How channel partners are driving hyperscale cloud growth

Hyperscale cloud service providers continue to leverage their low-cost advantage to drive growth. According to the latest worldwide market study by Canalys, Google Cloud was the fastest-growing cloud infrastructure vendor last year – up more than 90% year on year – increasing its share of the total market from 6% in 2017 to 8% in 2018.

The top four hyperscale cloud service providers accounted for 61% of the total market in 2018. Amazon Web Services (AWS) remained the leader on 32%, followed by Microsoft Azure with 17%, Google Cloud in third place with 8% and Alibaba Cloud with 4%.

Hyperscale cloud market development

Canalys reports that hyperscale cloud infrastructure services are in a period of sustained growth, with spending up 46% in 2018 to more than $80 billion. Expenditure is also forecast to surpass $143 billion in 2020.

More businesses are deploying a hybrid multi-cloud strategy, integrating multiple providers with their existing on-premises IT infrastructure. Canalys estimates 30% of cloud infrastructure services spend, just over $24 billion, went through the IT channel of distributors, resellers, service providers and systems integrators in 2018.

"AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud are all increasing channel investment to raise their profiles, as competition for enterprise customers increases and workload cloud migration diversifies," said Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys.

The channel will play a vital role for the cloud service providers, in terms of boosting their customer reach, from both a sales and technical perspective. But each of the hyperscale cloud service provider titans current partner reach, engagement and program maturity differs — with Google Cloud trailing both AWS and Microsoft Azure in all areas. Alibaba Cloud is further back, behind the leaders.

 

 

Canalys estimates the top three providers represented 65% ($16 billion) of the channel's total cloud infrastructure services business in 2018. Microsoft manages one of the largest channel ecosystems in the technology sector and its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program is the most mature among the cloud titans, according to the Canalys assessment.

Approximately 74% of revenue from Azure is estimated to come via its partners, which is by far the highest percentage in the sector. In contrast, AWS channel business accounts for around 15%, though its reach is growing rapidly, AWS having recruited over 35,000 partners to date, with hundreds a month wanting to join its partner program.

Canalys estimates that Google Cloud's channel business accounts for just over 25% of its $7 billion cloud infrastructure revenue. In spite of Google Cloud's rapid growth, its channel reach is relatively small, though it is trying a differentiated approach by being more focused on specific applications and verticals.

An estimated 13,000 partners have joined its partner program, of which just over 100 have achieved the highest-tier Premier Partner status, while less than a third of those have achieved a Specialization Partner designation.

Outlook for cloud channel application growth

In a recent Candefero channel survey, 20% of respondents think there is huge potential to working with Google Cloud, while 22% said they will work with other cloud service providers instead. Cloud computing service channel partners will continue to align with the market leaders.

That said, 44% of partners were intrigued to know more about partnering with Google. Their new leadership brings the experience of working with the largest enterprise customers. But to date, Google has not captured the broader channel where AWS and Microsoft are being more proactive.

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Digital transformation in the financial services industry


Stuart Andrews

18 Apr, 2019

Like most industries, the financial services sector is going through an intense period of digital transformation. A recent Gartner survey found that one-third of financial services CIOs identified going digital as their top business priority for 2019 – up by more than 8% from the response the year before. Meanwhile, a report last year from the World Economic Forum suggests that AI, along with Blockchain, Cloud and – in the future – Quantum Computing, could transform what it calls ‘the physics of financial services’ – ‘weakening the bonds that have historically held together financial services and creating new centres of gravity where new and old capabilities are being combined in unexpected ways.’

Together, the combination of big data, AI, cloud and mobile is empowering firms to move away from their old processes and business models and embrace new opportunities. The most visible impact is on the customer experience, as cloud-based services, voice interactions, bots and mobile apps give us new ways to interact with financial products and services. However, as much is going on behind the scenes. Some banks are digitising their internal processes, moving away from paper-based filing and legacy applications to modern, cloud-based services that aid compliance and allow them to extract more value from the data.

Meanwhile, robotic process automation is helping firms to automate complex, time-intensive activities, while AI technologies turn data into insight, providing decision-making support for human workers. Natural language processing technologies will impact everything from customer interactions to compliance, helping firms to both extract crucial information from unstructured data and put those findings to good use. And when you have the computing power to combine real-time data streams with analytics and AI, you have the ingredients you need to optimise your processes and make effective decisions faster.

