Cloud Hyperscaler Growth Will Continue into the Foreseeable Future

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5/5 (2)

All growth must end eventually. But it is a brave person who will predict the end of growth for the public cloud hyperscalers. The hyperscaler cloud revenues have been growing at between 25-60% the past few years (off very different bases – and often including and counting different revenue streams). Even the current softening of economic spend we are seeing across many economies is only causing a slight slowdown. 

Cloud Revenue Patterns of Major Hyperscalers

Looking forward, we expect growth in public cloud infrastructure and platform spend to continue to decline in 2024, but to accelerate in 2025 and 2026 as businesses take advantage of new cloud services and capabilities. However, the sheer size of the market means that we will see slower growth going forward – but we forecast 2026 to see the highest revenue growth of any year since public cloud services were founded. 

The factors driving this growth include: 

  • Acceleration of digital intensity. As countries come out of their economic slowdowns and economic activity increases, so too will digital activity. And greater volumes of digital activity will require an increase in the capacity of cloud environments on which the applications and processes are hosted. 
  • Increased use of AI services. Businesses and AI service providers will need access to GPUs – and eventually, specialised AI chipsets – which will see cloud bills increase significantly. The extra data storage to drive the algorithms – and the increase in CPU required to deliver customised or personalised experiences that these algorithms will direct will also drive increased cloud usage. 
  • Further movement of applications from on-premises to cloud. Many organisations – particularly those in the Asia Pacific region – still have the majority of their applications and tech systems sitting in data centre environments. Over the next few years, more of these applications will move to hyperscalers.  
  • Edge applications moving to the cloud. As the public cloud giants improve their edge computing capabilities – in partnership with hardware providers, telcos, and a broader expansion of their own networks – there will be greater opportunity to move edge applications to public cloud environments. 
  • Increasing number of ISVs hosting on these platforms. The move from on-premise to cloud will drive some growth in hyperscaler revenues and activities – but the ISVs born in the cloud will also drive significant growth. SaaS and PaaS are typically seeing growth above the rates of IaaS – but are also drivers of the growth of cloud infrastructure services. 
  • Improving cloud marketplaces. Continuing on the topic of ISV partners, as the cloud hyperscalers make it easier and faster to find, buy, and integrate new services from their cloud marketplace, the adoption of cloud infrastructure services will continue to grow.  
  • New cloud services. No one has a crystal ball, and few people know what is being developed by Microsoft, AWS, Google, and the other cloud providers. New services will exist in the next few years that aren’t even being considered today. Perhaps Quantum Computing will start to see real business adoption? But these new services will help to drive growth – even if “legacy” cloud service adoption slows down or services are retired. 
Growth in Public Cloud Infrastructure and Platform Revenue

Hybrid Cloud Will Play an Important Role for Many Businesses 

Growth in hyperscalers doesn’t mean that the hybrid cloud will disappear. Many organisations will hit a natural “ceiling” for their public cloud services. Regulations, proximity, cost, volumes of data, and “gravity” will see some applications remain in data centres. However, businesses will want to manage, secure, transform, and modernise these applications at the same rate and use the same tools as their public cloud environments. Therefore, hybrid and private cloud will remain important elements of the overall cloud market. Their success will be the ability to integrate with and support public cloud environments.  

The future of cloud is big – but like all infrastructure and platforms, they are not a goal in themselves. It is what cloud is and will further enable businesses and customers which is exciting. As the rates of digitisation and digital intensity increase, the opportunities for the cloud infrastructure and platform providers will blossom. Sometimes they will be the driver of the growth, and other times they will just be supporting actors. But either way, in 2026 – 20 years after the birth of AWS – the growth in cloud services will be bigger than ever. 

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Be Alert – Not Alarmed: Analyst Guidance for Tech Providers

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5/5 (2)

There is no doubt that 2023 is off to an uncertain start. However, despite the economic headwinds we expect that some areas of technology will see continued growth. In fact, from our conversations with business and technology leaders, it appears that many organisations will take the opportunity to right-size their businesses, remove excess fat and waste, and accelerate their transformation efforts. The plan is to emerge from a global slowdown – leaner, smarter and better.

Where there is an opportunity to automate organisations will take it – and technology spend will trump people spend in 2023.

