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Cloud Cost Management Part 4: Why Cloud FinOps Vendors All Sound The Same

Too often, the process of selecting a technology provider — of any kind — unearths more questions than answers. In many instances, vendors’ sales and marketing messages confuse, rather than clarify, because they all sound so similar. This puts IT, procurement, and finance leaders in the frustrating position of trying to identify real differentiators, all while hoping for the best outcomes.

Choosing a cloud computing cost management and optimization vendor offers no exception. As we noted in the third installment in our blog series, most (although not all) of these providers make the same benefits statements to potential customers. So, instead of leaning on hope, Amalgam Insights recommends enterprise buyers use our ongoing guidance to identify important differentiators. We begin by presenting similarities Amalgam Insights has noted in vendor messaging that prove confusing to potential buyers.

4 Areas of Confusing Messaging Among Cloud Cost Management Vendors

Recall that, in the previous blog, we pointed out continuous optimization and automation/artificial intelligence as the first two examples of similarities shared among cloud cost management vendors. The remainder of this installment covers the four additional issues we have pinpointed as challenges for evaluating Cloud FinOps providers. Keeping these aspects in mind will allow executives and line-of-business heads to spot providers’ true differences more easily rather than reinventing the wheel. This will go a long way toward arming organizations with the knowledge needed to develop a vendor selection process that will help narrow down the ideal choice.

1. Container and Service Management

With the emergence of Kubernetes as a mainstream containerization platform, cloud computing can now be deployed more granularly. This makes cost and resource tracking even harder. When a workload is not attached to a specific resource or service, IT has more difficulty assigning it to a project or cost center. Organizations supporting stateless apps need to figure out how to track cloud usage. To meet this challenge, vendors will toss around the buzzphrase “Kubernetes management.” The tracking of containerized compute can be done proactively, optimizing nodes in expectation of workloads or reactive ways that look at the usage. Get insight from the vendor on how they support consumption below the application layer as “container management” is being used in a variety of ways to describe cost, operations, technology, workflow, and/or infrastructure accounting in various ways.

2. Single View of Multiple and Hybrid Clouds

Another commonality among solutions in our Amalgam Insights’ new report, Control Your Cloud: Selecting Cloud Cost Management in the Face of Recession, is that of the single interface. In this report, we focused on cloud cost management and optimization providers that bring together multiple cloud vendors and hybrid cloud resources (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, niche players, private clouds, on-premises hardware) under one roof. Rather than forcing users to access each cloud provider’s interface separately, third-party vendors’ management platforms deliver insight and reporting into each cloud through one portal. This reflects one of the basic benefits of using an independent cloud cost management and optimization platform. A variety of companies in the cloud cost management marketplace are still specialists in one or two cloud platforms. Make sure that your proposed vendor for cloud costs is aligned with your IT architects’ vision for cloud and data center usage.

3. Reporting and Analytics

Every cost management and optimization platform — cloud or not — contains reporting and analytics. The detail to look for is the depth and granularity of analytics, including the out-of-the-box alignment to IT, DevOps, finance, procurement, and other relevant cost and inventory management departments. Analytics can also be supported by algorithmic and machine learning models that help to predict future demand for resources, or that proactively detect potential opportunities for optimization. However, the presence of analytic and reporting capabilities that provide financial and operational visibility into multiple clouds is not in itself a differentiator within the cloud cost management world.

4. Managed and Professional Services

In addition to software, most cloud cost management and optimization vendors offer some level of professional or managed services, as well as help desk. While none of this is unique, the ways in which the services are delivered could be. Organizations will want to vet variances including the following:

  • Hours of Operation
  • Human vs. automated assistance
  • Dedicated or named account resources
  • Cloud provider certifications

Some organizations will require around-the-clock support availability while others will not. Some will have no issue using chatbots to resolve problems while others will want a human. Some will operate well with general assistance while others will opt for personnel dedicated to their account. Finally, some cloud cost management and optimization vendors may not certify all their staff on the various cloud platforms the organization uses.

Knowledge Is Power

Knowing what makes many cloud cost management vendors the same will equip IT, procurement, finance, inventory, and other leaders to pinpoint meaningful differentiators and therefore choose an ideal fit. Amalgam Insights has done much of the footwork for readers. In that spirit, the next blog will cover the key differentiators that analysts have identified among providers. From there, we will publish a number of vendor profiles. Combined, all this information will support organizations’ quests to most ably manage their cloud computing environments, especially as a global recession threatens to hit.