Perhaps most crucially, digital transformation is helping financial services firms reinvent themselves. The sector is slowly moving from an era of competition to one of collaboration, where established institutions can partner with new FinTechs to create personalised, intelligent, cloud-based solutions that can meet customer expectations while simultaneously lowering operating costs. Transformation isn’t about offering the same products and services through new technology, but about making services more personal to each customer and more accessible to a wider market. That’s why banks like ABN AMRO in the Netherlands are maintaining office space where they can work directly with new start-ups to drive innovation.

This more collaborative environment is also being fuelled by the growth of Blockchain, enabling networks where everyone who needs to can have access to the same data, with all changes to that data recorded and locked-in. Everyone can work using the same ‘shared truth.’

Meeting the challenge

Firms understand the necessity of this transformation. In the words of ABN Amro COO Johan van Hall, ‘Banks are in a very transformational mode. We see the new entrants coming and we believe that banks towards the end of the decade will be very different than we are today.’ Flexibility, agility and speed have become key goals.

Of course, financial services organisations face specific challenges. As well as the universal issues around data regulation and GDPR, they’re bound by industry regulations designed to ensure that institutions manage risk responsibly and behave with integrity. Banking, insurance and financial service firms are subject to more controls in terms of auditing, reporting and assessment, not to mention the storage and management of data. It’s a sector where security is crucial – where a data breach can not only have immediate financial consequences but a longer-term impact on reputation and trust. And to make the business of transformation even more complex, it’s an industry associated with siloed data, a reliance on big iron legacy applications and a cultural resistance to change.

Yet there’s good news. Many of the same technologies that are transforming financial services can also help firms in the sector overcome these challenges. In particular, IBM technologies have a proven history of driving transformation forward.

The technology behind future finance

Take IBM’s Watson AI technologies, for example. On the one hand, they’re helping firms deliver mobile apps that can combine data from public sources, financial sector sources and other client interactions to give customers information they can use in their financial decisions. On the other hand, they’re giving in-house sales teams the tools they need to ask for information or guidance using natural language, and get an effective, data-driven response in the same digestible format.

Meanwhile, firms are using AI to prevent fraud and manage risk, using Watson’s ability to ingest vast amounts of data – both at rest and in real-time – and spot patterns or inconsistencies that need to be flagged. Data can be drawn from existing sources or aggregated from multiple-systems in real-time, ensuring risk and compliance professionals can interpret complex issues and ensure they have the right controls in place. Experience has shown Watson identifying 30% to 50% of anti-money-laundering alerts as false positives and reducing the time it took for a banker to perform customer due diligence on a standard business from over 13 minutes down to five minutes 20 seconds. Nor is this the only way Watson can help firms with their Governance, Risk and Compliance duties; because the technology learns and can work with natural language, it can ingest and interpret regulations as they change.

Cloud also has a crucial role to play. IBM Cloud for Financial Services is a cloud-based platform and ecosystem designed to meet the needs of financial institutions. It comes with technologies like Blockchain and predictive analytics built-in, plus the APIs, reference architectures and microservice templates that can help firms build and deploy their own applications faster. Specific APIs for financial risk management, simulated instrument analytics and control of financial data can aid firms in meeting their governance, risk and compliance obligations. Best of all, firms don’t need to invest in their own infrastructure and build everything from scratch; digital transformation can be an ongoing cost rather than a huge upfront investment.

Data management and protection is a big concern for firms, but IBM technologies can help. IBM’s Guardiam technologies make it easier to identify security and compliance risks, then use tokenisation and pseudonymisation of sensitive data to reduce them. Security teams can set policies to ensure that departments get the information they need to do their jobs, but not information that might add unnecessary risks. Multi-cloud data encryption can safeguard that data across single clouds, multiple clouds or even hybrid environments, while IBM’s Immutable Object Storage technology ensures that companies can set and manage data retention according to regulations, all using a cloud-based interface.

By leading on data management, AI, Blockchain and the cloud, IBM is defining the more collaborative, intelligent financial services platform of the future.

Innovation: The financial industry’s best-kept secret?

18 Apr, 2019

The financial services sector (FSS) has reached a tipping point; should it stay the same and hope for the best or should it embrace disruption and associated technologies and emerge different, stronger and better from its legacy cocoon?

But do FSS firms really need to change at all? Perhaps what does need to change is how they are perceived. Indeed, with a reputation of being not just slow, but reluctant to change, FSS organisations have actually been innovating all the while behind the scenes. Their downfall, perhaps, lies in not shouting loudly about it as many other sectors have done.

So, why are those in the industry now starting to talk much more openly about technology and the impact it can have not just on operations, but the customer experience?

We have reached the point where banks, in particular, must consider and position themselves not just as financial entities, but as lifestyle brands too, according to Bharat Bhushan, CTO of banking and financial markets at IBM’s Financial Services division.

