Kyndryl has a competitive networking services unit, particularly in partnership with Cisco. Its focus has been on SD-WAN, campus networks, and network management as part of broader cloud services deals. This 5G partnership with Nokia is its first serious effort to work with one of the major carrier-grade vendors using cellular technology. It creates an opportunity for Kyndryl to position itself as a provider of services that underpin IoT and edge applications, rather than only cloud, which has until now been its main strength.
Prior to the Kyndryl announcement, Nokia was already developing private 5G solutions under the moniker Digital Automation Cloud (DAC). A key customer is Volkswagen, using the network to connect robots and wireless assembly tools. Over-the-air vehicle updates are also tested over the private network. Volkswagen operates in a dedicated 3.7-3.8 GHz band, which was allocated by the Federal Network Agency in Germany. This illustrates a third option for accessing spectrum, which will become an important consideration in private 5G rollouts.
Private 5G Use Cases
Private 5G has several benefits such as low latency, long-range, support for many users per access point, and provision for devices that are mobile due to handover. It is unlikely that it will completely replace other technologies, like wireless LAN, but it is very compelling for certain use cases.
Private 5G is useful on large sites, like mines, ports, farms, and warehouses where connected machines are moving about or some devices – like perimeter security cameras – are just out of reach. Utilities, like power, gas, and water, with infrastructure that needs to be monitored over long distances, will also start looking at it as a part of their predictive maintenance and resiliency systems. Low latency will become increasingly important as we see more and more customer-facing digital services delivered on-site and autonomous robots in the production environment.
Another major benefit of private 5G compared to operating on public service is that data can remain within the organisation’s own network for as long as possible, providing more security and control.
Private 5G Gaining Popularity
There has been a lot of activity over the last year in this space, with the hyperscalers, telecom providers and network equipment vendors developing private 5G offerings.
Last year, the AWS Private 5G was announced, a managed service that includes core network hardware, small-cell radio units, SIM cards, servers, and software. The service operates over a shared spectrum, like the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the US, where the initial preview will be available. CBRS is considered a lightly licenced band. This builds on AWS’s private multi-access edge compute (MEC) solution, released in conjunction with Verizon to integrate AWS Outposts with private 5G operating in licenced spectrum. A customer reference highlighted was low latency, high throughput analysis of video feeds from manufacturing robots at Corning.
Similarly, Microsoft launched a private MEC offering last year, a cloud and software stack designed for operators, systems integrators, and ISVs to deploy private 5G solutions. The system is built up of components from Azure and its acquisition of Metaswitch. AT&T is an early partner bringing a solution to the market built on Microsoft’s technology and the operator’s licenced spectrum. Microsoft highlighted use cases such as asset tracking in logistics, factory operations in manufacturing, and experiments with AI-infused video analytics to improve worker safety.
Organisations are likely to begin testing private 5G this year for Industry 4.0 applications, either at single sites in the case of factories or in select geographic areas for Utilities. Early applications will mostly focus on simple connectivity for mobile machines or remote equipment. In the longer term, however, the benefits of private 5G will become more apparent as AI applications, such as video analysis and autonomous machines become more prevalent. This will require the full ecosystem of players, including telecom providers, network vendors, cloud hyperscalers, systems integrators, and IoT providers.
BHP – the multinational mining giant – has signed agreements with AWS and Microsoft Azure as their long-term cloud providers to support their digital transformation journey. This move is expected to accelerate BHP’s cloud journey, helping them deploy and scale their digital operations to the workforce quickly while reducing the need for on-premises infrastructure.
Ecosystm research has consistently shown that many large organisations are using the learnings from how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their business to re-evaluate their Digital Transformation strategy – leveraging next generation cloud, machine learning and data analytics capabilities.
BHP’s Dual Cloud Strategy
BHP is set to use AWS’s analytics, machine learning, storage and compute platform to deploy digital services and improve operational performance. They will also launch an AWS Cloud Academy Program to train and upskill their employees on AWS cloud skills – joining other Australian companies supporting their digital workforce by forming cloud guilds such as National Australia Bank, Telstra and Kmart Group.
