Google Cloud gathers telco momentum with new partnerships

Google Cloud has announced two new partnerships with Telecom Italia, T-Systems and AT&T in an effort to build momentum in the burgeoning enterprise connectivity world.

Starting with Telecom Italia (TIM), Google will help the telco build public, private and hybrid cloud services as enterprise customers become more important in the new era of connectivity. As with every telco, the enterprise segment is one being heavily targeted by TIM, with plans to exceed €1 billion in annual revenues with more attention being paid to cloud and edge services.

“This strategic partnership with Google places TIM among the Italian key players in Cloud and Edge computing, two markets that will become more and more central with the deployment of 5G technology and Artificial Intelligence,” said TIM CEO, Luigi Gubitosi. “By choosing to join forces with a recognised global technological and innovation leader we confirm our commitment to promote and accompany Italy’s digital progress.”

As part of the agreement, Google Cloud will partner with TIM to open new cloud regions in Italy, with the telco suggesting it has developed training programmes involving 6,000 people in the commercial, pre-sales and technical areas. With a larger data centre footprint across the region, new services will be developed focusing on low latency and high-performance cloud-based workloads and data.

Over in Germany, the tie-up between Google and T-Systems will focus on digital transformation and managed services, with T-Systems providing consulting services, migration support and managed services to enterprise customers leveraging Google Cloud capabilities.

“Our joint goal is to support organizations in their digitization and to improve business processes with the cloud,” said Adel Al-Saleh, CEO of T-Systems. “This partnership is a core element of our strategy, generating value-add for our clients with managed cloud services.”

As part of the partnership, T-Systems will create a Google Cloud competence centre which will focus on creating customised cloud solutions and services for its customers. Services will focus on large-scale workload migrations to the cloud, SAP application modernization, development of new AI and ML solutions, as well as solutions for data warehouse and data analytics in the cloud.

Finally, the partnership between Google and AT&T will aim to develop 5G edge solutions in industries like retail, manufacturing and transportation.

“Combining AT&T’s network edge, including 5G, with Google Cloud’s edge compute technologies can unlock the cloud’s true potential,” said Mo Katibeh, CMO of AT&T Business. “This work is bringing us closer to a reality where cloud and edge technologies give businesses the tools to create a whole new world of experiences for their customers.”

Partnerships between local telecoms companies and the internet giants are starting to become more common and Google has been leveraging local expertise and presence. In India, Google has struck a deal with Airtel to offer its productivity suite. This deal was announced a few months after a similar tie up between telco Reliance Jio and Microsoft Azure.

Elsewhere, Google has partnerships with CenturyLink for areas such as cloud enablement, migration services, SAP and big data, NTT Data in Japan, BICS in Belgium and China Mobile, just to name a few.

As the lines between telecoms and ICT continue to blur, these partnerships will become much more common and deeply entrenched. However, there does seem to be a slight shift in mentality, with the telcos bringing network assets to the party and leveraging the cloud power of Silicon Valley. Telcos are highly unlikely to be able to compete with the likes of Google Cloud and AWS when it comes to software and services, so why bother?

There is clearly a lot for both parties to gain from these partnerships, though telcos are leaning more towards working with the cloud giants as opposed to competing with them directly. Perhaps a much more sensible approach.

German regulator effectively confirms IBM/T-Systems talks

As it does from time-to-time, German regulator Bundeskartellamt has published a list of mergers and acquisitions which is evaluating. IBM and T-Systems are lucky enough to make the list.

Reports of the discussions emerged over the weekend, with IBM rumoured to be considering taking the mainframe service business unit off the hands of the struggling T-Systems. Although the specifics of the deal are not completely clear right now, it would hardly be a surprise to learn T-Systems is attempting to slim the business down.

On the Bundeskartellamt website, there is a page which lists some of the main transactions which the regulator is considering in its role as merger overseer. These are mainly deals which are in the ‘first phase’ and usually passed unless there are any competition concerns. Although the description is not detailed, it lists IBM will be acquiring certain assets from T-Systems.

The news was initially broken by German-language newspaper Handelsblatt, quoting an internal email which suggested 400 employees would be transferred to the IBM business in May. Subsequently IT-Zoom has suggested IBM will be paying €860 million for the business unit.