“The industry has been innovating in a pull and a push manner. Our ability to interact with our banks using mobile devices doesn’t sound like an innovation, but it isn’t that long ago that we were walking into branches and checking ATMs. Now, people can check their balance several times a day while waiting for trains/planes etc.” he says. 

“It’s important to distinguish between the incumbents and the challengers. FinTech has been one of the reasons for banks to innovate – if they don’t innovate, their lunch will be eaten.”

The devil is in the detail when it comes to moving innovation from theory to reality, though, with execution becoming the real differentiator, according to a recent blog post by Bhushan.

“An organisation with a culture of innovation, collaboration and true customer focus will be able to maintain differentiation and identity in the digital world as they do in the physical world. The winners will use their digital capabilities to draw intelligence from data in real-time and use it to drive behaviour change or, convenience,” he added.

Turning adversity into opportunity

With an industry changing almost beyond recognition, despite historic innovation, many FSS organisations feel somewhat unsettled.

Indeed, most of those in the sector entered 2019 feeling less certain about the future than ever.

“[This uncertainty can be] quite uncomfortable for some organisations. They’re thinking ‘we’ve got to change, but we don’t really know where to start.’ We really try and structure the way we help companies by looking at those opportunities. Sometimes they just need a bit of help to figure out how to combine the technology with the business aspects and the user side of things. We can help them get started on the road and often getting started is the hardest bit,” adds Holly Cummins, worldwide development lead of the IBM Cloud Garage.

“Once companies see they can innovate and nothing terrible happened that is a seed for something that can then ripple out through the organisation and help them innovate in other ways. It’s testing the water and seeing what happens and that takes away a lot of the fear.”

In engagements with businesses, these pilots or test cases are dubbed ‘minimum viable products’ according to Cummins.

Cummins adds: “We worked on a project years ago with a bank that had quite a large budget set aside for something. It was really innovative around allowing their customers who collected loyalty points to pay with them…

“We tried something smaller. Everybody said it was wonderful, it was innovative but they didn’t want it – their partners just weren’t able to digest it – even though everybody agreed it was great. So, even though the project failed in one sense, the bank was actually delighted as they hadn’t wasted money and knew what to do differently if they tried it again. A good thing came out of something that could be perceived as a failure or negative.”

It will be the types of organisations that turn negatives into positives that, ultimately, win out.

Open banking, for example, means the industry has much more to gain than it stands to lose.

“When everyone becomes digital, the big challenge for financial institutions is how to differentiate themselves from the nearest competitor. That’s where the magic will start to happen,” Bhushan adds.

“Open Banking requires a cultural shift in a financial institution. Once you form a culture where you are not just behaving like a bank… Open APIs and banking are a fundamental shift from a very closed industry to one on its way to becoming an open platform.

“Historically, you and I have been generating data for these banks for the last 60/70 years since computers were used. That data belonged to the bank. But with open APIs, that data belongs to us. Regulations like GDPR have helped empower that.”

Levelling the playing field

Advanced technologies are now no longer the preserve of large enterprises or those with infinite pots of cash. Now, all organisations can benefit from the speed and scale of subscription-based services that deliver business-level results in almost a consumer-friendly consumption model. 

“Financial institutions need to address how ideas are generated and executed. It’s about failing fast. They should be using the cloud, for example, as a fundamental mechanism. Cloud and everything that goes with cloud is fundamental to that change,” according to Bhushan.

“DevOps in itself is a big shift for some banks – globally not just in the UK. The idea of bottom up and top down innovation [is very new].”

Continuous delivery is an important weapon to have in your arsenal as an FSS organisation, according to Jim McKay, worldwide solutions architect at IBM SoftLayer.

“Ultimately, it’s about how quickly Solutions can be developed. How can you evolve the [old] ways to become more agile? And that’s really where we’re seeing the opportunity for cloud,” he says.

The cloud and emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning serve as both a catalyst for and a reason to change for the financial industry. Customers, ultimately, expect the same – if not greater – level of tech sophistication they’re used to in their consumer lives when it comes to everyday tasks such as banking.

Every element of work carried out in the FSS is being transformed by technology and AI represents a $16 trillion opportunity, according to IBM’s Tiffany Winman reporting on all the industry news and views coming from IBM’s Think 2019 event earlier this year.

It’s an opinion industry experts share, with analyst firm Gartner suggesting that AI implementation grew by 270% in the last four years and 37% in the last year alone. This, says Winman, is helping firms digitally reinvent themselves and using AI to reduce costs, create new revenue streams and enhance the customer experience.