Need More Guidance Now?

Check out Amalgam Insights’ new Vendor SmartList report, Control Your Cloud: Selecting Cloud Cost Management in the Face of Recession, available for purchase. If you want to discuss your Cloud Cost Management challenges, please feel free to schedule time with us.


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An Important Side Note on FinOps and Cloud Economics

Organizations sometimes describe the job of cloud cost management as a “FinOps” role (an abbreviation of “Financial Operations” or “Financial Cloud Operations”) or as a Cloud Economics position. Amalgam Insights finds that there is confusion about these terms. Here’s why.

The common-sense definition of Financial Operations belongs to the Finance team responsible for financial close, budgeting, planning, treasury, tax, and accounting. Meanwhile, the concept of “economics” typically applies to the ecosystem of the production and consumption of value. In many cases, that goes beyond the scope of a standard “cloud economics” role, which focuses on cloud optimization and cost management.

However, in practice, these terms of FinOps and Cloud Economics are often used interchangeably to refer to managing costs, as well as inventory and governance. This is misleading on a variety of levels. The appropriation of “FinOps” to be cloud-specific is confusing enough, especially since a separate “FinOps” is starting to emerge for financial applications used to assist with planning, budgeting, close, consolidation, treasury management, and other financial tasks requiring some strategy, workflow, or collaboration to complete. The Cloud Economics term is a challenge for a different reason: it is an inaccurate term as economics should refer to the financial and business value associated with cloud deployments, including sales bookings and support costs at the microeconomic level and the environmental impact and ecosystem costs at the macroeconomic level. Economics, finance, and accounting are three separate concepts that the IT department needs to understand.

Amalgam Insights acknowledges that this is a common occurrence and hopes this note provides clarity for the reader who may find herself already acting as a “cloud economist” or “FinOps practitioner” based on activity around managing cloud costs while perhaps not being familiar with this terminology. The biggest concern Amalgam Insights has with these inaccurate terms is that the use of these terms may lead to the trivialization of these roles as FinOps or cloud economists are typecast as “cost analysts” rather than personnel who understand the business repercussions of cloud on the business as a whole. Cost analysts are a cost center while business analysts who understand revenue root causes are often a profit center.

In this light, what can FinOps and cloud economics personnel do to avoid being pigeonholed? Here’s Amalgam Insights’ advice.

1) Talk to the finance team in charge of organizing and managing IT costs. Somebody at the finance team has to either articulate the value of IT or rolls IT up into general and administrative costs or cost of goods sold. Understand how IT is categorized in your organization, as cloud may be miscategorized.

2) Understand the full lifecycle of cloud costs. This includes vendor sourcing, contract negotiations, optimization, service rationalization, and the security and governance concerns associated with technology vendor selection. Do not be stuck within one small section of Technology Lifecycle Management within a complex spend category such as cloud unless you are seeking to be commoditized over the next few years.

Finally, understand the economics associated with cloud. ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) is an increasingly important and strategic topic for businesses seeking to improve branding and reduce their risk to any operations that may lead to future concerns. If you want to be associated with economics, understand not just the services and technologies supported but their impacts on the environment and to the service provider. This allows you to be a resource not just for IT, but also for the CFO, Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Procurement Officer, and other strategic vendors.

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Calero-MDSL Acquires Network Control to Support Mid-Market TEM Demand

On August 2, 2022, Calero-MDSL announced the acquisition of Network Control, a telecom expense and managed mobility services vendor based in Waverly, Iowa. This acquisition continues the acquisitive streak of Calero-MDSL and increases its status as the largest telecom expense management solution in terms of spend under management.

Network Control provides telecom expense management and managed mobility services. Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Waverly, Iowa, Network Control was privately held with no outside investment. Network Control is owned by Mark Hearn, a long-time TEM executive who purchased the company in 2011. Amalgam Insights estimates that Network Control has roughly doubled in headcount to approximately 100 employees between the 2011 acquisition and the 2022 purchase by Calero-MDSL.

With this acquisition, Calero-MDSL is making greater strides into the mid-market in acquiring a client base that collectively includes over 200,000 devices and $300 million in spend under management over 75 customers. From a pure spend perspective, Network Control does not represent a substantive addition to Calero-MDSL’s estimated $22 billion under management as the largest TEM in terms of spend under management. However, Network Control brings several important skills to Calero-MDSL that will be vital for the continued growth of the combined company.