But it won’t all be smooth sailing as technology buyers become more discerning than ever and manage costs closely.

Here is what tech providers should focus on to remain resilient in these uncertain times.

  • Be prepared to work harder – especially cloud and SaaS providers
  • Help customers optimise costs
  • Accelerate innovation to stay ahead of M&A activity
  • Employ security to manage risk
  • Prepare for product-led growth

Read on to find out why.

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The Right Balance Between Innovation & Simplification

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5/5 (1)

Life never gets any easier for the digital and information technology teams in organisations. The range and reach of the different technologies continue to open new opportunities for organisations that have the foresight and strategy to chase them. Improving offers for existing customers and reaching new segments depend on the organisation’s ability to innovate.

But the complexity of the digital ecosystem means this ability to innovate will be heavily constrained, causing improvements to take longer and cost more in many cases. Addressing the top business priorities expressed in the Ecosystm Digital Enterprise Study, 2022, will need tech teams to look to simplify as well as add features.

Top Business Priorities in Asia Pacific

Complexity is Not Just an IT Issue

Many parts of an organisation have been making decisions on implementing new digital capabilities, particularly those involved in remote working. Frequently, the IT organisation has not been involved in the selection, implementation and use of these new facilities.

The number of start-up organisations delivering SaaS has continued to explode. A particular area has been the expansion of co-creation tools used by teams to deliver outcomes. In many cases, these have been introduced by enthusiastic users looking to improve their immediate working environment without the understanding of single-sign-on requirements, security and privacy of information or the importance of backup and business continuity planning.

SaaS tools such as Notion, monday.com and ClickUp (amongst many, many others), are being used to coordinate and manage teams across organisations of all sizes. While these are all cloud services, the support and maintenance of them ultimately will fall to the IT organisation. And they won’t be integrated at all with the tools the IT organisation uses to manage and improve user experience.

Every new component adds to the complexity of the tech environment – but with that complexity comes increased dependencies between components, which slows an organisation’s ability to adapt and evolve. This means each change needs more work to deliver, costs increase, and it takes longer to deliver value.

And this increasing complexity causes further problems with cybersecurity. Without regular attention, legacy systems will increase the attack surface of organisations, making it easier to compromise an organisation’s environment. At a recent executive forum with CISOs, attendees rated the risks caused by their legacy systems as their most significant concern.

An organisation’s leadership needs to both simplify and advance their organisation’s digital capabilities to remain competitive. This balance should not be left to the IT organisation to achieve as they will not be able to deliver both without wider support and recognition of the problems.

Discriminate on Differentiating Skills

One thing we can be sure of is that we won’t be able to employ all the skills we need for our future capabilities. We are not training enough people in the skills that we need now and for the future, and the range of technologies continues to expand, increasing the number of skills that we will need to keep an organisation running.

Most organisations are not removing or replacing ageing systems, preferring to keep them running at an apparently low cost. Often these legacy systems are fully depreciated, have low maintenance costs and have few changes made to them, as other areas of the organisation offer better investment options. But this also means that the old skills remain necessary.

So organisational leaders are adding new skills requirements on top of old, with the older skills being less attractive with so many new languages, frameworks and databases becoming available. Wikipedia has a very long list of languages that have been developed over the years. Some from the 1950s, like FORTRAN and LISP, continue to be used today.

Organisations will not be in a position to employ all the skills it needs to implement, develop and maintain for its digital infrastructure and applications. The choice is going to be which skills are most important to an organisation. This selection needs to be very discriminating and focus on differentiating skills – those that really make a difference within your ecosystem, particularly for your customers and employees.

Organisations will need a great partner who can deliver generic skills and more services.  They will have better economies of scale and skill and will free management to attend to those things most important to customers and employees.

Hybrid Cloud has an Edge

Almost every organisation has a hybrid cloud environment. This is not a projection – it has already happened. And most organisations are not well equipped to deal with this situation.

Organisations may not be aware that they are using multiple public clouds. Many of the niche SaaS applications used by an organisation will use Microsoft Azure, AWS or GCP, so it is highly likely organisations are already using multiple public clouds. Not to mention the offerings from vendors such as Oracle, Salesforce, SAP and IBM. IT teams need to be able to monitor, manage and maintain this complex set of environments. But we are only in the early stages of integrating these different services and systems.

