and usability to be impacted negatively. Too little security, as we have seen, allows hackers to find vulnerabilities. If data privacy is critical for a meeting, then perhaps collaboration platforms should not be used, or organisations should not share critical information on them.”
Zoom to increase Capacity and Scalability
Zoom is aware that it has to increase its service capacity and scalability of its offerings, if it has to successfully leverage its current market presence, beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Last week Zoom announced that that it had selected Oracle as its cloud Infrastructure provider. One of the reasons cited for the choice is Oracle’s “industry-leading security”. It has been reported that Zoom is transferring more than 7 PB of data through Oracle Cloud Infrastructure servers daily.
In addition to growing their data centres, Zoom has been using AWS and Microsoft Azure as its hosting providers. Milroy says, “It makes sense for Zoom to use another supplier rather than putting ‘all its eggs in one or two baskets’. Zoom has not shared the commercial details, but it is likely that Oracle has offered more predictable pricing. Also, the security offered by the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure deal is likely to have impacted the choice and it is likely that Oracle has also priced its security features very competitively.”
“It must also be borne in mind that Google, Microsoft and Amazon are all competing directly with Zoom. They all offer video collaboration platforms and like Zoom, are seeing huge growth in demand. Zoom may not wish to contribute to the growth of its competitors any more than it needs to.”
Milroy sees another benefit to using Oracle. “Oracle is known to have a presence in the government sector – especially in the US. Working with Oracle might make it easier for Zoom to win large government contracts, to consolidate its market presence.”
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In the Top 5 Cloud Trends for 2020, Principal Analyst Claus Mortensen observed that 2020 is a do-or-die year for Oracle if they wanted to remain as a key contender in the Cloud market. Mortensen said, “Oracle has not been able to break into Cloud in the same way as their competitors and has so far not made the same “leap of faith” into this area as similar companies have. Unless the company makes a clear decision about their Cloud strategy and succeeds in communicating it to the market in 2020, Oracle may quickly find itself more of a niche Cloud player going forward.”
Oracle’s intentions to remain one of the leading global Cloud providers becomes clear as they actively expand their global coverage. Last week Oracle announced that, as part of their ongoing regional expansion plan, they have added local regions in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Melbourne (Australia), Osaka (Japan), Montreal (Canada) and Amsterdam (The Netherlands). This expands the reach of Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud to 21 independent locations, and Oracle intends to further add 15 locations by the end of 2020. At OpenWorld last year, Oracle had announced their plans to have Cloud sites dedicated to the enterprise market as well as government customers.
Dr Alea Fairchild, Principal Advisor Ecosystm, thinks that Oracle appreciates the needs of their enterprise customers. “Oracle understands the sensitivity of the enterprise to the location and availability of their data, which remains an issue with Cloud implementations involving large data sets. They have broken some ground as the first public Cloud vendor with data centres in Saudi Arabia, and are putting efforts in to offer a minimum of two regions in almost every country in which they operate,” says Dr Fairchild. “From a corporate user’s perspective, regional data management and appropriate licensing models are still sensitive spots when it comes to database management.”
Getting Ready for the Hybrid Cloud Market
Oracle also appears to be ramping up for the growing hybrid Cloud market. Ecosystm research shows that more than a third of global organisations have adopted the hybrid Cloud and this will only increase. Given the increased uptake of hybrid and multi-cloud environments, Oracle offers preconfigured links between Oracle and Microsoft Azure cloud regions in the eastern states of the US, London, and Toronto, as part of the Cloud interoperability partnership announced in June 2019. Last year, saw another mutually beneficial partnership between VMWare and Oracle, that supports their customers’ hybrid cloud strategies, allowing the VMware Cloud Foundation to run on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Organisations can also avail technical support for Oracle software running in VMware environments both in on-premise data centres and Oracle-certified cloud environments.
“Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud is now available in 21 locations and is on track to have a total of 36 Cloud regions up and running by the end of the year,” adds Dr Fairchild. “But when compared to AWS, Microsoft and IBM, Oracle still holds a fraction of the market share. They can be seen as a niche infrastructure provider, but indeed the partnerships with Microsoft and VMware are set to help Oracle’s Cloud business make traction with companies that are adopting multi-cloud strategies.”
Oracle signed an agreement to acquire CrowdTwist, a leading cloud-native customer loyalty solution provider for businesses. offering personalised customer experience. CloudTwist offers over 100 engagement paths and time-to-value to marketers providing a comprehensive view of the customer.
