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As COVID-19 becomes a constant, enterprises rely on service providers for strategic projects in the cloud

September 3 2020
by Nicole Henderson, Liam Eagle


Introduction


Managed cloud services partners suggest customers from a variety of industries are relying on public clouds, automation, data analytics, and ML and AI to support new business opportunities. In an online panel organized by AWS, its partners AllCloud, BRLink and Cloudticity shared details of how customer strategies are evolving in the wake of the pandemic.

The 451 Take

In the early days of the global coronavirus pandemic, enterprises had to act quickly to ensure employees and customers were safe, and that core business functions could continue even as many workplaces became remote-first overnight. In the context of cloud services, vendors and partners specializing in communication and collaboration services had an advantage because enterprises had to prioritize immediate needs and hit pause on strategic digital transformation initiatives. Managed service providers report that enterprises in many industries are at the point of having to hit play on those strategic projects once again, and are relying on partners to help determine next steps. Managed service providers must be able to adapt to these changing customer needs, and should look to vendors to see what supports are available.

Context


Cloud vendor business has remained steady through the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by a surge of demand for remote collaboration tools as organizations around the globe shut down offices and told employees work from home. Zoom was an early winner, growing from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to 300 million in April, relying on AWS for most of its cloud infrastructure, along with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. In Q2, AWS grew 29% and had revenue of $10.8bn, which is slightly behind its growth in Q1 of 33%. AWS accounted for 12% of Amazon's total revenue for the period.

As the pandemic endures four months later, organizations are becoming more strategic about cloud investments, relying on service providers to help identify opportunities that progress beyond survival mode and enable data-driven business outcomes. In an online panel hosted by AWS, managed service provider partners AllCloud, BRLink and Cloudticity shared how customers are making this transition by leveraging public clouds, automation, data analytics, and ML and AI to improve business processes and end-user experiences.

In response to 451 Research's Workloads and Key Projects 2020 study, most service providers (56%) indicated demand for their services had increased as a result of the pandemic, with nearly two-thirds (62%) expecting increased demand in the future. In the same survey, more than half (59%) of service providers indicated they were experiencing or expecting to experience an increased reliance on third-party services to support their own offerings.

Figure 1
Impact of Coronavirus on Demand for Services
451 Research, Infrastructure Evolution, 2020

Managed cloud service providers


Launched in 2014, AllCloud offers advisory and enablement services across two main ecosystems: AWS and Salesforce. The company serves customers in technology, retail, healthcare, financial services and automotive. Clients include Bank of America, Proctor and Gamble, and Ford Motor Company.

Based in Brazil, BRLink is a cloud and digital transformation consulting company that serves the LATAM market. Clients include Sua Musica, Burger King and Mongeral Aegon Brazil.

Cloudticity offers managed services, security and compliance products to the healthcare industry. Launched in 2011, its customer base includes healthcare providers, payers, health tech companies, and genomics research organizations. Clients include Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services, VergeHealth and Revel Health.

Industry impact


The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has varied across markets, ravaging the hospitality and tourism sectors while driving healthcare companies to innovate under new demands. Cloudticity, whose clients are solely based in the healthcare industry, saw growth in the public sector as states like New York had to quickly put contact-tracing programs in place – rapid innovation that was only possible by using the cloud.

Smaller clients that serve areas of healthcare that are less essential, such as cosmetic surgery, have faced greater challenges as hospitals and doctors' offices closed to all but emergency services. The company also had to support customers as telehealth quickly became a reality, navigating the shift in how healthcare organizations use technology to communicate with patients and manage data remotely. Insurance companies are paying out fewer claims since voluntary procedures are on hold, and are exploring more strategic data projects as a result, working with partners to help them identify opportunities where they can use data to forecast claims.

In LATAM, BRLink has seen some financial services clients embrace migrating on-premises applications to serverless and containerized applications in the cloud through this period, with some customers using the time to innovate in ways that will improve market share when the economy recovers.

Healthcare and financial services are two industries where there is significant opportunity for ML and AI, and service providers are supporting these customers with tools available through public clouds. Cloudicity says its customers are using machine learning to predict COVID-19 patient outcomes and demand for ICU beds and ventilators, and states are using algorithms to understand when it is safe to move toward next stages of reopening. 451 Research sees clinician workflow optimization and decision support, treatment development and drug discovery as areas in healthcare that will benefit greatly from ML and AI; while in financial services, data security, fraud detection, back-end process automation, and payment processing are all ripe for innovation.

AllCloud has seen its clients in travel and hospitality hit especially hard by the pandemic, but is focused on cost optimization while helping them understand how to reinvent their business. Its born-in-the-cloud customers and security services providers were among customer segments impacted positively by the pandemic, and they are eyeing more strategic digital transformation projects as a result.

Service provider opportunity


451 Research previously identified three key phases of COVID-19 response from cloud customers. In the initial stage, most new projects stopped as companies decided what was mission-critical; the second stage was to ensure mission-critical applications were stable; in the third stage, companies needed to determine which other projects should go forward. Service providers have played a key role in supporting customers through the three phases, as early cost-cutting in phase one transitioned into phase three projects that strategically align with digital transformation goals.

In the early weeks of the outbreak, AllCloud helped customers identify opportunities for cost optimization and efficiency; but several months later, this focus has shifted to cloud services that drive innovation, such as the use of AI. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, AllCloud saw growing demand in contact center technology, driven by Amazon Connect, which spiked as companies had to support a remote workforce. Its customers acknowledge that their call center needs to be an innovation center, and move at the same pace and elasticity of the business supported by public clouds. Since April, AWS has been offering WorkSpaces and Amazon Chime to new customers for free, extending the offer until the end of September as many of these customers continue to work from home.

Service providers also see growing opportunity in security services, because customers in regulated industries need to move quickly while maintaining standards of compliance around data. For Cloudticity, this means moving fast enough to meet the needs driven by COVID-19, but not moving so fast that it comes up short in meeting stringent data security levels inherent to the healthcare industry. The company has implemented AWS Workspaces for many clients to enable remote access to data, and has used ML algorithms in combination with security services from Trend Micro to trigger auto remediations for security issues.

The AWS partners acknowledge that while COVID-19 has provided numerous opportunities, it has been a monumental shift in the way many customers prefer to conduct business. For instance, while the partners supported remote working internally, they had to guide customers through this shift, and communicate to customers who were weary of deployments or signing contracts without in-person support. 451 Research sees remote working as a continued reality for many companies moving forward, so service providers will have to evaluate their own processes to ensure they can ease customer concerns.