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SP360: Service Provider

The explosive growth of mobility has had a transformative impact in recent years. Increasingly, it is viewed not just as an industry force but as an overall economic lever, driving expansion on a GDP level.

This was a core theme of the 2012 Canadian Telecom Summit, which I attended last week in Toronto. Certainly, Canada itself is a prime example, and there was much discussion about the vital role mobile video and data have played as key enablers in Canada’s economy as a whole.

My presentation and panel at the Summit focused on the opportunities afforded to service providers by this unbridled appetite for mobility, especially from a business-to-business perspective. In particular, I discussed the intersection between cloud and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. This evolution, I believe, will be a critical catalyst, ensuring the continuation of mobility-driven productivity and economic growth.

The fact is, service-provider-delivered business-to-business cloud services have not grown as fast as was predicted three to four years ago. There has been a lot of interest and, dare I say, hype around the trend. But it has lagged behind the forecasted potential. BYOD, I believe, is changing this. The move to cloud-based business applications and desktop virtualization will be accelerated as people bring their own ever-smarter devices to work (as mentioned at the Summit, Apple’s iPad2 is as powerful as a 1985 Cray 2 supercomputer). Cisco IBSG found that as of this year, 50 percent of enterprises are already implementing desktop virtualization. This trend should accelerate—and, of course, cloud is the key. By 2014, Cisco’s Global Cloud Index research predicts that more than 50 percent of all workloads will be processed in the cloud.

In my discussions about mobility and cloud, two industry vertical segments stood out as prime opportunities for service providers: financial services and healthcare. There was overwhelming agreement that both would benefit handsomely from an infusion of cloud-based, mobility-driven productivity, and that service providers will need to deliver services that are meaningful to these industries. In moving from voice-data offerings to integrated business applications, SPs will have to customize to each particular vertical. This may prove a challenge, but also represents a terrific opportunity for SPs.

In a 2011 Cisco IBSG survey of 750 businesses with 1,000 employees or less, we found that more than 75 percent of respondents had at least one cloud-based solution, and planned to adopt additional cloud-solutions within the next two years. Cisco IBSG discovered that small medium businesses (SMBs) signaled strong interest in adopting the following cloud-based software-as-a-service offerings within the next two years: desktop production apps, hosted business apps, hosted collaboration, and hosted sales-and-marketing solutions.

But in the merger between such services and BYOD, complexity abounds. How exactly do you manage all of those devices and onboard them in a secure environment? Typically lacking extensive IT resources, SMBs will especially need outside help. This provides a beautiful opportunity for SPs to create managed services to counter all of that added complexity. In addition, SMBs will exhibit a strong appetite for other solutions that could be offered by SPs, including enhanced managed wireless, business access, and telecommuter services.

At the Canadian Telecom Summit, the importance of SMBs as a potential growth market was underscored by the example of Canada itself. In the United States, more than 50 percent of total business IT costs is carried by enterprises; in Canada, that number is closer to 30 percent, which is nearer to the global norm. Again, many of those SMBs lack extensive IT staffs or the capital to invest in their own cloud infrastructure. So, given the extent to which they are already primed for new business services, SMBs present a ripe opportunity for service providers.

In our discussion in Toronto, there was great excitement about the continuing evolution of business applications, the proliferation and acceleration of mobile data, and BYOD. The cloud, supported by the offerings of service providers, will be the key catalyst for all of these future experiences.

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