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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

SMB top 10 technology predictions: 2016 and beyond

This is a two part blog article. The first part, published earlier, reviewed the predictions we made for 2015 and the second part, below, focuses on outlook for 2016 and for the longer term (2017 - 2020).

Top 10 Predictions for Year 2016

1. 2016 will see even more intense emphasis on “CIA-Plus”
IT Suppliers will begin to align their offerings with Cloud, IoT, and/or Analytics; products that do not address end-user needs in these areas will be positioned as infrastructure and integration services needed to capitalize on these technologies. This trend, like hybrid IT, will continue into 2017. In 2016, Cloud and Analytics will remain among the top five IT priorities of SMBs and midmarket businesses. IoT will inch its way up into the priority list, though adoption will remain limited.

2. Rise of IoT will be constrained by a lack of real-world examples
From a buy-side perspective, the rise of IoT will need to be fueled by real-world examples showing the benefits of automating tasks and processes within IT and in other sectors. Within the SMB community, we expect sporadic implementation and a lack of concerted effort towards creation of IoT strategy, even though IT suppliers will continue to push forward their solutions hoping to remain top-of-mind in order to claim leadership in this emerging space. Each IT supplier will create its own solution set causing decision and adoption inertia, despite the wave of innovation that we expect to see emerge from the smaller & more agile IoT providers that are able to more easily align IT expertise with real life solutions. Experienced consultants and system integrators in particular will hold sway in matching SMB adopters with suppliers.

3. IoT supplier success will be determined by ecosystem management
On the sell side, the rise of IoT will be accompanied by an intense wave of interest in ecosystem management. It is difficult to buy or sell a “box of IoT”, though providers will claim to provide complete solutions. Parenthetically, this constraint is not limited to IoT. While it is possible to sell a “box of cloud” under the right circumstances, only AWS really manages to do so. And while one can sell a “box of analytics”, the boxes themselves come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. To meet SMB and enterprise buy-side demand for IoT, sellers will assemble coalitions that provide the many products and services that comprise an IoT solution. This will make alliance management a key success factor in the marketplace. The last time alliances determined market leadership; SAP became the global standard in ERP. Niche value added reseller may find a new source of success in IoT.

4. Business transformation will continue to elude analytics users
Analytics users will find that they are not achieving the expected benefits, prompting divergent responses. Some SMBs will find that analytics has not been transformative, and will blame the technology; others will look to move past descriptive and diagnostic views, piloting predictive or prescriptive initiatives. One of these responses is clearly more sensible than the other, but that does not mean it will be universal, at least in 2016. Focus on visualization will increase (mine is better than yours), on how the technology can solve business issues and challenges for SMBs and midmarket customers. Simplified implementation of customer and social analytics will be key drivers of adoption.

5. “Hybrid” will be used more often in conjunction with “IT” than “cloud”
User organizations will accept the notion that their focus on cloud needs to evolve into a focus on hybrid IT, as firms realize that their platforms and management scope must encompass on and off-premise systems. Truthfully, there is still a lot of work to do in cloud adoption. But the nature of the discussion has changed from “what and how do we move to the cloud?” to “what do we do to build an integrated, manageable infrastructure?” In 2016, there will likely no longer be an infrastructure debate about use of cloud, but there will be an important emerging discussion around managing hybrid IT.

6. Collaboration will drive “silo” to the realm of four-letter words
Anywhere, anytime also means any type of collaboration. SMB & midmarket businesses will look for unified shared workspaces that allow employees to enter into the workspace from any entry point to work together, collaborate and interact. Collaboration solutions cannot be deployed on stand-alone platforms – they need to be viewed as a framework for integrating multiple capabilities, native to multiple applications.

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VMware – threading the SMB needle

VMware has been in the news recently – a valuable asset for Dell, caught between the Dell-EMC deal (see analysis of the deal here). Just a couple of months ago VMware had its VMworld, a forum for VMware to articulate its strategy to customers, partners, media and analysts. VMware’s 2015 theme “Ready for Any” was centered on the challenges that IT professionals are facing today - security, mobility, application delivery and hybrid cloud – and the company’s strategy of supporting “One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device” as a means of empowering IT management to respond to these challenges. VMware’s vision is to “enable an architecture that lets IT deploy or consume capacity from a cloud without having to worry about the physical location or who the vendor is. To do this VMware wants make sure that different form factors of the cloud (private, public, managed, etc.) connect or are transferable”.

Hybrid IT, including hybrid cloud, is no longer an appealing future proposition; it is a current reality as workloads increasingly run internally on a highly-optimized virtual environment connected to a public cloud, and public cloud resources are being widely used for developing and testing applications to be deployed on private or hybrid clouds. Many workloads process data in the public domain and simultaneously store sensitive data in the traditional data center to meet regulatory and compliance guidelines. Techaisle’s SMB & midmarket cloud adoption survey shows that within SMBs, use of hybrid cloud will continue to increase as both a conscious strategy and as a reaction to use of both public and private resources within a single infrastructure; hybrid use is expected to top 40% within the small business market, and will be used by two-thirds of companies with 100-999 employees.

