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Worldwide focus on SMB and Channel Partners market research and industry analysis.

HPE addressing SMB and channel partner Hybrid IT demands

Change is a constant in IT – and SMBs are struggling to keep up. A recent Techaisle survey of more than 1,500 US SMBs (1-99 employees) found that in 83% of SMBs, technology is more important today than it was 3 years ago. More than half of SMBs find that their technology adoption related pain points have increased in the last year. Cloud is supposed to provide SMBs with worry-free access to cutting-edge technology – but 59% of SMBs find cloud technology difficult to understand. SMBs need defined paths that help them to build business agility on top of a complex infrastructure foundation.

One area where support and guidance are most needed is hybrid IT. As per Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Cloud adoption study just over 80 percent of SMBs are either currently connecting or planning to connect their on-premise environments (including private cloud) to external public clouds. These firms are responding to a need to enable digital transformation of their business operations: more than 40 percent of SMBs (as per Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Digital transformation trends study) are already embracing an advanced ‘holistic’ digital transformation strategy; almost all have some type of digitization, digitalization or digital transformation initiative underway.

Because SMBs can’t support multiple parallel environments, hybrid IT took root earlier in this segment than within enterprise accounts. SMB progress on hybrid has been halting, though: there has been a serious disconnect between what the channel partners offer in terms of hybrid IT solutions to the SMBs and what the SMBs really are asking for. Techaisle has seen evidence of greater vendor focus on supporting the SMB transition to hybrid infrastructure, however. As an example, HPE with its recent SMB-focused product announcements is addressing SMB concerns by simplifying its SMB hybrid technology, supporting easier adoption, enabling hybrid deployments and paving a path for digital transformation.

HPE has released five hybrid cloud solutions leveraging Microsoft Azure services, and purpose-built ProLiant Gen10 servers featuring HPE Silicon Root of Trust capabilities for enhanced security. For the very small businesses, HPE rolled out a small office deployment solution that provides wireless networking in-a-box and includes secure servers as well as Aruba Wi-Fi access points and switches.

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Defending the SMB Business in the Cloud Era

Small and midsized businesses are challenged with defending their users, applications and data against external threats. Security issues cast a long shadow over SMB IT priorities, especially as firms embrace the benefits of hybrid IT, only to find that their environments become more complex, and more difficult to manage and protect. SMBs are responding by expanding security budgets – but they lack the staff and expertise to construct effective shields around their organizations. The channel has an essential role to play in defending their clients’ SMB businesses against security threats.

The origins of the saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination” may be unclear – it’s variably ascribed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, theologian Lynn H. Hough, Canadian rapper Drake, and others – but its applicability in an IT security context is clear: there is no end point at which security is ‘done’; security requires constant updating, to stay current with expanding threat vectors.

This requirement for continuously-improved IT security is both a challenge and an opportunity for channel members. There is a need to stay current with the tactics and technologies that protect SMBs from threats – and there is a steady and profitably business to be made in meeting this challenge.

What is the opportunity?

Techaisle has pegged US SMB security spending in 2018 at $9 billion: nearly $4 billion in spend by small (1-99 employees) businesses, and more than $5 billion in spending by midmarket (100-999) firms. And the market is expanding rapidly, especially at the high end of the small business segment and within the midmarket: a large-scale Techaisle survey found that in 2018, firms with 50-99, 100-499 and 500-999 employees increased IT security spending by 6%, 7% and 8%, respectively. Channel organizations that invest in building strong security practices are able to tap into strong and growing demand for IT security solutions, and the management expertise needed to effectively deploy security products in an SMB environment.

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The connection between hybrid cloud use and focus on orchestration

Techaisle’s US SMB & Midmarket Orchestration, Integration & Automation study finds that use of multiple IT service delivery platforms – various forms of cloud, plus on-premise, colo-based and hosted infrastructure – increases the complexity associated with connecting, balancing and optimizing systems, and as a result, creates demand for automation and orchestration to ensure that these processes aren’t bottlenecked by requirements for operator intervention.

It seems intuitive that firms that are currently using hybrid cloud systems would register very high levels of use/interest in orchestration and automation tools. This is largely true. Roughly half of small businesses and two-thirds of midmarket firms are using or planning to use hybrid cloud. Two-thirds of small businesses and nearly 90% of midmarket firms using/planning use of hybrid consider orchestration tools to be “critical” or “very important.” Expanding the midmarket data survey shows that 20% of midmarket firms that use hybrid cloud systems say that orchestration tools are critical to deploying workloads on hybrid platforms and another 69% say orchestration tools are very important.

When analyzed by IT maturity data shows that nearly half of the Advanced IT group and two-thirds of the Enterprise IT group are already using hybrid cloud, with use projected to rise to/beyond 70% over the next 12 months. Despite these high current usage levels, though, Advanced and Enterprise IT users do not, for the most part, currently consider orchestration tools to be “critical” (less than one-quarter across the two segments), though they do classify orchestration as “very important.”

Techaisle also analyzed data by current digitalization strategy and cloud maturity level. “Holistic” firms (with organization-wide digital transformation strategy) are both much more likely to be using hybrid cloud today and to consider orchestration to be “critical;” these firms would appear to be good targets for SMB/Midmarket-focused orchestration campaigns. More than half of both “mature” and “born-in-the-cloud” firms are using hybrid today, with penetration expected to rise to 70%-80% over the next twelve months. Fully 40% of BITC and more than a quarter of “mature” cloud users also view orchestration as critical – making this another useful segmentation for marketers of orchestration tools looking at the SMB/Midmarket opportunity.

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SMB Productivity improvement: finding hard numbers in soft benefits

We know that productivity is a very important business goal for your organization. And that not only employee productivity but also group and organizational productivity is of importance. The IT industry is abuzz with discussion of how to improve productivity – and the number of suggestions is logarithmically proportional to the number of IT suppliers. But you need to find that trusted advisor, an unbiased supplier who can sift through the hype. We know that there is an ongoing change, a shift towards business value & employee empowerment. These refer to the new priorities among SMBs to invest in tools and technologies that allow their users to make better business decisions, improve market reaction time and better serve their customers. In other words, SMB firm leaders like yourself, are looking to improve return on Human Capital as a way forward.

Drilling down beyond the hype – how can you use technology to augment your organizations’ ability to compete tasks and decrease process friction?

Productivity

Techaisle found that SMB business leaders are believers in the connection between technology and productivity: 55% see “creating processes that constitute a better way of doing business” as a key benefit of IT, 57% credit IT with “facilitating better automation of core business processes,” just over half report that IT creates “better coordination across functional areas,” and an even 60% state simply that technology “improves employee productivity”.

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