But there is a third leg to this digital infrastructure stool that is becoming increasingly important – what we call “the Edge” – where applications are deployed as part of the sensors that collect data in different environments. This includes applications such as pattern recognition systems embedded in cameras so that network and server delays cannot affect the performance of the edge systems. We can see this happening even in our homes. Google supports their Nest domestic products, while Alexa uses AWS. Not to mention Amazon’s Ring home security products.

With the sheer number of these edge devices that already exist, the complexity it adds to the hybrid environment is huge. And we expect IT organisations to be able to support and manage these.

Simplify, Specialise, Scale

The lessons for IT organisations are threefold:

  • Simplify as much as possible while you are implementing new features and facilities. Retiring legacy infrastructure elements should be consistently included in the IT Team objectives. This should be done as part of implementing new capabilities in areas that are related to the legacy.
  • Specialise in the skills that are the differentiators for your organisation with its customers and employees. Find great partners who can provide the more generic skills and services to take this load off your team.
  • Scale your hybrid management environment so that you can automate as much of the running of your infrastructure as possible. You need to make your IT Team as productive as possible, and they will need power tools.

For IT vendors, the lessons are similar.

  • Simplify customer offers as much as possible so that integration with your offering is fast and frugal. Work with them to reduce and retire as much of their legacy as possible as you implement your services. Duplication of even part of your offer will complicate your delivery of high-quality services.
  • Understand where your customers have chosen to specialise and look to complement their skills. And consistently demonstrate that you are the best in delivering these generic capabilities.
  • Scale your integration capabilities so that your customers can operate through that mythical single pane of glass. They will be struggling with the complexities of the hybrid infrastructure that include multiple cloud vendors, on-premises equipment, and edge services.
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How is Your Supplier Using Your Data?

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What is happening to the data that you are sharing with your ecosystem of suppliers?

Just before Christmas, a friend recommended reading “Privacy is Power” by Carissa Véliz. But the long list of recommendations that the author provides on what you could and should do is quite disheartening. I feel that I have to shut off a lot of the benefits that I get from using the Internet in order to maintain my privacy.

But then over the past couple of days came a couple of reminders of our exposure – our suppliers will share our data with their suppliers, as well as be prepared to use our resources to their benefit. I am reasonably technical and still find it difficult, so how does a person who just wants to use a digital service cope?

Bunnings’ Data Breach with FlexBooker

First example. Bunnings started using a service called FlexBooker to support their click-and-collect service.

To do this, they share personal information with the company for the service to work correctly. But hackers have stolen data for over three million customers from FlexBooker in a recent data breach.

How many of Bunnings’ customers were aware that their data was being shared with FlexBooker? How many would have cared if they had known?

I have only read the comments from Bunnings included in the Stuff report but I believe the reported reaction lacks the level of concern that this breach warrants. What did Bunnings do to verify FlexBooker’s privacy and security standards before sharing their customers’ data with them? What is going to change now that the vulnerability has been identified?

Neither of these things is clear. It is not clear if Bunnings have advised their customers that they could have been affected. There is no clear message on the Bunnings New Zealand site on the details of the breach.

In “Privacy is Power”, the author makes a strong case for customers to demand protection of their privacy. Organisations that use other companies as part of their services must be as demanding of their suppliers as their own customers would be of them.

Is Crypto Mining part of antivirus?

The second example is a little different. Norton has released crypto mining software as part of their antivirus suite. This crypto mining software uses the spare capacity of your computer to join with a pool of computers that are working to create a new blockchain block. Each time a new block is added, you would earn some cryptocurrency that you could change to a fiat currency, i.e. normal cash.

But I question why a crypto miner is part of an antivirus suite. Norton makes the case that they are a trusted partner, so can deliver a safer mining experience than other options.

Norton have made the use of this software optional, but to me, it does indicate the avarice of companies where they see a potential income opportunity. If they had included the software in their internet security suite, then there may be some logic in adding the capability. But to antivirus?