First, Network Control has shown the ability to consistently win new business in the mid-market enterprise and is known for its retention. In Amalgam Insights’ CIO Guide for Wireless Expense Management, Network Control was listed as one of Amalgam Insights’ Distinguished Vendors based on its 98%+ retention rate for customers, with the majority of account losses over time coming from merger and acquisition activity or from the cessation of business activities. Mid-market enterprises between $1 million and $20 million in annual telecom spend is an increasingly competitive space for the large TEM vendors that are reaching the practical limits of saturation among the Global 2000 where they have traditionally focused. As TEM has become an established business practice over the past 15-20 years, TEM vendors have been able to polish both their software platforms and managed services capabilities and now are better positioned to provide these capabilities downmarket to support the next $200 billion in global mid-market telecom and technology spend that has traditionally been almost a greenfield market.

In addition, Network Control brings strong managed services capabilities for managed mobility, with approximately 100 employees trained in supporting a managed mobility services organization across operations, logistics, sales, and other business functions which will be valuable to Calero-MDSL in bolstering existing managed mobility capabilities. Network Control is known for its flexibility and client-centric focus in bringing new services to clients as well as for the quality of customer service provided.

Network Control also has a sustained record of winning deals against the likes of Tangoe and Sakon, which happen to be two of Calero-MDSL’s largest rivals in the TEM space. In our CIO Guide, we saw that Network Control ran into competitive deals in approximately 80% of their sales, which was indicative both of the relatively educated nature of potential customers and Network Control’s ability to win against larger vendors.

What to Expect?

First, for mid-market businesses between $100 million and $5 billion in annual revenue, expect increased attention from TEM companies seeking your business to manage your telecom spend. They are seeking environments that have been manually managed or managed with spreadsheets and fall under the IT Rule of 30, which states that any unmanaged IT spend category averages 30% in duplication and waste. This will also be a shift for TEM and MMS vendors that have traditionally sold into the mid-market and found that their biggest competition was against the status quo. As this market starts to shift towards what is being called the “mid-market” or the “mid-enterprise,” expect to see more competitive deals. Calero-MDSL has acquired a company that has a history of winning mid-market business against Calero-MDSL’s biggest rivals based on understanding mid-market pain points and service needs. By adding marketing and sales muscle to Network Control’s operational capabilities, Calero-MDSL has an opportunity to support the mid-market in an unprecedented way.

Second, this acquisition looks like it could kick off a second wave of TEM consolidation. In the early 2010s, there was a massive wave of consolidation in the TEM market driven by venture capital-backed vendors seeking exits or running out of funding. In the 2020s, the situation is slightly different as the firms that have remained to this day tend to be privately owned and profitable companies that have established both best practices and processes to support loyal customer bases. We have started to see the acquisition of these private firms with the acquisitions of Vision Wireless and Wireless Analytics by Motus and with this acquisition, but there are at least a half dozen additional firms with strong mid-market experience that would be strong candidates for a similar acquisition or rollup. However, the big caveat here is that any acquisition of these companies needs to be coupled with a strong customer service culture as the mid-market TEMs Amalgam Insights covers frequently average 98% retention or higher with over 100% wallet share; this is a demanding market where technology, services, and client management must be aligned.

Third, this acquisition shows that the cost of acquiring talent is still significant in the TEM world. Calero-MDSL would have needed an extra year to find the volume of high-level talent that they are getting at one time with the acquisition of Network Control. The ability to find personnel with experience in managing the spend and procurement of millions of dollars in annual technology spend is still relatively rare. This skill will become increasingly necessary in the recessionary times that we are currently facing. Companies cannot simply eliminate technology, so they will need to financially reconcile their environments both with in-house and third-party resources. Network Control has proven its ability to maintain a high level of service by maintaining a high staff-to-client ratio, a practice that Amalgam Insights recommends keeping as the relative cost of labor is smaller than the cost of finding a new customer.

Fourth, it is safe to assume that Network Control was purchased for its talent, capabilities, and client base rather than its software platform. Although Network Control’s TEMNet is a functional platform, the amount of investment that Calero-MDSL has put into its platform ensures that customers will eventually be migrated to this platform. As long as this migration is handled carefully, this should not be a challenge. Calero-MDSL has prior experience in migrating clients from previous acquisitions A&B Groep and Comview, among others.

