In the last month of Q2, various cloud vendors seem to be rushing to KPIs, meeting together, releasing new concepts, and looking to the future. Some launched cloud service platforms for data center computing power infrastructure, some launched N industry aPaaS in one go, some three platforms + nine solutions, and some started to use communication as a service (UCaaS), contact center as a service (CaaS), technology as a service (API development) and other areas to compete. In short, it is dazzling and dizzying to see.

Behind the blossoming of a hundred flowers, in a word, they are strengthening PaaS capabilities and transforming from technology flow to service flow.

Students with a better memory must still remember that a few years ago, various schools were talking about the grand occasion of thickening and enhancing Zhongtai. And this summer, we have seen unprecedented emphasis on service capabilities. Zhongtai has changed from a large-scale concept to concrete, professional, and subdivided, meeting you in the form of various services, forming a trend in the cloud market.

From emphasizing that "our technology is more explosive and our cloud infrastructure is more powerful" to "our tools are more diverse and our services are more meticulous and caring", everyone has not mentioned the middle platform, but the ability of the middle platform seems to be everywhere. How did all this happen?

How has the market changed?

Pay close attention to the recent trends of cloud vendors, and you will find that they are all emphasizing industry applications, industry solutions, development interfaces, and platform-based services… all of which are part of PaaS. According to Gartner's definition of PaaS platform, it includes both aPaaS (application platform as a service) for application deployment and operation, and IPaaS (integration as a service) that integrates components such as enterprise services, business process management, and business activity monitoring.

The PaaS platform is located in the middle layer of the cloud architecture, connecting the infrastructure IaaS downward and carrying the software application SaaS upward. As we all know, one of the characteristics of Chinese enterprises in digitalization is that they prefer to pay for hardware that is visible and tangible, rather than paying for virtual services. According to statistics from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, IaaS occupies a dominant position in the public cloud market, accounting for 61.82% in 2018. This has also led to the birth of no PaaS software giant like salesforce in China.

Frankly speaking, among the many digital transformation cases we have interviewed in recent years, only some leading companies in the industry will try to introduce some PaaS platforms while purchasing IaaS in the cloud. Huge, there is a digital strategy of process reengineering and business reengineering at the group level. Some PaaS middle-end products can theoretically generate a certain value; the second is due to other considerations, such as the hope to introduce cloud vendors through cooperation between China and Taiwan. certain ecological resources. In general, it is not very reproducible.

And change is happening.

First, the digital object has changed. With the popularization of AI, big data, and cloud services, a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises and physical organizations have begun to join the ranks of cloud-based data acquisition, and business scenarios have also spawned personalized SaaS application requirements, which in turn drives the need for aPaaS;

Second, expectations for cloud services have changed. In the past, the traditional enterprises that used cloud services were mainly large and medium-sized enterprises, and they themselves had mature IT structures, talents and facilities. Cloud migration mainly required IaaS. Even PaaS and SaaS emphasized self-research, while a large number of small, medium and micro enterprises Economic organizations are more willing to pay for applications and services directly under the comprehensive consideration of development capabilities, human resources, deployment agility, and scalability when they migrate to the cloud, which also promotes the change from production to use in the core competition of cloud vendors;

Third, the way of migrating to the cloud has changed. Most organizations adopt hybrid cloud and multi-cloud deployment, which requires enhanced penetration of data, services, and business between clouds, and the ability to provide all elements required for deployment in a unified manner, including servers, networks, storage, databases, and operating systems. Etc., orchestrating between disparate systems and clouds, more integrated platforms are starting to gain traction.

Naturally, the PaaS platform as a bridge has also evolved accordingly.

Brand-new cloud market competitiveness

Once upon a time, Zhongtai Construction and Shangyun were linked together and became an industry trend. It's like having a general anesthesia and doing a caesarean section and tubal surgery together. It sounds very good, but when you really communicate with the industry, you will find that very few companies are willing to spend money directly on a "XX middle platform". Some benchmark digital cases are also challenging when they land on the middle platform:

1. The business is difficult. The middle office needs to sort out a large number of business scenarios and open up the processes and data of multiple departments. It needs to be carried out in stages and cycles, and it is very dependent on the strategic patience of the enterprise, also known as the "top-level project". At the same time, under the background of the uncertain economic situation, enterprises are giving priority to ensuring cash flow, and the products in the middle and Taiwan are becoming more and more difficult to sell, and business development is very difficult.