Meanwhile, BHP will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to host their global applications portfolio including SAP S/4 HANA environment. This is expected to enable BHP to reduce their reliance on regional data centres and leverage Microsoft’s cloud environment, licenses and SAP applications. The deal extends their existing relationship with Microsoft where BHP is using Office 365, Dynamics 365 and HoloLens 2 platforms to support their productivity and remote operations.
Ecosystm principal Advisor, Alan Hesketh says, “This dual sourcing is likely to achieve cost benefits for BHP from a competitive negotiation stand-point, and positions BHP well to negotiate further improvements in the future. With their scale, BHP has negotiating power that most cloud service customers cannot achieve – although an effective competitive process is likely to offer tech buyers some improvements in pricing.”
Can this Strategy Work for You?
Hesketh thinks that the split between Microsoft for Operations and AWS for Analytics will provide some interesting challenges for BHP. “It is likely that high volumes of data will need to be moved between the two platforms, particularly from Operations to Analytics and AI. The trend is to run time-critical analytics directly from the operational systems using the power of in-memory databases and the scalable cloud platform.”
“As BHP states, using the cloud reduces the need to put hardware on-premises, and allows the faster deployment of digital innovations from these cloud platforms. While achieving technical and cost improvements in their Operations and Analytics domains, it may compromise the user experience (UX). The UX delivered by the two clouds is quite different – so delivering an integrated experience is likely to require an additional layer that is capable of delivering a consistent UX. BHP already has a strong network infrastructure in place, so they are likely to achieve this within their existing platforms. If there is a need to build this UX layer, it is likely to reduce the speed of deployment that BHP is targeting with the dual cloud procurement approach.”
Many businesses that have previously preferred a single cloud vendor will find that they will increasingly evaluate multiple cloud environments, in the future. The adoption of modern development environments and architectures such as containers, microservices, open-source, and DevOps will help them run their applications and processes on the most suitable cloud option.
While this strategy may well work for BHP, Hesketh adds, “Tech buyers considering a hybrid approach to cloud deployment need to have robust enterprise and technology architectures in place to make sure the users get the experience they need to support their roles.”
Hitachi announced their plans to acquire US based software development company GlobalLogic for an estimated USD 9.6 billion, including debt repayment. The transaction is expected to close by end of July, after which GlobalLogic will function under Hitachi’s Global Digital Holdings.
GlobalLogic was founded in 2000, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Swiss investment firm Partners Group have 45% of ownership; with the remainder owned by the company’s management.
Hitachi’s Business Portfolio Expansion
The acquisition of GlobalLogic is a part of Hitachi’s move to focus and extend the range of Hitachi’s digital services business. As Hitachi aims to expand from electronics hardware to concentrate on digital services, they are looking to benefit from GlobalLogic’s range of expertise – from chips to cloud services. Silicon Valley-based GlobalLogic has a presence in 14 countries with more than 20,000 employees and 400 active clients in industries including telecommunications, healthcare, technology, finance and automotive. This will also expand Hitachi’s network outside Japan by providing them access to a global customer base and will boost their software and solutions platforms, including Hitachi IoT portfolio and data analytics.
The GlobalLogic deal follows another big acquisition of ABB’s power grid business by Hitachi in July 2020 to focus on clean energy and distributed energy frontiers. This makes Hitachi one of the largest global grid equipment and service providers in all regions.
“Hitachi’s move to acquire GlobalLogic is very interesting and is in line with the growing trend of global Operation Technology (OT) vendors riding the wave of Industry 4.0 and ‘Product as a Service’ models – essentially, to move up the margin ladder with more digital services added on to their already established equipment business. Siemens, Schneider Electric, Panasonic, ABB, Hitachi and Johnson Controls are some of the prominent vendors who have taken pole positions in their respective industry domains, in this race to digitally transform their businesses and business models. Last year, Panasonic made a very similar move, taking a 20% equity stake in Blue Yonder, a leading supply chain software provider.
