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March 3, 2017updated 04 Mar 2017 8:54am

Enterprise IT: The Usurper of Mobile World Congress?

Have telcos and device manufacturers realised they need enterprise IT vendors?

By James Nunns

Mobile World Congress is its title, but don’t be fooled by the name of the show because it’s far from being a show all about mobiles.

Yes there are mobile phone release, typically now made before the show actually kicks off, but the event is dominated by traditional enterprise IT vendors.

It’s now more of just a technology show than a consumer event, as made apparent by the likes of IBM, SAP, VMware, Red Hat, Cisco and many more holding dominant positions in the halls alongside Samsung and Huawei in the mobile consumer space.

John Shier, senior security adviser at Sophos told CBR: “We’re all providing services for companies to operate in this digital world in a safe and secure manner, more efficient manner, or provide a richer experience, we’re all providing our little piece of that. So yeah it’s just as much an IT enablement show.”

Although the enterprise IT vendors are holding a much more prominent position in the halls of MWC than they have would have done say five years ago, Nick McQuire, VP, Enterprise Research at CCS Insight said that although there is a clear shift in the makeup of the show, the large tech vendors aren’t really making ground breaking announcements and the change more greatly reflects the impact created by macro trends.

“Its identity is shifting; you’re seeing a lot more in connected cars, in some corners it could have been a connected car event. The macro trends affecting the industry are broadening out the show in terms of its focus,” McQuire told CBR.

Trends around the Internet of Things, 5G and more are changing the dimension of types of players and vendors that are there demonstrating products, according to McQuire, but while one time there would have been a lot of large operators at the show there’s now a lot of focus on big tech giants.

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However, what’s apparent is that there’s a lot of big names that aren’t present or have a very small footprint in the halls.

He said: “There are lots of major tech players that perhaps aren’t there; you don’t see a lot of big internet companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple. Google is there on the Android front but I didn’t see GE there.

“Some players tend to do their own stuff and make announcements of their own. Players that matter aren’t announcing phones at the show, Samsung took the notable decision not to launch a smartphone at the show.”

Although some of the big names aren’t there and perhaps there aren’t ground breaking announcements, there have been a lot of partnerships developing and that’s perhaps one of the reasons why the show is important to the enterprise IT guys.

To the partnerships point Red Hat’s Jim Totton, VP and GM of Platforms told CBR: “It’s a great opportunity for all the companies here at the show to spend time with each other. We’re all in the same city at the same time it’s a great opportunity in just a few days to build really important dialogues between lots of different companies.”

Read more: MWC 2017: Build 5G on NFV or fail, warns VMware CEO

Some of the news coming out of the show highlights the growing number of partnerships between the companies that are typically classified as being consumer tech and those that are typically classed as enterprise IT.

Microsoft and Samsung extended their partnership, SAP and Apple revealed some more details about their work together, Oracle and MasterCard partnered together on payments and more.

Then you have partnership ecosystems building around technologies like 5G – Qualcomm, Ericsson and Vodafone are trialling 5G New Radio for Unified 5G. Verizon and Cisco meanwhile are working together to drive 5G innovation.

The point is that there’s a lot that these big tech vendors can gain from the show and it’s across a number of different areas.

Another reason why there’s such a growing enterprise IT footprint at the show is because there’s a massive transformation going on in the telco industry.

Gabriele Di Piazza, VP Products & Solutions, Telco NFV at VMware told CBR: “This is the moment where there will be one of the most massive network transformations that will happen in the telco industry. This brings in the need to apply enterprise technologies.

“So if you look at VMware we are an enterprise tech company, at this moment the network is becoming a software defined infrastructure, which means there is an aspect of how do you effectively transform but also how do you bridge that service provisioning and delivery into the enterprise customer as well.”

“What you see here is not a consumer show, it is really how to transform the whole ecosystem.”

Read more: Mobile World Congress 2017: Battle lines are being drawn as telcos bet on 5G

One of Di Piazza’s colleagues at VMware, Ian Evans Vice President, End User Computing EMEA, told CBR that the show definitely has a bit more a software oriented feel this year than it has done in the past, perhaps highlighted by a decline in the number of device announcements.

“I think a lot that came around this ecosystem that needs to exist when you look down the end point management route which is where we’re all heading. How you control, manage, talk to them, and capture data is all about software infrastructures,” said Evans.

What seems to have happened is a moment of realisation from telcos, device manufacturers and others that they need the expertise of enterprise IT companies when it comes to things like security, software defined infrastructure and virtualisation, to some extent because they can’t do it all themselves.

While this appears fundamentally beneficial to the enterprise IT guys it isn’t just a one way street because as much as telcos and consumer device makers from enterprise IT, there’s just as much that they can teach to tech guys when it comes to making a technology easy to use.

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