But there remains some fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) around AI, with concerns specifically focused on job loss or displacement.

“IBM’s approach to AI is not to replace humans, but rather to create augmented intelligence that helps amplify human cognition,” Winman wrote.

“Companies should ask: How do you leverage technology to help humans do what they do, better? And how can technology bring value in such a way that it allows them to do higher value things?”

Rob Thomas, IBM General Manager of Data and AI, has another way of looking at it, saying at Think 2019: “AI is not going to replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace the managers who do not.”

Thomas said AI was the “new electricity” which should certainly serve as a warning to those who are still in any doubt as to the transformative powers it possesses for businesses of all sectors but, specifically, the financial industry.

Partnering remains key to success

Like every other industry, it’s important for those in the FSS to recognise they don’t have to go it alone. 

“Banks need to open up to the idea of partnering with other companies and find the right balance between investing in FinTech or partnering. Finding that balance of using FinTech to innovate incrementally or in a process means we finally have a win/win scenario,” Bhushan says, adding its an innovation inhibitor if those organisations are so proprietary that they simply can’t – rather than won’t work with anyone else.

Blockchain, for example, is a key innovation that offers much to FSS firms. However, up until recently, its brilliance had gotten mixed up and somewhat lost in the hype surrounding crypto currencies, according to Bhushan.

“I’ve certainly seen a shift [in that thinking] now,” he says. “Blockchain works really well when you have multiple parties. In a mortgage situation, for example, you can have the land registry, banks – all of them participating in the Blockchain. But, it needs all of those parties to come to the table and agree to the standards.”

The real 21st century currency 

Against the backdrop of disruption and innovation, those in the FSS are facing the same security threats – often intensified – as many other industries.

“Cyber security is as much a business problem as a technology one. Every employee is a cyber security manager,” Sean McKee, senior manager of cyber threat management at TD Bank, told delegates at Think 2019.

“What can an organisation do to prepare? Your plan is not worth the paper it’s written on if nobody knows how to use it… TD Bank did a five month workup for a two day test. The president of the US bank immediately saw the results of their decisions,” he continued.

McKee outlined four key steps to effective implementation:

 

  1. Exercise and test your strategy and plan. Come to a cyber range and bring your playbook

  2. Technical security controls testing (ethical hacking committee)

  3. Resource for success. It takes a long time to produce a proper exercise

  4. Continuous improvement

Security and resilience can often be seen as more of a burden than compliance in the FSS sector, but it can also unlock many positives, according to Bhushan.

“I think security can be a very empowering mechanism to enable trust between you and your customers and partners at all levels,” he says.

“In the 21st century, information is money. So, by being secure you are actually accelerating the trust your suppliers and partners have in you and accelerating business results.”

In a world that is travelling in all sorts of different directions at 100 miles per hour, the temptation to simply hit the pause button to take stock can be incredibly tempting. However, by embracing the cloud, continuous development and DevOps, FSS firms can continue to keep the lights on, defend against threats and innovate, too.

“Organisations can no longer look to their competitors to decide what to do next. Innovation and reinvention is key to existence in this rapidly changing world. Delivering customers’ needs with agility and pace is vital. Organisations should start on their journey by exploring how data and AI together can uncover the value hidden in their data and then deliver features with simplicity,” Bhushan adds.

“Digital is a prerequisite and a journey, it is not the destination. Creating magical experiences that consumers will pay for is the end game.”

CloudBees acquires Electric Cloud to further CI/CD mission

CloudBees has announced the acquisition of San Jose-based software veteran Electric Cloud, with the aim to become the ‘first provider of end-to-end continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous deployment and ARA (application-release automation).

The acquisition will marry two leaders in their respective fields. Electric Cloud was named as a leader in reports from both Gartner and Forrester around application release orchestration and continuous delivery and release automation respectively.

CloudBees’ most famous contribution to the world of software delivery is of course Jenkins, an open source automation used for continuous delivery. The original architects of Jenkins are housed at CloudBees, including CTO Kohsuke Kawaguchi.

Last month, CloudBees announced the launch of the Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF), leading the initiative alongside the Jenkins Community, Google, and the Linux Foundation. At the time, Kawaguchi said: “The time has come for a robust, vendor-neutral organisation dedicated to advancing continuous delivery. The CDF represents an opportunity to raise the awareness of CD beyond the technology people.”