With rapid advancements in computing and communications (5G), it is now possible to converge the IT (Information Technology supporting enterprise information flows), the OT (Operational Technology – machine level control of the physical equipment), and the ET (Engineering Technology in the Product Design and Development space such as CAD, CAM, PDM etc.) domains. Three worlds that were separate till now. The convergence of these three worlds enables high impact use cases in automation, product, process, and business model innovation in almost all sectors, such as autonomous vehicles, energy efficient buildings, asset tracking and monitoring, and predictive and prescriptive maintenance. For the OT vendors therefore, it becomes critical to acquire IT and ET capabilities to become successful in the new cyber physical world. Most OT vendors are choosing to acquire these capabilities through strategic partnerships (such as Siemens with Atos and SAP; Panasonic with Blue Yonder) or acquisitions (such as Hitachi and GlobalLogic) rather than develop such capabilities organically in completely new domains.“
2020 was a breakout year for SaaS providers – and a tough one for a lot of on-premises software vendors. SaaS (or mainly SaaS) providers like Salesforce, Zoom, Microsoft had record growth and some of the best quarters in their history, while other mainly on-premises software providers have had poor quarters. SAP is even accelerating the transition to a 100% cloud-based business as their revenue suffers. The race to deploy SaaS tools and platforms is well and truly happening. Many of the usual ROI models and business cases have been abandoned as the need for agility – to drive business change at pace trumps most other business needs. Ecosystm data validates this
This trend will continue in 2021 – in fact, we expect it to accelerate. Most SaaS solutions (such as CRM, ERP, SCM, HRM etc.) are implemented by less than 30% of businesses today – which means the upside for the SaaS providers is huge.
Hybrid Cloud Will Finally Become Mainstream
The sudden move to remote working in 2020 forced most organisations to increase their use and reliance on cloud-based applications. Employees have relied on collaborative tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and WebEx to conduct virtual meetings, call centre workers had to respond to calls from home – most if not all relying on cloud-based apps and platforms. This trend is set to continue going forward. Ecosystm research finds that 44% of organisations will spend more on cloud-based collaboration tools in the next 6-12 months.
But the forced adoption of these tools has also prompted many – especially larger organisations – to worry about losing control of their IT resources, including worries related to security and compliance, cost, and reliability. As for the latter, both Microsoft Azure and Zoom experienced outages after the pandemic hit and this has made many organisations wary of relying too much on a single public cloud platform. Ecosystm therefore expects a sharp increase in focus on hybrid cloud platforms in 2021 as IT Teams seek to regain control of the apps and services their employees rely the most upon.
Carrier Investment in 5G Will Give Edge Computing a Boost
The gap between the hype around edge computing and the actual capabilities it offers will narrow in 2021 as 5G networks are built out. One of the most promising methods of deploying edge computing involves carriers embedding cloud capacity in their own data centres connected to their 5G networks. This ensures data does not unnecessarily leave the network, reducing latency and preserving bandwidth. This combination of 5G and the Edge will be of particular benefit to applications that until now have faced a trade-off between mobility and connectivity. Over the last twelve months, the major hyperscalers announced their 5G edge computing offerings, and some of the major global telecom providers have served as test cases by partnering with at least one hyperscaler and will likely add more over the next year. Expect this ecosystem to expand greatly in 2021.
Cloud environments can benefit from pushing computing-heavy workloads to the Edge in much the same way as IoT and provides a great platform for managing the edge computing endpoints. The flipside of pushing containers to the Edge will be the increased complexity and the fact that the number of attack surfaces will increase. Containerisation must therefore be deployed with security at its core.
Stateful Applications Will Move to the Cloud with Containers and Orchestration
As organisations seek to migrate workloads and applications between platforms in an increasingly hybrid cloud environment, the need for “lifting and shifting”, refactoring and partitioning applications will increase. These approaches all have their shortcomings, however. Lifting and shifting an application may limit its functionality now or in the future; refactoring may take too long or be too costly; and partitioning is often not feasible or possible. A better approach to this task is to modernise the applications to make use of application containers like Docker, Windows Server Containers, Linux VServer and so on, to enable a faster and more seamless way to migrate applications between platforms. We also see container orchestration environments like Kubernetes and containerised development and deployment platforms like IBM’s Cloud Paks.