The origins of such a deal can only lead back to one place; the office of T-Systems CEO Adel Al-Saleh. Al-Saleh was initially brought to the firm, having previously worked at IBM for almost two decades, to trim costs and salvage a business unit which, recently, has been nothing but bad news for parent company Deutsche Telekom. Aside from this saga, job cuts of roughly 10,000 have been announced since Al-Saleh’s appointment.

Confirmed back in June, the 10,000 job cuts were a result of a long-time losing battle to the more agile and innovative players such as AWS and Microsoft. Al-Saleh’s objective was to trim the fat, focusing on the more lucrative contracts, as well as more profitable, emerging segments of the IT and telco world.

While T-Systems and IBM do already have an established relationship, it seems options are running thin to make this business work effectively. With headcount going down from 37,000 to 27,000, its footprint dropping from 100 cities to 10 and this deal working through the cogs as we speak, Deutsche Telekom employees will hope this is the last of the bad news. Whether Al-Saleh feels this is enough restructuring to make the business work remains to be seen.

DT moves to clarify T-Systems strategy

Following reports that Deutsche Telekom is cutting 10,000 jobs from its T-Systems division, the operator thought it was time to make an official statement.

Late last week the news leaked out that DT’s global services division was going to lose a quarter of its workforce. The division has apparently been struggling for a while and Adel Al-Saleh was brought in as CEO at the end of last year to sort things out. As is so often the case, it seems the first part of his strategy is to slim down his organisation and have a general reshuffle.

“Our strategy is in place: We are aligning ourselves to eleven portfolio units, we have initiated four change initiatives and are now implementing the plans,” said Al-Saleh. “This will turn T-Systems into a digital service provider for our customers. We will spend triple-digit millions per year on the growth areas, because the transformation of the company must not jeopardize our success where we are strong.”

The strategy has been somewhat paradoxically named ‘investing while saving’. This sounds a bit like what Ericsson has been saying for a year or two about returning to profitability while being careful to keep investing in R&D. This is a tricky but important balance as you can’t just cut your way to long-term growth; you need to sow the seeds for the future too.

Continuing the doublespeak theme the announcement confirmed that 10,000 jobs worldwide will be ‘affected’, with 4,000 ‘relocated’ and 6,000 ‘reduced’. The underlying narrative is all around efficiency, simplification and sorting the wheat from the chaff, including the elimination of no less than five management levels. The mere fact that T-Systems is able to do that speaks volumes about how badly-run it has been to date.

T-Systems joins the job-slashing brigade with 10k cuts

Deutsche Telekom is the next telco to axe employees, with its T-Systems division set to reduce its headcount by as much as 10,000, almost a quarter of employees.

According to Bloomberg, 10,000 jobs will be cut over the next three years, 6,000 of which will be in Germany, as the struggling unit redirects focus onto more lucrative segments such as cloud, cyber security and IoT. The headcount reduction is aimed at saving the telco roughly €600 million by 2021.

While job losses are never a pleasant topic of discussion, it is becoming much more common. BT hit headlines in recent months with plans to slim down the workforce by 13,000, while Vodafone decided to cut jobs but maintain executive bonuses and earlier this week, Telstra announced it was axing 8,000 as part of its Telstra2022 strategy.

In each of the above examples, the message has been simple; jobs from underperforming or soon to be redundant business units are being removed. There might be some additional hires as the telcos pivot to new areas, though the facts are plain; the telcos more jobs are being lost than created. This is another example of the times; telcos are generally not ready for the digital economy and restructuring initiatives to future-proof the business are something we should get used to.

At T-Systems, CEO Adel Al-Saleh seems to be living up to his reputation as a man who can turn around troubled business units. The T-Systems business has long been viewed as the problem child of the Deutsche Telekom family, consistently losing business to the likes of AWS and Microsoft who can offer faster and cheaper IT services through the cloud, and now the Al-Saleh effect seems to be coming into the equation. Having joined the business in January, Al-Saleh is now focusing on more profitable contracts, quality over quantity, as well as more lucrative ventures, such as cloud, cyber security and IoT. Such a shift in business priorities does not come without repercussions however.

Looking at the financials for the first quarter, total revenues at T-Systems declined 2.3% year-on-year to €1.704 billion, with EBITDA shrinking 40% to €57 million. It does seem DT has realised it cannot compete with the more agile cloud players, and has finished throwing good money after bad, instead focusing on areas where it can be more influential.