Over the last two years, as virtualization penetration within enterprises has been slowing, VMware has been broadening its solution portfolio to deliver solutions for management and delivery of on/off-premise IT infrastructure. As a result, VMware’s product line has grown beyond compute: it rolled out vSAN for storage, NSX for network, and vRealize for management. Last year, VMware announced its vision of software-defined data center (SDDC) and introduced EVO:RAIL, which ties VMware software to partner hardware for a hyper-converged appliance. In the most recent VMworld this vision was extended to EVO:RACK: while EVO:RAIL was positioned as "SDDC in a box" suitable for midmarket businesses, EVO:RACK (now marketed as VMware EVO SDDC) is aimed at large enterprise customers. In Techaisle’s view, vSAN and EVO:RAIL are also relevant solutions for SMB customers looking to adopt hyper-converged infrastructure.

In 2014, VMware had announced integration between on-premise vSphere and VMware's own public cloud (vCloud Air) enabling businesses to migrate workloads to a VMware-based public cloud. In 2015, VMware extended the narrative to announce Unified Hybrid Cloud - built on SDDC and vSphere - to enable IT professionals run, build, deliver and secure any application, anytime and anywhere. Despite new offerings it is common knowledge that VMware still lags Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in the public cloud market.

VMware is continuing its investment in network virtualization and in the future of NSX. It announced NSX 6.2 with added features such as inter vCenter NSX support, universal firewall rules and security groups, and Trace flow. Techaisle assumes a bigger game changer to be the integration between virtual and physical networks when VMware and partners such as HP complete the support of OVSDB in NSX to manage hardware virtual tunnel end-points (VTEPs).

Key market context

While enterprise market may be saturated, virtualization adoption within SMBs is far from over. Techaisle’s SMB & midmarket Server Virtualization adoption market trends study shows that US SMB server virtualization penetration has reached 54 percent (un-weighted), up from 41 percent two years ago. Within midmarket businesses the penetration has reached 88 percent and another 7 percent are planning adoption in the next year. Across the entire SMB community, there has been a 45% increase in off-premise virtualized servers in the past two years, an enormous shift that highlights the broader shift towards remote management of infrastructure resource. VMware has positioned itself to capitalize on the immense SMB opportunity, however, it needs to have a sales motion that is specifically targeting net new customers within SMBs rather than “mining” the installed base as in enterprises.

The real VMware SMB story is in EUC – enabling untethered mobility

The real story and opportunity for VMware, though, is in end-user computing.

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Coming wave of midmarket collaboration adoption drivers

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption survey research shows that collaboration is already entrenched within many midmarket businesses. While the creation of a central information repository was the most important business driver for collaboration solutions adoption to the “first wave” of midmarket users, it is not so for the new buyers. Leadership’s desire to move forward with collaboration initiatives was the second most important driver for first wave of adopters, the need to meet leadership expectations is widespread within future adopters as well but this issue has been surpassed by the need to enable faster innovation within the new adopter group.

Key business drivers for collaboration are changing within SMBs and midmarket businesses. Specifically, within midmarket businesses, future collaboration adoption efforts will be driven by demands for decision agility, speed of innovation, customer intimacy and faster time to market.

Early midmarket collaboration solution users tell Techaisle that they were frequently investing in these solutions because a lack of teamwork was impacting productivity. New adopters are saying that they are having difficulty coordinating meetings (as a consequence of increased employee mobility, dispersed team members, ad hoc scheduling), and that they need to address slow decision-making within their organizations. In the Techaisle survey midmarket businesses also rated “need for faster innovation” as the third most prevalent driver for collaboration solutions.

The figure below shows the changes in adoption drivers from early adopters to the new wave of adopters for whom collaboration is one of the top IT priorities for business success.

techaisle-midmarket-collaboration-adoption-drivers

The first wave of users focused on asynchronous file-sharing cloud services. Looked at as a whole, there are several distinct generations of collaboration solution drivers within midmarket businesses. The first wave, reflected in the early users within the midmarket business segment was reacting to a requirement to create a central repository of information, to leadership mandates and to the need to coordinate geographically-dispersed teams. The next generation of midmarket business collaboration solution adopters will emphasize collaborative responses to specific pain points – slow decision making, difficulty in coordinating meetings, faster innovation – more than their predecessors.

A deeper review of the midmarket data in the Techaisle study provides additional context for the discussion of collaboration solution benefit metrics. Speed of customer/prospect response is very firmly positioned as a key determinant of solution success, and the importance of meeting deliverable timelines and decision accuracy are also underscored. Data also shows that businesses with 100-249 employees view a reduction in the cost of collaboration as a key success metrics.