How these technologies are used to deploy stateful applications in multicloud environments will evolve. A raft of container management platforms, based on Kubernetes, are being released to simplify what was once a complex DIY process. New entrants will look to challenge the cloud hyperscalers, virtualisation giants, and Kubernetes specialists. The emerging features that previously required cobbling together third-party tools, like service mesh, data fabric, and machine learning, will speed up containerisation of stateful core applications. The deployment of containers on bare metal rather than in virtualised environments will also gather pace. The most challenging task will be delivering containerised applications at the Edge, forcing developers and platform providers to create inventive solutions.
Serverless will take us a step closer to NoOps
As the application lifecycle speeds up and the distinction between development and operations shrinks, the motivation to adopt serverless computing will grow in 2021. While NoOps, the concept that operations could become so automated that it fades into the background, is still a distant goal, serverless computing will make a stride in that direction by abstracting the application from the infrastructure. Having seen the agility benefits of a microservices architecture, many DevOps teams will experiment with breaking services down further into functions. Moreover, the pay-as-you-go model of serverless will appeal to OpEx driven organisations. Expect stories of bill shock, however, as were seen in the early days of cloud adoption. While AWS Lambda is currently considered the serverless industry standard, it is likely that in 2021, Microsoft, Google, and IBM will ramp up efforts in this space. Each of these providers will build out their offering in terms of languages supported, event triggers, consumption plans, machine learning/AI options, observability, and user experience.
AI Will Move from a Competitive Advantage to a Must-Have
The best practices and leading-edge technology-centric implementations, over the years gives a very good indication of market trends. In 2018 and 2019 AI-centric engagements were few and far between – they were still in the “innovation stage” as trials and small projects. In 2020, AI was mentioned in most applications, showcased as best practices. AI is currently a competitive advantage for businesses. CIOs and their businesses are using AI to get ahead of their competitors and highlighting these practices for external recognition.
That also means that it is a matter of time before AI becomes a standard practice – processes are smart “out-of-the-box”; intelligent applications are an expectation, not the exception; systems learn because that is how they were designed, not as an overlay. If your competitors are using AI today to get ahead of you, then you need to also use AI to catch up and keep up. In 2021, having a smart business will not get you ahead of the pack – it will move you into it.
AI Will Thrive in Areas where the Cost of Failure is Low
While organisations will be forced to adopt AI to remain competitive, initial exploration of AI solutions will be in areas that they consider low risk. The Financial Services, Retail, and other transaction-oriented industries will use AI to drive improved personalisation, increase customer retention, and improve their ability to lower risk and combat fraud. These are process-driven areas, where manual processes are being enhanced and enriched by AI. Although machine learning and other AI technologies will help improve the speed and quality of services, they will not be a replacement for many of the more complex business practices that companies and their employees frequently overlook to automate. The ‘low hanging fruit’ to add AI to will come first, with various degrees of success.
There will be industries and processes where organisations will be more skeptical about adopting AI. If Google finds a wrong translation or gives a wrong link, it is not a big concern, unlike a wrong diagnosis or wrong medication. In areas that are crucial to our well-being – such as healthcare – AI does not yet have the trust for acceptance of society. There are still questions around ethics and algorithm concerns.
Technology Providers Will Stop Talking about AI
Technology vendors highlight what they consider their key differentiators, that show that they are ahead of the game. When every piece of software and hardware is intelligent, vendors will stop talking about the fact that they are intelligent. This may not fully happen in 2021 – but ENOUGH technology will be intelligent for those who have not yet made their software smart to understand that they cannot talk about its intelligent capabilities as that just shows they are behind the market.
The good news is that the less we hear about AI, the more intelligent applications will become. AI is quickly becoming a core capability and a base expectation. Systems that learn and adapt will be standard very soon – but be wary, as significant market changes can break these systems! Many companies learned that the pandemic broke their algorithms as times were no longer “normal”.
Enterprises Will Seek Hyperautomation Solutions
RPA will increasingly become part of large enterprise application implementations. Technology vendors are adding RPA functionality either organically or through acquisitions to their enterprise application suites. RPA often works in conjunction with major software products provided by companies such as Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft, and IBM. Rather than having an operative enter data into multiple systems, a bot can be created to do this. Large software vendors are taking advantage of this opportunity by trying to own entire workflows. They are increasingly integrating RPA into their offerings as well as competing directly in the RPA market with pureplay RPA vendors.