Overall, Amalgam Insights believes that this acquisition will be accretive to Calero-MDSL both in providing greater capacity to support managed mobility services and to learn the demands of mid-market clients from an experienced team. This acquisition also will eventually provide Network Control clients with access to the Calero-MDSL platform, which has been built to support global environments and now also includes Unified Communications as a Service and Software as a Services support. Amalgam Insights believes this acquisition demonstrates Calero-MDSL’s continued commitment to expanding its market share and providing telecom and technology expense savings to a wider clientele of organizations.

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Market Alert: Vendr Raises $150 Million B Round to Help Enterprises Purchase SaaS More Efficiently

On June 16, 2022, Vendr, a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service purchasing platform) announced a $150 million Series B round co-led by prior investor Craft Ventures and novel investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and joined by Sozo Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Sound Ventures, Tiger Global, and Y Combinator. The company states that this funding will drive platform enhancements.

Why this funding announcement matters

To fully contextualize this announcement, Amalgam Insights will dig into the context of the macroeconomic issues driving the importance of this announcement, the tactical importance of a SaaS purchasing solution in the Technology Lifecycle Management (TLM), and the nature of the investment compared to other historical funding announcements in the TLM space.

Macro Trends for Corporate Spend Reduction

First, this announcement comes at a time when the United States is facing inflation that approaches double-digits. The current 8.6% inflation rate in this country threatens to devour the average 8.19% net margin that publicly traded companies (excluding financial services) currently achieve. In addition, we are facing a global recessionary trend driven by COVID, supply chain issues, geopolitical strife including the occupation of Ukraine, strained Sino-US relations, inconsistent oil and gas policies, and an excess of money supply created over the past several years. In the face of these global challenges, it is prudent for companies to seek to reduce discretionary costs where it is possible and to shift those costs to strategic growth areas. Traditionally, recessions have been a time when strong companies invest in their core so that they can execute when the economy picks up again.

SaaS as a Strategic and Expanding Complex Spend Category

In this context, SaaS is a massive, but complex, opportunity to cut costs. Amalgam Insights estimates that the SaaS market has grown 25% per year in each of the last two years. Multiple studies show that enterprises that have reached the billion-dollar annual revenue threshold average over 300 apps directly purchased by the organization and over 900 apps running over their networks, either on in-office networks or on employee devices. The hundreds of apps here obviously equate to hundreds, possibly thousands, of accounts and bills that can be consolidated, negotiated, and potentially rationalized to concentrate spend on strategic vendors and gain purchasing power. It is not uncommon to find large enterprises using 20 or more different project management solutions, just to look at one SaaS subcategory.

This rationalization is vital if enterprises are to take the IT Rule of 30 seriously. Amalgam Insights states that the IT Rule of 30 is that any unmanaged IT category averages a 30% opportunity to cut costs. But that 30% requires following the Technology Lifecycle to fully uncover opportunities to cut costs.

Technology Lifecycle Management

The majority of companies that Amalgam Insights speaks to in the IT expense role limit their diligence in IT spend to the right side of this lifecycle including timely bill payment, possibly cross-charging to relevant business entities and cost centers, and right-sizing expenses by finding duplicate or over-provisioned accounts. While this is necessary to execute on the IT Rule of 30, it is not sufficient. In the SaaS space, Amalgam Insights believes there is conservatively a $24 billion spend reduction opportunity globally based on improved SaaS purchasing and negotiations. At the micro level, this equates to a 2 million dollars for the average billion-dollar+ enterprise, with results varying widely based on SaaS adoption (as SaaS only makes up 30% of overall enterprise software spend globally), company size, and level of internal software contract knowledge.

Putting The Investment in Perspective

Amalgam Insights understands the scale of this business opportunity. Even so, this $150 million B round represents a massive round in the Technology Lifecycle Management space. Consider other large funding rounds in this space including:

Zylo’s 2019 $22.5 million B Round for SaaS Management

BetterCloud’s 2020 $75 million F Round for SaaS Management

Productiv’s 2021 $45 million C Round for SaaS Management

Beamy’s 2022 $9 million A Round for European SaaS Management

Torii’s 2022 $50 million B Round for SaaS Management

and looking further across the Technology Management spectrum

Cloudability’s 2016 $24 million B Round for IaaS Management (later acquired by Apptio)

CloudCheckr’s 2017 $50 million A Round for IaaS Management (later acquired by NetApp)

CloudHealth’s 2017 $46 million D Round for IaaS Management (later acquired by VMware)

MOBI’s 2015 $35 million investment round for Managed Mobility (later acquired by Tangoe)

I hasten to add here that more is not always better. But this range of funding rounds is meant to show the amount of investment that typically goes into solutions designed to manage technology expenses, inventory, and sourcing. At first glance, Vendr’s funding round may seem like just another funding announcement in the billions and trillions of dollars involved in the tech sector to those who do not cover this space closely. But as someone who has covered telecom, cloud, and SaaS expense management closely for the last 14 years, this round stands out as a massive investment in this space.

