Analysts at Forrester anticipated rising use of vertical industry-specific SaaS solutions last year. What they didn’t predict was just how often vendors like Salesforce, which launched a “Manufacturing Cloud” in September, and IBM, which unveiled a cloud for financial services firms two months later, would prove them right.
“The big announcements that came and transpired, I think, were more than we could ever have imagined,” says Lauren Nelson, a Forrester vice president and research director.
If the company’s crystal ball serves it well in 2020, she continues, there’s good news ahead for the top four public cloud operators. Forrester expects them to command 75% of the $75.4 billion spent globally this year on cloud-based infrastructure.
Wait, top four? Everyone’s familiar with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google, but who’s the fourth?
The answer may surprise you: Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant with a vast and growing public cloud platform that relatively few businesses outside Asia even know about presently. Look for that to start changing this year, Forrester predicts, as Alibaba’s $4.5 billion in revenue moves it past Google into third place among cloud providers globally. And though the company’s footprint in North America will remain small this year, according to Nelson, it has two data centers here already and big ambitions for the future.
Will channel pros and their customers entrust cloud workloads to a vendor headquartered outside the U.S.? They just might, Nelson says, if doing so saves them money. “SMBs tend to be very cost sensitive,” she notes.
Cut Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, some slack. The biggest vendor-related development he didn’t anticipate last year was Xerox launching a hostile takeover bid against HP, and HP didn’t see that coming either. Enderle expects HP to prevail in that contest eventually anyway.
“Hostile acquisitions at that scale are almost always catastrophic, and so I have a hard time believing that’s going to go forward,” he says.
The distraction that struggle creates, Enderle continues, won’t be big enough to keep HP from rolling out more innovative, business-focused PCs like the recently introduced Elite Dragonfly, a lightweight 2-in-1, or from making significant strides in industrial deployment of 3-D printing.
“They’ve been moving along those paths pretty aggressively, and we should see a continuance of that,” Enderle says.
For Dell, he continues, 2020 will be the year that cloud investments like the data center-as-a-service offering it unveiled last April start bearing fruit—or else. “It really needs to be a breakout year for them and the cloud,” he says, if they wish to avoid being marginalized in a critical market by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
As it happens, Enderle expects Microsoft to have hardware on its mind even as Dell focuses on the cloud. Now that Amazon is shipping Outpost, its cloud-in-a-box answer to Microsoft’s Azure Stack solution, on custom-developed infrastructure, Microsoft is bound to start doing the same, Enderle believes. The only question is whether it will build those devices itself or partner with someone else.
The initial market response to Microsoft’s latest Surface devices, and especially the Surface Duo, will be worth watching too. Enderle thinks the dual-screen phone/tablet could be a breakout hit.
“There’s been a significant amount of interest in a business-focused phone, and no one’s really executing against that interest,” Enderle says. Microsoft could prove the exception to that rule.