As the RPA offerings continue to mature, enterprises seek to scale implementations and to automate non-repetitive processes, which require more intelligence. They will seek to automate more processes at scale. They will demand solutions that process unstructured data, handle exceptions, and continuously learn, further increasing productivity. Intelligent automation typically incorporates AI, particularly voice and vision capabilities and uses machine learning to optimise processes. Hyperautomation turbo charges intelligent automation by automating multiple processes at scale – and will become core to digital transformation initiatives in 2021.
Businesses Will Put “Automation Targets” in Place
2020 was the year that many businesses started seeing some broad and tangible benefits from their automation initiatives. Automation was one of the big winners of the year, as many businesses took extra steps to take humans out of processes – particularly those humans that had to be in a specific location, such as a warehouse, the finance team, the front desk and so on (because of the pandemic, they were often working at home instead). Senior management is seeing the benefits of automation, and they will start to ask their teams why more processes are not automated Therefore we will start to see managers put targets around a certain percentage of tasks automated in an area – e.g. 70% of contact centre processes will be automated, 90% of the digital customer experience for a certain outcome will be automated and so on. Achieving these numbers may not be easy, but the targets will change the mindset of people designing, implementing, and improving processes.
The market is growing rapidly with large global RPA specialists such as UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and AntWorks experiencing high rates of growth in the region.
RPA vendors in Asia Pacific, are typically addressing immediate, short-term requirements. For example, healthcare companies are automating the reporting of COVID-19 tests and ordering supplies. Chatbots are being widely used to address unprecedented call centre volumes for airlines, travel companies, banks and telecom providers. Administrative tasks increasingly require automation as workflows become disrupted by remote working.
Companies can also be expected to scale their current deployments and increase the rate at which AI capabilities are integrated into their offerings
RPA often works in conjunction with major software products provided by companies such as Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft and IBM. For example, some invoicing processes involve the use of Salesforce, SAP and Microsoft products. Rather than having an operative enter data into multiple systems, a bot can be created to do this.
Large software vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP are taking advantage of this opportunity by trying to own entire workflows. They are increasingly integrating RPA into their offerings as well as competing directly in the RPA market with pureplay RPA vendors. RPA may soon be integrated into larger enterprise applications, unless pureplay RPA vendors can innovate and continually differentiate their offerings.
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The partnership between SAP and Siemens aims to develop innovative business models to break silos between manufacturing, product development and service delivery teams to establish seamless customer-centric processes. It will provide users with real-time business information, customer insights and performance data over the entire product development cycle.
Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Kaushik Ghatak says, “The convergence of the Information Technology (IT) and the Operational Technology (OT) worlds is a must for companies to operate in the cyber physical world of Industry 4.0. Historically, these two worlds have operated in silos. This is a great partnership announcement aimed towards meeting the convergence goals by integrating the capabilities of Siemens (an OT leader), and SAP (an IT leader). Together they would be able to offer an exhaustive set of very valuable offerings in the Digital Supply Chain and Digital Manufacturing domain for customers worldwide.”
Ghatak says, “This is not the first such partnership for Siemens. A strategic alliance between Siemens and Atos has been in place since 2011. In 2018 the alliance was strengthened with plans to accelerate their joint business until 2020, with a focus on building innovative solutions by combining their capabilities. However, the difference this time is that SAP has very a deep and wide set of software offerings in the supply chain and manufacturing domains, which when stitched together with Siemens’ PLM solutions can provide true end-to-end digitalisation capabilities across the ‘Design, Source, Make, Deliver and Plan’ continuum of the value chain.”
Ghatak, however, cautions that while this is a great partnership announcement between two giants in their respective fields, they will need to collaborate actively on three key aspects for this partnership to deliver value for the customers.
Product Development. Building-integrated solutions with heterogenous data models is not easy. It will require very open collaboration between their product development teams to identify the use cases and build solutions that can enable seamless information flow and actions across the different software modules owned by each.
Go-to-market. Going to market jointly will need strong collaboration too. In terms of the agreement on customer account ownership, pricing, sharing of pre-sales resources and so on.
Implementation. And, last but not the least, it will require collaboration to ramp up the implementation capabilities of the jointly developed solutions.
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