In addition, the investors involved in this round are top-tier including Craft Ventures, where founder and ex-Paypal founder David Sacks has been a proponent of Vendr, and the combination of Tiger Global and Softbank, which may be the two most aggressive funds on the planet in terms of placing big bets on the future. The quality of both smart money and aggressive money in this investment during a quasi-recessionary period speaks to the opportunity that exists here.

What to expect from this round?

The official word from Vendr so far is that this funding round is about data and platform. Vendr acquired SaaS cost and usage monitoring firm Blissfully in February 2022 to bring sourcing and expense management together and support the full lifecycle for SaaS. Amalgam Insights expects that some of these funds will be spent to better integrate Blissfully into Vendr’s operations. In addition, the contract information that Vendr has represents a massive data and analytics opportunity, but this will likely require some investment into non-standard document management, database, machine learning, and data science technologies to integrate documents, tactics, terms, and results. Whether this investment takes the form of a multi-modal database, graph database, sentiment analysis, custom modeling, process mining, process automation, or other technologies is yet to be seen, but the opportunity to gain visibility to the full SaaS lifecycle and optimize agreements continuously is massive not only from a cost perspective, but also a digital transformation perspective. The data, alone, represents an immediate opportunity to either productize the benchmarks or to provide guidance to clients with ongoing opportunities to align SaaS usage and acquisition trends with other key operational, revenue, and employee performance trends.

This part is editorializing, but Vendr has the opportunity to dig deeper into tech-driven process improvement compared to current automation platforms that focus on documenting and driving process, but have to abstract the technologies used to support the process. In the short term, Vendr has enough work to do in creating the first SaaS Lifecycle Management company that brings buying, expense, and operations management together. But with this level of funding, Vendr has the opportunity to go even further in aligning SaaS to business value not only from a cost-basis perspective, but from a top-line revenue contribution perspective. Needless to say, Amalgam Insights looks forward to seeing Vendr deliver on its vision for managing and supporting SaaS management at scale and to tracking the investments Vendr makes in its people, products, and data ecosystem.

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Upcoming Amalgam Insights Report Alert: “Control Your Cloud”

The Big Takeaway: Cloud computing spending has reached new heights. Organizations need guidance to avoid wasting money. The “Control Your Cloud” SmartList will provide guidance for enterprises struggling to manage cloud costs.

Amalgam Insights forecasts that global spending on public cloud computing — including infrastructure and software — will total more than $350 billion in 2022. Driven by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and concurrent digital transformation projects, organizations will continue to invest in the cloud, to the tune of more than 20% this year. And the greater the investment made in cloud, the more room for waste. 

Savvy stakeholders, especially those who already pay attention to expenses in other technology categories (mobility, telecom, Software as a Service), know that uncontrolled cloud computing will significantly reduce any return on investment. Just as with wireless or networking or other strategic IT spend categories, department heads must come together to craft a strategic approach to overseeing cloud computing deployments and expenses. The stakes are too high.

Consider the wider perspective: Between 2020 and 2021, spending on public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) soared 37%. In numbers, that totals a $60 billion increase. 

Kelly Teal, Senior Research Analyst, Amalgam Insights

COVID-19, of course, served as the impetus for much of that growth. Anecdotally, cloud computing vendors have reported that the demand they expected to serve around 2030 hit a decade earlier because of the pandemic. As governments worldwide mandated lockdowns, organizations had to rush to support work-from-home setups for employees. Cloud computing delivered many of the capabilities businesses needed; IT teams scrambled, often cobbling together solutions that met staff needs but were not cost-effective. Leaders spent much of 2021 trying to rectify those issues, yet more cleanup remains to be done. Contractual obligations, employee preferences, and heavy lifting associated with a technology shift all can slow the process. 

