Sales investments are also being channeled into a new public cloud platform branded "Flexible Engine," which appears to have been developed with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Announcing the launch of its own public cloud business last month, the Chinese vendor seems to think it can challenge the likes of Amazon Web Services Inc. and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) in this area. But Romano says that Orange's priority was to fill a gap in the product portfolio rather than "lure customers from other platforms." (See Huawei Takes Aim at AWS, Google With Public Cloud Move.)
"We've been very successful in providing traditional data center services -- that's our second-largest revenue generator in the UK after networks -- but we didn't really provide a flexible [cloud] platform," says Romano. "Some peers have decided to partner with existing platforms but we decided to build our own so that we could provide an end-to-end solution in our own portfolio."
While Flexible Engine's first "proof of concept" customer is in France, and "going live" this month, it is in the UK market that Orange tests many of its latest innovations, according to Romano, simply because it is so mature and competitive. "That makes us a key business function to the group," he says. "There is a lot of collaboration with customers keen on trialing new services, and from that we can feed intelligence back to the development teams."
Can the good times last? UK economic growth was better than expected in the aftermath of the country's momentous "Brexit" referendum, which saw a small majority of UK citizens vote to quit the European Union and triggered fears of a recession. Yet there have recently been signs of a slowdown.
Romano is sanguine, arguing that Brexit might ultimately create new opportunities for some of Orange's customers. In the meantime, the main Brexit-related concern is to reassure customers that Orange can address their needs whatever changes an EU exit might bring. "We're obviously a global organization, and rules differ from one country to another," he says. "That means we already have the ability to adapt quickly."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading