You are undoubtedly familiar with Orange for its telecom services, but the French company is much bigger than that. The portfolio of the Orange Group also includes, for example, a cybersecurity division that develops security solutions for professional customers. For several years now, Orange has also been strongly committed to the further expansion of its Cloud environment, which is housed within its B-to-B division, Orange Business Services.
Within Cloud services, the largest market is that of medium-sized companies. However, the market that is growing the most rapidly is that comprised of multinational corporations. These are served by Orange Business Services with Orange Cyberdefense powering security solutions. It is an absolute added value that Orange can bring together competencies from the various divisions.
Today we speak with Matthijs Stevens, Cloud expert and head of Cloud Europe at Orange Business Services.
We turn Data into Ta-da!
Your website has the slogan, “We turn Data into Ta-da.” Could you explain this slogan a bit more?
Matthijs Stevens: “What a great opening question! When we look at Cloud, we see in this area three major transformations underway, which will bring more insight, innovation and value for companies. The first is around infrastructure transformation, the second is at the application level and the third is actually around data. Usually, people see data in itself as numbers without context, but if you connect it in the right way and make correlations, you create information that people can use to make things easier. Orange Business Services wants to help its enterprise customers get more value out of their data in combination with any external data to gain new insights. That is the idea behind the slogan.”
Infrastructure as a Service
What are the main services you offer from Orange Business Services?
Stevens: “When we look at our customers, they are generally large national or multinational companies that we support in the journey to the Cloud. In concrete terms, this means that many of our services involve consulting through professional services. Then we help implement the designed approach. Once this happens, we can manage the Cloud environment for the customer and then optimize it. The latter is an important aspect in Cloud today, especially if you look at public Cloud solutions. Here, optimization is not only important as a managed service, but Orange offers a wide range between a fully trusted Cloud (formerly private Cloud) and a public Cloud. This creates hybrid forms in which we can, for example, realize shared (private) Cloud SAP solutions based on our partners’ bare metal systems. In short, Orange offers a full range of trusted cloud solutions based on our own infrastructure (private to public) and that of partners.”
“We work with Microsoft, Google and AWS, among others. However, each of these does offer a slightly different use case in the partnership. For example, Amazon is more about applications, while Microsoft focuses more on the collaboration suite. Google is a bit more AI orientated. In practice, we see that most customers opt for one very large hyperscaler that manages about 70% of the workload and then one or two other parties that take care of the other 30%. In addition, we have our own Orange public Cloud. We call it Flexible Engine. Our own public Cloud is mainly active in Europe with two platforms, one in Amsterdam and the other in Paris, along with three availability zones.”
Do you also offer your own data centers or is this outsourced?
Stevens: “Traditionally, we have had a number of our own data centers. We are also building new data centres in France. In Normandy we are, amongst other things, working on the construction of a new data center, and we have also acquired data centers in Norway through a number of acquisitions. In general, our strategy is to use the data centers of our partners’ ecosystems. We look very closely at the geographic spread and choose data centers that are more environmentally conscious, in locations where the temperature is colder or where a lot of renewable energy is available.”
Do you also have customers who specifically ask to stay within national borders due to GDPR legislation? Is it something you can offer?
Stevens: “Yes, we do offer that either through our partnerships, or through our own Orange Cloud where we can guarantee that the data remains within Europe. That is often more than enough for many customers.
How do you reach the average SME that usually only knows Orange as a telecom provider?
Stevens: “We have made additional investments to strengthen Orange’s B2B branch so that we can offer a broad portfolio of our services to our customers. This is exactly what is important to us. To this end, we have made a number of acquisitions in Belgium in the past, including the company SecureLink which has the network-related activities needed. Thanks to these acquisitions, we bring synergies to better serve our customers.”
What is Orange’s roadmap in terms of the types of services you offer?
Stevens: “If you mainly focus on moving towards Cloud-native solutions, then security has to be an integral part of that. You also see that the function is evolving from the DevOps to DevSecOps. Security in the Cloud is primarily about being able to anticipate what is happening. Based on a number of best practices, we are perfectly capable of protecting our customers’ Cloud environments in an effective way. What happens at public Cloud providers is something that they themselves are actually responsible for. It is up to them to properly secure their own Cloud environment. But the data that is placed in the Cloud is, of course, the responsibility of the customer. It is precisely in that area that we can help our customers well.”
“There are two very important things in the domain of ‘cybersecurity’. First is the human side, especially in a culture of change. This is a constant for which we train people. On the other hand, you will have to make good use of technologies so that you can automate processes to prevent certain things from happening or to be able to exclude them. That combination of training and technology is exactly what we offer our customers in security.”
“What might be interesting to mention is that we also help with business continuity planning. In many factory environments, for example, quite a few relatively old IT systems are still installed. It is precisely there that you often see, in the event of a ransomware attack, that there is indeed a continuity plan in place, but it is then based on a fire or a strike by staff. And not when things go wrong digitally. We can help simulate such a digital incident and prepare the organization for a real digital attack”
The metaphor of the Cloud being “like the faucet that’s always open” makes it difficult for some customers to understand their costs. Can Orange help with that and is that included in the service?
Stevens: “We charge clients for this, especially for setting up the FinOps service within the Cloud environment. But the full savings resulting from this are, of course, for the benefit of the customer. Essentially, our motivation is to do the best we can for our customers. So that means we are not going to encourage as much use of the Cloud as possible. Our goal is to make sure it is used as optimally as possible, and I think that is one of the things that is in our mindset as well, to help our customers be successful. We want to constantly check quotas so we can optimize further.”
What finance departments in larger multinationals find particularly difficult is comparing the costs offered by Cloud companies against the services actually being purchased. How can Orange Business Services help with this?
Stevens: “I think it’s even more complicated, because these are public Cloud-based solutions with very new technologies, which require a different set of skills than those possessed by an average and already somewhat older IT person. In the past, those business cases were made on investments with amortization over five years. Nowadays, it is all calculated through expenses, and Cloud as a service is purchased as a cost per month, which can indeed add up at the end of the day. Thanks to our FinOps Service, we help the customer to gain insight into and optimize costs.”