At the same time, organizations face new challenges in 2022. Inflation rose by 7% by the end of 2021, just in the United States, according to the Consumer Price Index. Everyone is paying more for the same products and services, and wages are not keeping pace. Revenue may not make up for the gap, either. This leaves executives and line-of-business leaders more aware of spending than perhaps ever. Cloud computing represents a major area ripe for attention. 

Cloud computing also accelerates the ability to bring new ideas to market and execute on business opportunities. At a time when the attention and relationship economies require deeper and more data-driven understanding of customers, cloud computing allows access to the analytics, machine learning, and relevant connections that achieve that. Organizations need to translate new ideas into fully-fledged business units without investing millions of dollars in upfront cost on computing assets.

However, IT should not act alone when it comes to deciding how to manage cloud computing expenses just for the sake of getting the job done in a convenient way. Cloud computing, just like its wireless and telecom counterparts, impacts the entire organization. Therefore, the finance, IT, revenue, security, and governance departments all must be involved, on some level, in overseeing cloud computing investments. For example, executives in charge of budgeting need to understand cloud computing costs; IT must select and manage platforms and assign and monitor users and consumption; software development and IT architects need to tag and track resources as cloud services are spun up and down; and data experts have to ensure that the organization’s information within the various cloud resources stays in line with laws such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Cloud computing is complicated. Executives across the organization need a deeper understanding of the intricacies so they can work together to spend wisely while ensuring no critical aspect goes overlooked. Amalgam Insights is stepping in to guide organizations through these considerations with our upcoming Vendor SmartList, “Control Your Cloud: Why Organizations Need Cloud Cost Management Capabilities in 2022.” 

Executives seeking to control cloud expenses need to read this report because it will provide expert analysis on the key cloud cost containment challenges of 2022 and the differentiated approaches to reduce and optimize cloud costs. The report also will features vendor profiles that cut through the hype and show why each vendor is different in a sector where marketing messages all seem to focus on the same starting points of reducing cost, providing financial visibility, and improving cross-departmental collaboration. This last issue emphasizes an important point: The profiles do not rank the providers that brief with Amalgam Insights. Rather, Amalgam Insights explores what makes each vendor different and offers guidance on why that vendor is currently chosen in a crowded marketplace. This level of detail gives organizations the knowledge to pinpoint which vendor(s) might best meet their needs for cloud computing cost management. 

The following stakeholders all will need to read and act on the report: Chief Technology Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers, “Shadow IT” managers in sales and marketing, DevOps Directors and Managers, IT Architects, Vice President/Director/Manager of IT Operations, Product Managers, IT Sourcing Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers, IT Service Providers and Resellers. Each of these roles is crucial to achieving cloud computing success throughout the organization.

Control Your Cloud: Why Organizations Need Cloud Cost Management Capabilities in 2022” will publish in the second quarter of 2022. 

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Reviewing 2021 IT Cost Trends

IT Cost Management is one of the core practices at Amalgam Insights. This practice focuses on tracking both vendors and product offerings that help enterprises fight off the IT Rule of 30, Amalgam Insights’ observation that every unmanaged IT category averages 30% in bloat and waste and that this can be even greater for emerging technology areas such as cloud computing.

From our perspective, the demand for a more holistic technology expense capability has been in demand at the enterprise level since the mid-2010s and companies narrowly focused on managing telecom, mobility, software, and cloud computing as four separate IT silos will miss out on a variety of opportunities to optimize and rationalize costs.

In this practice, we tactically look at technology expense management vendors, including specialists in telecom expense, managed mobility services, cloud cost management, cloud FinOps (Financial Operations), Software as a Service management, IT finance solutions, hybrid cloud subscriptions and financing, and other new IT strategies that can lead to a minimum of 20-30% cost reduction in one or more key IT areas. In each of these IT areas, Amalgam Insights maintains a list of recommended vendors that have proven their ability to deliver on both identifying and fixing the issues associated with the IT Rule of 30, which are provided both in our published research as well as in our end-user inquiries with enterprise clients.

With that out of the way, 2021 was a heck of a year from an IT management perspective. Although a lot of pundits predicted that IT spend would go down in a year where COVID-driven uncertainty was rampant, these cost control concerns ended up being less relevant than the need to continue getting work done and the resilience of a global workforce ready and willing to get things done. In doing so, 2021 saw the true birth of the hybrid worker, one who is just as comfortable working in the office or at home as long as they have the right tools in hand. In the face of this work environment, we saw the following things happen.