The Verge did some unscientific measurements on the value to a user of running this software. They found the cost of the electricity used during the operation of Norton’s mining software was about the same as what they earned. So Norton, with their 15% fee, would be the only ones making money.

The challenge remains for most of us. Our software vendors are adding new functionality to our services regularly because it is what we as customers expect. But I rarely check to see what has been changed in a new release as normally you will only see a “bugs squashed, performance improved” messaging. We have no guarantee that they have not implemented some new way of using our information or assets without gaining explicit approval from the user for this new use.

To Norton’s credit, they have made crypto mining optional and do not activate the software without their users’ consent. Others are less likely to be as ethical.

Summary

Both of these examples show how vulnerable customers of companies are to the exposure of their private data and assets. All organisations are increasing their use of different external services as SaaS options become more attractive. Commercial terms are the critical points of negotiation, not customer privacy. What assurance do customers get that their privacy is being maintained as they would expect?

One point that is often overlooked is that many cloud service contracts define the legal jurisdiction as being either the cloud provider’s home jurisdiction or one that is more advantageous for them. So, any intended legal action could be taking place in a foreign jurisdiction with different privacy laws.

Customer service organisations (i.e. pretty much all organisations) need to look after their customers’ data much more effectively. Customers need to demand to know how their rights are being protected, and governments have to put in place appropriate consequences for organisations where breaches occur outside that government’s jurisdiction.

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Does Your Cloud Provider Develop Talent?

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5/5 (3)

Digital and IT organisations are going through some dramatic changes as they adopt cloud and as-a-service capabilities. In this post, I want to write about two of these – one that is very much a consequence of the other.

Contract Numbers are Exploding 

We’re seeing an explosion in the number of IT suppliers to a typical organisation.

Pre-cloud, the typical organisation probably had five to ten contracts that covered most of the external services that were in use. With suppliers increasingly providing niche functionality and the increased use of credit cards to buy external services, it is often difficult to determine exactly how many contracts are in place. Or, indeed, have a clear understanding of the terms and conditions of each of these contracts.

Where once an organisation might have had contracts for an on-premises ERP and CRM system, a typical organisation will still have those contracts as well as a supply chain forecasting service, a marketing email management tool, not to mention online spreadsheets and task management capabilities.

So with many more contracts in place, the complexity of managing these contracts and understanding the technical, legal and business risks encapsulated in these contracts has become dramatically more difficult.

I’ll return to this point in a later post, as most organisations struggle with this increasing complexity.

What Is Happening to Your People?

The existence of these contracts means that you are increasingly becoming dependent on the people employed by these external organisations. But when you sign up for these contracts, do you investigate how these suppliers develop their talent?

The New Zealand Herald recently carried an interesting article on one organisation that has developed a paid intern program. Something very rare in the industry.

The article prompted me to think through some of the implications of using cloud services. Tech buyer organisations will have less need for technical capabilities as increasingly these are delivered by the cloud suppliers.

But the growth in demand for digital and IT skills just continues to increase as more and more industries digitalise. In the past, tech buyer organisations would have invested (at least the good employers did!) in the development of their people. The cloud suppliers are increasingly doing this talent development.

Most contract negotiations are based on cost, quality and customer service. A significant proportion of cloud contracts are now boilerplate – you pay with a credit card for a monthly service and have little or no ability to negotiate terms and conditions.

The trade-off is required to get a short commitment term and a variable cost profile. No tech vendor can afford to negotiate bespoke contracts for this type of commercial arrangement.

This situation leaves the question of how tech buyers can influence tech vendors to develop their people’s talent appropriately. Some would say that the tech vendors will do this as a matter of course, but the statistics, as highlighted in the Ecosystm research data in Figure 1, show that we are not bringing people in at the rate the industry requires.

Cloud Skills Management

Advice for Tech Buyers

I recommend you look closely at using two tactics with the tech vendors that you are working with:

  • First, look to consolidate as much workload as practical under a single contract with the supplier. This is not a new recommendation for contracts – but with the increasing use of boilerplate contracts, it is one of the few ways an organisation can increase its value and importance to a tech vendor.
  • Second, start finding those tech vendors that are developing new and existing talent in practical ways and favour these organisations in any purchase decision.

