Ian Brown, Senior Analyst, IT Services
Accenture and Orange Business Services (OBS) have formed an alliance to support large enterprises with their cloud strategies. Accenture will provide expertise and skills in the planning, implementation, and management of cloud services with an industry solutions focus. OBS will provide its end-to-end infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and associated managed services.
This isn’t the first example of Accenture partnering on cloud services: it already has agreements with Dell and Microsoft. The significance of this alliance is that OBS is European and has cloud data centers in France. It is mutually beneficial in that it provides Accenture with a pragmatic means to allay European customers’ current sensitivity to data privacy issues, while OBS benefits from partnering with a leading SI that has the industry solutions skills it lacks.
Initially, the alliance will have most relevance to enterprises headquartered in France. OBS stands to gain most in that it potentially opens its cloud up to Accenture’s large enterprise IT customer base.
SIs that lack in-country data center assets must partner with local and regional suppliers to deliver cloud services to enterprise customers
Whether it was ever originally intended as such, this is a pragmatic move for Accenture. The vendor doesn’t have comparable cloud data center assets of its own in France, certainly not of the same quality and capacity as OBS’s cloud-ready Normandy data center, for example.
Local data centers have become a requirement for all SIs that want to deliver private and hybrid cloud infrastructure to enterprise and public sector customers. Large enterprises in Europe were already very aware and concerned about data privacy and sovereignty issues prior to the Snowden revelations about the US National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) snooping activities, but the NSA revelations appear to have ignited the debate about data privacy in Europe.
European SIs have been quick to emphasize their “European-ness” and European assets and resources. The availability of European data center capacity in key locations has become a differentiator, so non-European SIs that lack significant data center assets of their own in the region are likely to rely increasingly on partnerships of this type.
Accenture’s competitors, HP and IBM, have been aggressively expanding their Europe-wide IaaS locations and responding to the sensitivity around data sovereignty for some time. Both have data centers capable of delivering private or hybrid cloud infrastructure in continental Europe, including France and Germany.
While Accenture has close links to Microsoft through its Avanade joint venture, even Microsoft’s Windows Azure data centers in Dublin and Amsterdam aren’t local or private enough for many large European enterprises. In addition, Microsoft has its own plans to ensure that it can offer localized private cloud capacity and is partnering with Capgemini to deliver Microsoft Windows Azure stacks from Capgemini data centers in France, the UK, and the Netherlands as part of the SI’s SkySight initiative.
Providers that want to deliver cloud services to enterprise customers in Europe have to address the data sovereignty issue. Therefore, SIs that want to provide private or hybrid cloud services to European enterprises, but don’t have the assets to do so, will need to partner with local and regional suppliers. Strategically, a number of non-European SIs are looking to partners to help build out their cloud-ready data center capacity to avoid the capex costs of DIY builds and data center upgrades, or high leasing costs in multiple countries.
Many regional cloud service providers have secure auditable cloud services, but lack the solution skills to support industry-sector needs
The benefits of the partnership for OBS will come from the potential opening up of its cloud services to Accenture’s large enterprise customers. As these customers move more of their workloads to the cloud and support new social, mobile, and analytics applications with Accenture’s help, this will potentially bring more traffic to OBS’s IaaS cloud.
French customers, initially, will get a French data center from a French cloud service provider, which should allay their data sovereignty fears. They can audit it, if not. In addition, they get Accenture’s industry-centric expertise in creating and customizing a solution to meet their industry-specific needs.
While the alliance is Europe-wide, we believe it will initially be of most interest to large enterprises in Orange’s home territory, with a view to expanding outward into Europe and beyond.
The partners look complementary on paper: Accenture is strong on industry and applications needs, but asset-light in Europe; OBS has the network, local cloud assets and services, and skills in securing the network, but lacks the enterprise application skills. Partnerships are the quickest and least costly way for vendors with different skillsets and assets to fill the gaps in their offerings, and we expect to see the trend continue. Done well, such partnerships have the potential to deliver best-in-class workload migration to a best-in-class cloud.
The challenges are related to how well the partners work together, share responsibilities, and put the customer first. This relationship is new and untested, so customers should ensure that there is a single set of terms and conditions, one contract, and one set of SLAs. They need to minimize the possibility of misunderstandings or finger-pointing between the partners.