From Electric Cloud’s side, the company bows to CloudBees as the ‘dominant CI vendor, CD thought leader and innovator’. “CloudBees recognised the enormous value of adding release automation and orchestration to its portfolio,” the company wrote on its acquisition page. “With Electric Cloud, CloudBees integrates the market’s highest-powered release management, orchestration and automation tools into the CloudBees suite, giving organisations the ability to accelerate CD adoption.”

“As of today, we provide customers with best-of-breed CI/CD software from a single vendor, establishing CloudBees as a continuous delivery powerhouse,” said Sacha Labourey, CloudBees CEO and co-founder in a statement. “By combining the strength of CloudBees, Electric Cloud, Jenkins and Jenkins X, CloudBees offers the best CI/CD solution for any application, from classic to Kubernetes, on-premise to cloud, self-managed to self-service.”

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

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A guide to securing application consistency in multi-cloud environments

Cloud computing. It is like a well-trodden path when it comes to talking about digitalisation. Multi-cloud is another term that has crossed many lips, and something that we are still getting to know now, as efforts continue to ramp up to meet the demand of the digital era. For organisations, the demand to adapt and move with the times is apparent. But the demand for organisations to transform digitally is even more pressing. The whole ecosystem of growth, progression and delivering on the expectations of the end user rests in the delivery of cutting-edge, end-to-end managed IT services.

It is the kind of transformational change that is driving organisations to seek consistency across multiple environments.

The availability of multiple platforms means organisations can be spoilt-for-choice, and when they have picked and deployed a wide variety of applications that are subject to shifts and changes, they can lack overall control, support and visibility. And, with the story of multi-cloud barely on the first chapter, there is more still to come and more to be done to ensure support for present and future digital transformation needs.

The multi-cloud approach is enabling new digital workflows, and companies can ensure better collaborative capabilities between what may have once been siloed components.

The landscape is, however, an ever-changing environment.

The customer centric view means being application centric and organisations need to ensure they can support customer-specific services as they either evolve, change or become redundant. All businesses must support a huge amount of vastly different server applications, with Virtual Services ranging from very low throughput single node IoT devices, to highly critical real-time online production servers that need to deliver high-availability online examination software. This is where multi-cloud requires another layer in order to work to its best capabilities for such a carefully balanced environment, and where the consideration of application delivery services and software-driven infrastructure solutions comes in to play.

The problem with multi-cloud

The requirement now is for platforms where every application and deployment is managed seamlessly so business can thrive in the long term. The solution needs to address the holes that a rush to multi-cloud infrastructure can leave, such as a requirement for easier management capabilities and analysis technology that can work across platforms to analyse and troubleshoot applications. Multi-cloud risks adding complexity, but enterprises know they can’t have siloed clouds. Having many different tools to deploy applications in different clouds can fracture development teams, and inconsistent services and processes across clouds defeats the very purpose of a multi-cloud initiative in the first place.

The problems stem from the differences between all of the components of multi-cloud, such as how on-prem data centres work, the requirements of various applications and the disparity between clouds. The compute, storage and networking resources themselves are not the issue when it comes to multi-cloud, but the consistent provisioning and management over every working component is more likely the sticking point.

It is the mission of internal service providers to achieve consistency without slowing everything down. The business wants speed and that means finding a way to deploy applications on different platforms quickly. In the race to get applications deployed teams want guardrails to ensure they can move quickly without the risk of driving off the cliff (or in this case) cloud edge. They want a safeguard where they know exactly what to expect whatever the environment they operating in.

Keeping up with the clouds

The difficulty is that, in the rush to keep up with the latest IT strategies driving digital change across every vertical sector, organisations have struggled to deploy a well-integrated, and complete multi-cloud solution. Instead they have resorted to bolting multiple clouds on to existing structures, in turn leaving a complicated mismatch that can lead to vendor or platform lock-in. It is the kind of thing that requires a whole team of specialists to manage and configure application deployment and delivery in various silos over multiple clouds, as opposed to on-prem.

These problems are real and difficult, but they are not impossible to fix. The solution is abstraction. Too many services today are opinionated about the underlying infrastructure when they shouldn’t have to be. For example, a hardware appliance is confined to the datacentre and many cloud providers offer proprietary services unique to their cloud and their cloud alone. The next generation of application services is abstracted from the underlying infrastructure, software-defined, and opinionated only about the needs of the application (not the infrastructure that delivers it). These software-only services will play a critical role in the data centre and across multiple clouds providing consistent experiences in every environment.

Not only is this a simple solution, the tools to carry it out are readily available right now. And ultimately, this is the solution where multiple environments must be fully integrated and it allows organisations to get the most out of multi-cloud use where each application sits in the cloud that provides maximum benefit to the business.

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