2. The effect is not clear. Real business scenarios are often specific and trivial, resulting in many unexpected demands. For example, there is a beverage company that hopes to quickly identify whether the convenience store is placed according to the rules on the freezer of its own brand, and whether it is new in the market. What flavors of products are available, such applications that require rapid development and rapid launch are truly valuable.

3. There are hidden dangers in repeated construction. In the actual cloud process, many companies do not want to put their eggs in the same basket, especially some companies with businesses all over the world, often adopt hybrid multi-cloud, and many cloud vendors' middle platform only gets through local data and business. For example, a cat's cloud platform cannot access a dog's business data, and repeated construction will inevitably lead to waste of resources.

In this case, the business of "Zhongtai" is naturally cast a shadow over it. However, in the process of digitalization, agile development, customized applications, integrated services, intensive operations and other rigid needs are waiting to be met.

From this, it is not difficult to understand why cloud vendors have begun to use aPaaS and IPaaS as the main keynote today to open up the next stage of the cloud market.

First, through industry aPaaS solutions, the threshold for building a commercial application is greatly lowered. According to Gartner, the labor cost savings of using aPaaS tools can be as high as 350%. Since June, AWS, HUAWEI CLOUD, Lenovo, etc. have launched industry aPaaS solutions, providing digital experience and capabilities in vertical industries to customers in the form of services, and building, deploying, and updating applications directly on the cloud. If the "capability pool" of aPaaS is not broad enough, it will naturally be difficult to support the development needs of thousands of industries.

Second, with the help of iPaaS platform, complex programs, architectures, data, processes and services can be quickly integrated, and management and operation and maintenance can be implemented more easily. Cloud vendors provide out-of-the-box iPaaS tools and services that can be integrated with other software to provide more powerful, unified, and consistent solutions, thereby addressing the challenges of data silos, efficiency, security, and interoperability brought about by hybrid multi-clouds , becomes important. In March, Google Cloud expanded its Contact Center AI (CCAI) service to be able to integrate with CRM (customer relationship management) applications to provide real-time insights and data analysis.

In addition, create a more friendly ecosystem and avoid competing for profits with software developers and ISV service providers. In the process of digitization, China's SaaS service market still has a lot of room for development. To build an ecosystem, cloud vendors need to establish a good and sustainable relationship with industry partners. Previously, AWS added a new case to the Amazon Connect contact center service. The management function Amazon Cases, some overseas analysts have proposed, will turn AWS from an infrastructure partner of third-party companies such as Salesforce into a competitor. Providing a PaaS platform to support developers and ISVs in rapid and independent development in the cloud is undoubtedly a longer-term strategic choice.

It can be found that the cloud market has come to a critical watershed, with application and integration services as the core competitiveness in the digital transformation period.

Climbing along the hype curve

Why does the change from "technology to use" mean that the cloud market has entered the next stage?

The research firm Gartner once proposed the "hype cycle" of emerging technologies. The Gartner Hype Cycle is divided into five stages according to indicators such as technology maturity, adoption rate and applicability: trigger period, inflation peak period, disillusionment trough period, enlightenment slope, productivity plateau.

Without recognizing the fundamental change in how cloud is delivered, and failing to provide the proper training, tools and services to meet industry expectations for cloud capabilities, there is often a "trough of disillusionment" that slows adoption. To avoid a trough situation, move quickly to Phase 4 and Phase 5, which means that emerging technologies are beginning to be mainstreamed and developed steadily.

So how to make the cloud industry curve rise as smoothly as possible and avoid falling into a trough?

Gartner also states in the "Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing" that companies that focus all their efforts on a very specific strategy and use cloud-based technologies to accelerate their performance will achieve the best results. From this point of view, the cloud market will climb to the productivity plateau. One is to establish standardized, repeatable, and shared infrastructure and services. Safely deploy cloud applications and avoid "the sun is promised, the moon is delivered".

The concept of "middle office" is easily misunderstood because it creates an illusion of "solving all the problems of digitalization for every organization". And there is clearly a huge gap between this expectation and practice. Truly delivering the value of the cloud to users is a long and arduous task that requires one specific capability after another. This is the future that cloud vendors are brewing in June.

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