Content Published Last Week

1. Azure, GCP, BigQuery, Snowflake & Cloud Competition

2. Align Technology: Invisalign Competition

3. UK Used Car Market Competitive Landscape

4. Spirax-Sarco Engineering: Chromalox

5. SLM Solutions & Additive Manufacturing

Windows vs Linux Containerised Workloads

Could Microsoft Azure have an advantage in shifting the majority of existing on-premise workloads to the cloud?

I would say the biggest thing that Azure has over AWS is hybrid capabilities. Amazon's go-to market strategy and the technical architecture has always been cloud; let's do cloud native, as much as possible. Since Microsoft started its roots in Windows Server and SQL on premise, they realized that customers were still in the very early innings or stages of moving their critical systems to the cloud. They wanted to provide a path to cloud and so they have a stronger hybrid offering. I think that's a key distinction that people need to realize.

Microsoft's Windows heritage and enterprise sales force places it in prime position to transition legacy Windows customers to the cloud.

Another interesting data point from our previous interview with Former Director of Amazon's Kubernetes Service, was that nearly all of the workloads being containerised on EKS were Linux workloads.

I would say it was 98% Linux...A lot of the existing Windows applications had a higher barrier to entry to move to containers, if that makes sense. Even amongst customers who had the domain expertise running a lot of Linux containers, when they started thinking about doing Windows, I think there was a lot of hesitancy and just not a lot of best practices around because there was just more application refactoring. It wasn't as easy as just containerized lift and shift, which you could do with any Linux app effectively. I think Windows has probably made some strides. But I do wonder if we'll ever see similar levels of adoption in the Windows space, as far as containers go. In comparison to Linux, it's just a different burden. I think that skill set might not be just as prolific or distributed as it is for Linux

The open-source nature of Linux meant workloads were easier to containerise and shift than Windows. Although this has changed over the last few years, it seems that there are more legacy Windows workloads yet to move to the cloud relative to Linux.

If you looked at the percentage of the overall Linux market that's moved to containers, it's probably higher than the percentage of the overall Windows market that's moved to that. It would be interesting to know the total addressable market just out there, in the Linux space, that could be migrated versus the Windows space

AWS clearly has a strong offering to switch Windows customers to the cloud, but given Microsoft's enterprise sales force and decades of customer relationships, Azure could be better positioned to capture existing Windows workloads.

Invisalign Brand Strength Declining?

A Former Director of ALGN suggests the brand strength and pricing power of ALGN may have peaked given the onslaught of competition from cheaper clear aligner companies.

I think it’s increasingly common that patients are asking for Invisalign by name, for reasons that I think are obvious. What the conversation maybe looks more like is, yes, we offer Invisalign. We also have some alternatives to Invisalign; we have some other clear aligner options that are less effective but are going to give you the same result. I think that's an easy conversation. I don't think that's a conversation that that most orthodontists or dentists could mess up. If they're an existing patient or a patient of record, then they would be highly likely and inclined to say, yes, that's fine. I just want clear aligners in the end. I think that, at a certain point, while the Invisalign brand has really peaked in terms of brand awareness, consumer awareness, at the same time, it could very quickly go away. When now we're just talking about clear aligner treatment in general, I don't care what brand it is; I just know that I want my teeth straight. As a consumer, as a patient, I just want my teeth straight. I don't want to wear wires and brackets. I just want clear aligners.

Auto Trader & UK vs US Used Car Market Structure

The presence of Auto Trader, the leading UK used car marketplace, is a major structural difference between the US and UK used car market. The US has no company that dominates P2P used car sales like Auto Trader.

Auto Trader aggregates UK used car demand and gives the customer a complete view of national inventory. Auto Trader's scale and dominant network effect means it's far more difficult for a UK used car supermarket to aggregate demand online compared to the US. Every UK used car dealer has to list product on Auto Trader to turn vehicles.

Most car supermarkets are driven by Auto Trader. They want to be priced competitively at Auto Trader; some people want to be at 98%, and some people want to be at 101% at Auto Trader. Bear in mind that Auto Trader is the biggest marketplace, the biggest aggregator with something like 450,000 cars to sell. If you use their latest products, you can put a vehicle registration number in there and the mileage, and it will tell you where that car sits in the marketplace. You can decide whether you want to look at a national, regional, or local market. You can decide whether you want to include car supermarkets, independents, or franchise dealers, so the way you can cut and dice that information is really clever nowadays. It will tell you the optimal retail price for that car based on how many days you want to sell that car, how quickly you want to turn it, and what kind of profit you expect to achieve. - Former Director at Big Motoring World

This is where Cazoo‘s strategy was challenged from the beginning. It spent hundreds of millions on advertising yet still has to list vehicles on Auto Trader. Putting aside Carvana's other problems, the absence of a US scaled auto marketplace opened up the opportunity for CVNA to aggregate national demand online.

Auto Trader is also slowly moving down the purchase journey to add more value to customers, effectively neutralising some of the value used car dealers add. This was a Former Director at Carwow on Auto Trader's positioning in the UK:

For example, Auto Trader, over the course of the last year, have launched the Mobility Hub; I think that is what it is called. Essentially, that is a system for their dealers to use to arrange for vehicles to be delivered, by a range of marketplace vehicle logistics providers, so that their retailers can do home delivery in the same way that Cazoo and others can offer it to customers. They’re evolving and developing their propositions and I can fairly confidently state that Auto Trader and others will not stand still and watch the market disappear from them, if they see it happening.

Spirax-Sarco Engineering: Chromalox

Spirax's core business is selling steam traps and other components that facilitate the transfer of steam throughout production plants for food and beverage and pharmaceutical plants. Given gas or oil is used to heat water that creates the steam in traditional production plants, the decarbonisation trend is leading customers to switch to more renewable energy methods in the boiler room.

In 2017, Spirax acquired Chromalox, a business with proprietary medium-voltage technology for electric heating, to complement its existing steam offering.

Source: SPX CMD 2022
Source: SPX CMD 2022

Spirax is the only global engineering company with leading electric thermal and steam offerings for production plants. We interviewed the Former CEO of Chromalox to explore its role in Spirax's portfolio and some of the operational challenges the company has been facing in Europe.

SLM Competition

The Former CEO of EOS, a SLM Solutions competitor, explains how SLM’s business model is fundamentally different to EOS and Velo, more process-orientated companies. SLM has a simple, hardware focused business model; it doesn't sell materials or services in a razor / razor-blade model like EOS.

If you look into the machine, the printer is quite simple. You have a couple of axes, a recoater, a flow in the chamber, and a filter system. It's not super complex. What is more sophisticated is the melt pool, which means the interaction point between the energy source – one laser, four lasers, and in polymer, it's diode arrays – and the powder material. EOS always focused on this interaction. We never claimed to be a machine tool manufacturer; we always claimed to be a process company. We understand what's going on in this melt pool and try to build everything around this melt pool, so we have a reliable, repeatable, and efficient melting process. This is still the core of EOS and is different from many other competitors. Especially different from SLM, GE, or 3DSystems. I think TRUMF has a similar mindset, and Velo is very much process oriented. This helps you to develop non hardware-related business models. SLM has a simple business model; they sell machines. They hardly sell any material, but if you want to come into this razor/razor blade model, you have to sell material, you have to sell services, you have to sell IP, however you translate that, the IP into license or software. This is only possible if you understand, from my point of view, the process itself.