The type of collaboration solution adoption data shows that the next stage in the collaboration platform/framework is the ability to enable richer online interaction by allowing simultaneous sharing and editing of files from PCs and mobile devices, to enable multiple simultaneous communication modes, mobile video collaboration and to integrate social networks thereby extending collaboration initiatives from file sharing to more interactive solutions.

Mobility is a key driver and a key support requirement for collaboration. There is a sound basis for believing that mobility has extended demand for collaboration solutions and collaboration investment priorities emphasize inclusion of mobile devices. It is expected that mobile video will drive the highest proportion of new technology needs. Data also shows that enabling teamwork and dealing with new mobility/geographic challenges will be a key investment driver and that individual employees will have a greater voice in shaping solution demand. For the IT staff deploying support for multiple simultaneous communications modes (text, chat, voice, and video) will be a key technology requirement.

Techaisle believes that this reflects a couple of broad trends: the initial centricity of file sharing to a more interactive communications in collaboration strategies, a recognition that there are now many different ways to connect midmarket employees beyond email and a move away from collaboration solutions as a stand-alone platform (like email) and towards collaboration solutions as a framework for integrating multiple capabilities.

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SMB and midmarket server virtualization adoption drivers changing

Techaisle’s SMB & midmarket virtualization adoption research shows that some adoption drivers that were less important in 2013 have assumed increased prominence today, some have dropped off while top two have remain constant and consistent. The figure below shows that some of the top issues, including a need to reduce operating costs, to establish effective backup and recovery strategies, and to provide better security for corporate data and infrastructure, were important to SMB buyers two years ago and are still important today.

techaisle-smb-midmarket-reasons-for-using-server-virtualization-resized 

Two of the 2013 issues have disappeared altogether because they no longer had the same degree of urgency: “move towards cloud computing” is not a driver when the market has already embraced this move, and “reduce energy costs” is less important when power-constrained operations can move processing to the cloud.

“Deliver services on demand” was the ninth-ranked driver of virtualization adoption just two years ago, but today, when “on demand” has become the default mode of delivery, it is the fourth-highest rated adoption driver. Regulatory compliance is another issue that is more important today (ranked fifth) than it was in 2013 (when it was ranked 11th of 13 issues). Scalability, which was added to the 2015 survey in response to increased market interest, debuts as the sixth most compelling reason for server virtualization adoption, while anywhere/any device application access, which is also new to the 2015 survey, is cited as an important adoption issue. On the other side of the balance, the comparison of 2013 and 2015 research indicates that SMB firms are now putting less emphasis on server virtualization as a means of reducing IT support costs and improving utilization of existing hardware. It appears that the issues that are increasing in importance speak to the ability of server virtualization to support key business objectives, while those framed entirely as means of enabling specific types of IT cost control are declining in relative importance.

techaisle-smb-channel-different-virtualization-adoption-perspectives-resized

Interestingly, the IT channel – which is the primary source of IT supply and advisory services to mid-market businesses – has a more advanced take on server virtualization adoption drivers than the customer community that it supports. Above figure compares the channel’s perception of why SMBs are embracing server virtualization with the actual user motivations. We see that the channel is more focused on support for advanced business objectives – delivery of on-demand services, scalability, and anywhere/any device application access – than is the user community itself. This suggests that channel members (two-thirds of which reports that they sell/support server virtualization) are attuned to evolving needs, which speaks well of the channel’s ability to continue to promote server virtualization within the SMB market.

Despite the buzz around cloud, most SMB workloads are still hosted and managed on site, and SMBs have a clear need to reduce costs and improve efficiency of back-end infrastructure and to establish better control over mobile resources. Virtualization helps accomplish both of these goals, and converged infrastructure provides a platform that sophisticated SMB users are already finding compelling. Techaisle believes that virtualization and converged infrastructure are poised for strong growth in the SMB market because they address specific high-priority IT and business issues. It’s important to remember, though, that different virtualization technologies are aligned with different requirements. Server virtualization addresses corporate need for controlling cost and uncertainty, while VDI and DaaS provide control options for mobility solutions. Although they stand to benefit from user comfort engendered by server virtualization, VDI and DaaS should not be seen simply as “next steps in virtualization” – they play a different role in business and IT strategy, and as a result, will respond to their own logic.

Use of server virtualization is reasonably widespread in the small business market, and nearly universal within midmarket enterprises. Suppliers targeting high-potential server virtualization accounts in the 1-99 employee segment are urged to use Techaisle’s IT sophistication segmentation to identify “Advanced IT” organizations, which are far more likely to be using server virtualization than their “Pre-IT” or “Basic IT” peers. Suppliers are also urged to cultivate relationships with firms that host servers for SMBs, as the growth of virtualization in hosted environments is far higher than growth in on-premise use of virtualized servers. 

 

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