Most organisations, individually, do not have the commercial power to dictate terms to the cloud providers. Still, if enough tech buyers adopt this critical criterion, the cloud providers may see the value in investing in the industry’s talent development in meaningful ways.

The downside? Talent development does not come free. Tech buyers may need to pay a higher fee to encourage the suppliers but paying a low-cost provider who does not develop their talent sounds like a recipe for poor quality service.

If you would like to discuss any of these thoughts or issues further, please feel free to reach out and contact me. This is an industry issue and one for our broader society, so I would be interested in hearing how your organisations are addressing this challenge.

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Woolworths to lift store presentation with Visual Merchandiser from One Door

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5/5 (2)

Woolworths have announced the adoption of a new Software-as-a-Service capability from One Door to support the quality and compliance of their in-store merchandising. There are some valuable lessons from this announcement for other retailers.  

The power of data, particularly as the capability of specialist AI tools improves, continues to help retailers improve their offering to customers. 

SaaS Capabilities Offer Performance Improvements

Woolworths are working on improving the compliance of product merchandising in-store using One Door Visual Merchandising solution. 

One Door will improve the accuracy of data available to both the in-store teams and for the central supermarket merchandising team. The supply chain in Woolworths is already highly automated but getting the shelf presence right is dependent on the quality of data being captured. While store teams already use a range of electronic tools to capture this information, the compliance with store planograms and visual merchandising standards has been difficult to automate.  

One Door’s solution provides a single source of this information in an easy to use digital format. The AI tools that One Door have developed appear to be able to show the degree of compliance of the actual shelf layout and stock position. 

For store teams, One Door will simplify tracking layout changes by highlighting them and making the data available on the shop floor. This should deliver productivity benefits to the store – benefits that can be reinvested in new activities or on better customer service. 

Store teams will be able to verify that third party merchandisers are compliant. Major product manufacturers often use their own merchandising teams in supermarkets and One Door will provide a simple mechanism to verify they have done their jobs properly. 

The central merchandise teams will be able to quickly get data-driven feedback on how the stores are making planned changes, as well as verifying the quality of compliance with their store layouts. 

All of these factors should mean that the product that is available in-store is presented in the manner that the merchandising teams have defined, and the customers will see a more consistent presentation of products. 

Integration is Critical for Rapid Deployment 

Effective integration with existing systems and new cloud capabilities is critical to support the real-time operation in Retail. 

The ability to introduce and scale up new capabilities that can be delivered by cloud services such as One Door will only be effective if integration is simple and quick. This requires compatibility at a number of levels including data semantics and the ability to exchange data effectively. Woolworths have been growing their capability for managing and supporting APIs that will make this integration smoother. 

In addition, the cloud service providers have made the development of integration capabilities an investment priority.  

The introduction of One Door is showing how the company can integrate new capability and introduce it to almost 10% of their stores as a pilot capability, with the full deployment to be completed across their chain during 2022.  

Other retailers who don’t have this capability to integrate cloud services quickly, reliably and cost-effectively are going to lag companies that have invested to achieve this capability. 

CIOs and CDOs should be leading their organisations in the development of a rich and scalable set of APIs to enable the integration of this type of high-value specialised solution. 

Deployment without Consistent Architectures will be Complex 

Rapid deployment of new capabilities requires a well-architected cloud, network, and edge infrastructure – and a well-trained team. 

It is highly likely that the deployment of the One Door solution will be delivered over the existing Woolworths infrastructure. The capability is delivered from the cloud, with little or no deployment costs or time required. With the existing network and hybrid cloud capabilities that Woolworths have developed this type of rollout will be a relatively simple technical activity. 

The integration of the service into the Woolworths environment is likely to be the most complex activity to make sure accurate data is exchanged. 

It doesn’t take long to identify a wide range of different digital initiatives that Woolworths are pursuing. With the platform that they have established, they are well-positioned to take advantage of new capabilities as start-ups and existing suppliers develop them. 

Every retailer needs to maintain their focus on their digital capabilities. As companies such as One Door develop AI-based enhancements, CIOs and their teams need to be ready to integrate these capabilities quickly. 

Strong architectures for both infrastructure and digital services are needed to achieve these outcomes. 