The news comes less than a month after Oracle and Deloitte Digital partnered to deliver Oracle’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) capabilities following which Oracle also announced updates to their CDP platform Oracle CX Unity, which brings together data from marketing and advertising systems to help organisations deliver experiences across the entire customer journey.
Oracle’s increased focus on CX
Oracle continues to build their CX capabilities, and it is looking to integrate CrowdTwist’s customer loyalty solution with their existing platforms. Commenting on Oracle’s acquisition, Ecosystm Principal Advisor Audrey William said, “CrowdTwist is a leader in the customer loyalty segment and knows how to build loyalty through a deeper data analysis and stickiness with various building blocks across the customer loyalty value chain. We could see Oracle’s services becoming more customer oriented through targeted marketing campaigns and customer journey mappings across the Unity, Eloqua and Responsys platforms.”
To drive the CX journey, organisations of all sizes are seeking management and lifetime value programs. CrowdTwist’s cloud loyalty solution fits into Oracle’s strategy and would offer benefits in support orchestration, derive intelligence on customer loyalty data and provide solutions to use the data for customer retention and marketing campaigns.
“Customer loyalty cannot be easily predicted as one has to analyse how customers are reacting at every touchpoint and how emotionally they are connected with the brand,” said William. “A very basic program will not suffice in this era of CX. Applications of machine learning and AI across the portfolio will help to accurately predict and tailor the best loyalty programs. Customers using Oracle’s Cloud CX portfolio of applications will be able to further analyse the data that has been captured to personalise their marketing campaigns.”
Upon the closure of the acquisition, the CrowdTwist team will join the Oracle Customer Experience (CX) Cloud organisation. This arrangement will help marketers personalise customer engagement and obtain a more thorough view of their loyalty programs.
A new high speed CPU-to-device interconnect standard, the Common Express Link (CXL) 1.0 was announced by Intel and a consortium of leading technology companies (Huawei and Cisco in the network infrastructure space, HPE and Dell EMC in the server hardware market, and Alibaba, Facebook, Google and Microsoft for the cloud services provider markets). CXL joins a crowded field of other standards already in the server link market including CAPI, NVLINK, GEN-Z and CCIX. CXL is being positioned to improve the performance of the links between FPGA and GPUs, the most common accelerators to be involved in ML-like workloads.
Of course there were some names that were absent from the launch – Arm, AMD, Nvidia, IBM, Amazon and Baidu. Each of them are members of the other standards bodies and probably are playing the waiting game.
Now let’s pause for a moment and look at the other announcement that happened at the same time. Nvidia and Mellanox announced that the two companies had reached a definitive agreement under which Nvidia will acquire Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Nvidia puts the acquisition reasons as “The data and compute intensity of modern workloads in AI, scientific computing and data analytics is growing exponentially and has put enormous performance demands on hyperscale and enterprise datacenters. While computing demand is surging, CPU performance advances are slowing as Moore’s law has ended. This has led to the adoption of accelerated computing with Nvidia GPUs and Mellanox’s intelligent networking solutions.”
So to me it seems that despite Intel working on CXL for four years, it looks like they might have been outbid by Nvidia for Mellanox. Mellanox has been around for 20 years and was the major supplier of Infiniband, a high speed interconnect that is common in high performance workloads and very well accepted by the HPC industry. (Note: Intel was also one of the founders of the Infiniband Trade Association, IBTA, before they opted to refocus on the PCI bus). With the growing need for fast links between the accelerators and the microprocessors, it would seem like Mellanox persistence had paid off and now has the market coming to it. One can’t help but think that as soon as Intel knew that Nvidia was getting Mellanox, it pushed forward with the CXL announcement – rumors that have had no response from any of the parties.
Advice for Tech Suppliers:
The two announcements are great for any vendor who is entering the AI, intense computing world using graphics and floating point arithmetic functions. We know that more digital-oriented solutions are asking for analytics based outcomes so there will be a growing demand for broader commoditized server platforms to support them. Tech suppliers should avoid backing or picking one of either the CXL or Infiniband at the moment until we see how the CXL standard evolves and how nVidia integrates Mellanox.
Advice for Tech Users:
These two announcements reflect innovation that is generally so far away from the end user, that it can go unnoticed. However, think about how USB (Universal Serial Bus) has changed the way we connect devices to our laptops, servers and other mobile devices. The same will true for this connection as more and more data is both read and outcomes generated by the ‘accelerators’ for the way we drive our cars, digitize our factories, run our hospitals, and search the Internet. Innovation in this space just got a shot in the arm from these two announcements.