Cloud Wars’ Latest Ammunition: Robotics

Charlotte Dunlap – Principal Analyst, Application Platforms

Summary Bullets:

• IBM and Microsoft make key robotic process automation (RPA) acquisitions in May and June, respectively

• RPA is largely viewed as a major component of emerging intelligent automation solutions

RPA software has become the silver bullet of the various components which comprise new intelligent automation solutions that promise to provide cloud providers with an edge in the hotly contested cloud wars.

In recent weeks, cloud leaders Microsoft and IBM have made Tier 3 RPA acquisitions in order to fortify their automation strategies. Automation solutions are turning into a major new opportunity that application platforms vendors are betting on to help lure enterprises into app modernization projects and to gain steam amidst cloud rivals. The ability to automate repetitive operational processes is a mounting objective among enterprises in order to speed time to market with important services, and help reduce manual errors.

In May Microsoft announced plans to acquire Softomotive to expand the low-code RPA capabilities in Microsoft Power Automate. Power Automate, initially released last November, represents IBM’s chief intelligent process automation (IPA) rival considering the growing popularity of Microsoft Power Platform and Power Automate’s continued consolidation. Microsoft just announced in June its plans to let customers create Power Apps directly from within Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft’s plans to integrate Power Automate with WinAutomation, resulting from Microsoft’s Softomotive RPA acquisition.

Hot on its heels, last week IBM followed suit with its own announcement of plans to acquire Brazilian based RPA provider WDG Automation. (Please see GlobalData’s two-part series on IPA: IBM Follows Microsoft’s Lead, Acquires RPA Vendor , July 10, 2020). The move brings a major component of IPA in-house to consolidate IBM’s automation offering while leveraging its AI strengths.

Specifically, IBM’s expanded access to RPA technology fulfills a key component of its intelligent automation solution, allowing it to bypass third-party partnerships among leading RPA pure-plays currently filling the gap for IBM. IBM now has the control to provide customers with deeper integration and therefore a more elegant experience between core automation components including AI. Further, the technology helps IBM continue its enterprise messaging following the IBM Think conference which emphasized hybrid cloud and AI for helping clients become AI-enabled companies. Specifically, IBM will likely integrate the new RPA technology with AIOps, a new solution which addresses CIO’s top-of-mind concerns over security and resiliency of new IT infrastructures resulting from app modernization projects. Adding this level of robotic intelligence to automation provides reassurance that enterprises dealing with unstructured data are meeting their regulatory compliance obligations.

Over the past year, platforms providers have been aggressively readying comprehensive automation platforms, leveraging AI, cloud infrastructure, optimization, and robotics, all necessary DevOps components for bridging the cloud’s value-chain with traditional processes and app modernization. Solutions aim to help eliminate the time-consuming tasks required to manually build business processes under stringent demands of a digital era. Enterprises are faced with significantly increased data connectivity requirements and heightened customer experience engagement objectives.

RPA’s simplicity is increasingly viewed as an attractive alternative to complex AI solutions which require data scientists to operate. Intelligent automation has been playing out largely through improving processes across enterprises, conducting specific tasks in order to eliminate repetitive requirements among operations teams. (Please see GlobalData’s two-part series on IPA: Intelligent Process Automation is Ground Zero for DevOps , March 17, 2020 and The Vendors Launching the Intelligent Process Automation Market , June 24, 2020.)

Helping highlight the seemingly insatiable appetite for RPA, last week consulting and implementation services provider Information Services Group (ISG) acquired RPA firm Neuralify, with plans to tuck the technology inside ISG’s automation business. In January, low-code leader Appian acquired RPA provider Novayre for its Jidoka platform, one of the first vendors to bring the technology in-house. The acquisition shores up its competitive threat in the low-code space opposite pure-play rivals (e.g., Salesforce, Pegasys, Mendix, OutSystems, and others) and larger cloud providers.

GlobalData will continue to focus on this emerging market segment, whose key players include Appian, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Pegasystems, Red Hat, Salesforce, SAP, and ServiceNow; as well as pure-play RPA providers including Automation Anywhere, UiPath, and Blue Prism.


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