The Rise of the Remote Employee – Amalgam Insights estimates that 30% of employees will never be full-time in-office employees again, as they have either moved home full-time or plan to only come into the office one or two times per week as necessary to attend meetings and meet with new colleagues and partners. Although many of us may take this for granted, one of the issues we still face is that in 2019, only 5% of employees worked remotely and many of our offices, technology investments, and management strategies reflect the assumption that employees will be centrally located. And, of course, COVID-19 has proven to be both a highly mutating virus and a disease fraught with controversies regarding treatment and prevention strategies and policies, which only adds to the uncertainty and volatility of in-office work environments.

Legacy networking and computing approaches fall flat – On-premise solutions showed their age as VPNs and the on-site management of servers became passe. At a time when a pandemic was running rampant, people found that VPNs did not provide the protection that was assumed as ransomware attacks more than doubled in the United States and more than tripled in the United Kingdom from 2020 to 2021. It turns out that the lack of server updates and insecure ports on-premises ended up being more dangerous for companies to consider. We also saw the Death of Copper, as copper wired telecom services were finally cut off by multiple telecom vendors, leaving branch offices and the “Things” associated with operational technology rudely left to quickly move to fiber or wireless connections.  Blackberry finally decided to discontinue to support of Blackberry OS as well, forcing the last of the original Blackberry users to finally migrate off of that sweet, sweet keyboard and join the touch screen auto-correct world of smartphone typers. It was a tough year for legacy tech.

Core Mobility Grew Rapidly in 2021 – Core spend was up 8% due to device purchases and increased data use. In particular, device revenue was up nearly 30% over last year with some of the major carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile (now the largest carrier in the United States). However, spend for customized and innovative projects disappeared both as 5G buildouts happened more slowly than initially expected and 5G projects froze due to the inability to fulfill complex mesh computing and bandwidth backfill projects. This led to an interesting top-level result of overall enterprise mobility spend being fairly steady although the shape of the spend was quite different from the year before.

Cloud Failures Demonstrated need for Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Management – Although legacy computing had its issues, cloud computing had its black eyes as well. 8760 hours per year means that each hour down gets you from 100% to 99.99% (4 9’s). Recent Amazon failures in November and December of 2021 demonstrated the challenges of depending on overstressed resources, especially US-1-East. This is not meant to put all the blame on Amazon, as Microsoft Azure is known for its challenges in maintaining service uptime as well and Google Cloud still has a reputation for deprecating services. No one cloud vendor has been dependable at the “5 9’s” level of uptime (5 minutes per year of downtime) that used to define high-end IT quality. Cloud has changed the fundamental nature of IT from “rock-solid technology” to a new mode of experimental “good enough IT” where the quality and value of new technology can excuse some small uptime failures. But cloud failures by giants including Akamai, Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Fastly, and every other cloud leader show the importance of having failover and continuity capabilities that are at least multi-region in nature for mission-critical technologies.

Multi-cloud Emergence – One of the interesting trends that Amalgam Insights noticed in our inquiries was that Google Cloud replaced Microsoft Azure as the #2 cloud for new projects behind the market leader Amazon. In general, there was interest in using the right cloud for the job. Also, the cloud failures of leading vendors allowed Oracle Cloud to start establishing a toehold as its networking and bare-metal support provided a ramp for mature enterprises seeking a path to the cloud. As I’ve been saying for a decade now, the cloud service provider market is going the way of the telcos, both in terms of the number of vendors and the size of the market. Public cloud is now is $350 billion global market, based on Amalgam Insights’ current estimates, which measures to less than 7% of the total global technology market. As we’ll cover in our predictions, there is massive room for growth in this market over the next decade.

SD-WAN continues to be a massive growth market – From a connectivity perspective, Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) continue to grow due to their combination of performance and cost-cutting. This market saw 40% growth in 2021 and now uses security as a differentiator to get past what people already know. From an IT cost management perspective, this means that there continues to be a need for holistic project management including financial and resource management for these network transformation projects. Without support from technology expense management solutions with strong network inventory capabilities, this won’t happen.

As we can see, there were a variety of key IT trends that affected technology expenses and sourcing in 2021. In our next blog on this topic, we’ll cover some of our expectations for 2022 based on these trends. If you’d like a sneak peek of our 2022 predictions, just email us at info@amalgaminsights.com