Recommendations for Retailers  

Retail organisations continue to find new ways to leverage the power of the data that they are able to collect. The flexibility that SaaS developments deliver will be essential to maintaining an organisation’s competitive positioning. 

CIOs and their teams need to lead their organisations and ecosystems by: 

  • Identifying new SaaS capabilities that support the strategic positioning of their companies 
  • Preparing their environments by supporting a rich set of APIs to support the rapid integration of these new capabilities 
  • Developing and maintaining strong architectures that provide organisations a solid framework to develop within 

Checkout Alan’s previous insight on Woolworths micro automation technology adopted to speed up the fulfilment of online grocery orders

Woolworths Australia Automates Dark Store
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Nuance Acquisition Strengthens Microsoft’s Industry & AI Capabilities

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5/5 (2)

Last week Microsoft announced the acquisition of Nuance for an estimated USD 19.7 billion. This is Microsoft’s second largest acquisition ever, after they acquired LinkedIn in 2016. Nuance is an established name in the Healthcare industry and is said to have a presence in 10,000 healthcare organisations globally. Apart from Healthcare, Nuance has strong capabilities in Conversational AI and speech solutions to support other industries. This acquisition is in line with Microsoft’s go-to-market roadmap and strategies.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Focus

Microsoft announced their Healthcare Cloud last year and this acquisition will bolster their Healthcare offerings and market presence. Nuance’s product portfolio includes clinical speech recognition SaaS offerings – Dragon Ambient eXperience, Dragon Medical One and PowerScribe One for radiology reporting – on Microsoft Azure. The acquisition builds on already existing integrations and partnerships that were in place over the years.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare offers its solution capabilities to healthcare providers using a ‘modular’ approach. Given how diverse healthcare providers are in their technology maturity and appetite for change, the more diverse the  ‘modules’, the greater the opportunities for Microsoft. This partnership with Nuance also brings to the table established relationships with EHR vendors, which will be useful for Microsoft globally.  

The Healthcare industry continues to struggle as the world negotiates the challenges of mass vaccination. But on the upside, the ongoing Healthcare crisis has given remote care a much-needed shot in the arm. Clinicians today will be more open to documentation and transcription services for process automation and compliance. The acquisition of Nuance’s Healthcare capabilities will definitely boost Microsoft’s market presence in provider organisations.  

However, Healthcare is not the only industry that Microsoft and Nuance are focused on. The Microsoft Cloud for Retail that was launched earlier this year aims to offer integrated and intelligent capabilities to retailers and brands to improve their end-to-end customer journey. Nuance has omnichannel customer engagement solutions that can be leveraged in Retail and other industries. As Microsoft continues to verticalise their offerings, they will consider more acquisitions that will complement their value proposition.

Microsoft’s Focus on Conversational AI

Microsoft already has several speech recognition offerings, speech to text services, and chatbots; and they continue to invest in the Conversational AI space. They have created an open-source template for creating virtual assistants to help Bot Framework developers. In February, Microsoft announced their industry specific cloud offerings for Financial services, Manufacturing, and Non-Profit, and also introduced a series of AI and natural language features in Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Office Lens and Microsoft Office mobile to deliver interactive, voice forward assistive experiences.

“There is no slowing down in this space and the acquisition clearly demonstrates the vision that Microsoft is building with Nuance – a vendor that has made speech recognition, text to speech, conversational AI the foundation of the company. This is a brilliant move by Microsoft in the Conversational AI space and a win-win for both companies.

This move could also mark further inroads for Microsoft into the contact centre space. With Teams now being integrated into contact centre technologies, working with large customers using speech and conversational AI, Dynamics 365 could herald the start of more acquisitions for Microsoft to bolster a wider customer engagement vision.

The Conversational AI war is heating up and various other cloud vendors such as Google and AWS are starting to get aggressive and have made investments in recent years to enhance their Conversational AI capabilities. Google Dialogflow has been seeing rapid uptake and they now have deep partnerships with Genesys, Avaya, Cisco and other contact centre players. Microsoft coming into the game and acquiring a company with years of history and IP in the speech space, demonstrates how the cloud battle and the war between Google, Microsoft and AWS is heating up in the Conversational AI. All of a sudden you have Microsoft as a powerhouse in this game.”


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