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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.

Pick of the Week: IBM’s Clear Vision of Mid-Market Cloud Opportunity

On Wednesday this week, we attended a Channel Expert Hour webinar (sponsored by IBM) and produced by Nine Lives Media, Inc. It made our Pick of the Week for three reasons:

  1. Very clear statement of IBM’s Addressed Market
  2. Very clear statement of IBM’s Three Tier Mid-Market Cloud Offers
  3. Very clear statement of IBM’S SMB Channel Partner’s Opportunity

The format of the webinar was informal, with ongoing Q&A by channel partners and users. We started off with an overview of the SMB move to the cloud by VP Joel Raper of Azaleos, Inc., a 300+ employee, Seattle-based Service Provider focused on Microsoft UC&C Stack Managed Services (Cloud, Design, Deployment and Lifecycle Management) to the Mid-Market.


This was followed by an overview of the IBM Mid-Market Cloud Partner Program, by Ed Bottini, a Cloud Ecosystem Program Director at IBM Global Services. As mentioned, within three or four slides, it was clear where IBM saw the opportunity, what offers were available to address it and what partners could do to take advantage of IBM’s resources to sell into the market.

IBM’s Addressed Market


In typical IBM fashion, this graph represents the big picture very well: They believe half the Opportunity is SaaS growing at a compounded 25% rate, three-quarters is XaaS, compounding at ~25% - IaaS is growing at 35%. The remaining is ~25% Private Cloud and Non XaaS, growing at 20%.

This is not an acknowledgement of the IBM estimates, the point is that they see huge opportunity growing very rapidly in their base and it comes through when they talk about it. This answers WHERE REVENUE opportunity is for SMB Channel Partners.

IBM’s Three Tier Mid-Market Cloud Offers

IBM’s Cloud Solution Stack includes the Foundation layer of Servers, Networking, Storage and Secure Data, using a virtualized environment of IBM hardware, software and networking including PureFlex and Bladecenter Foundations for Cloud, along with IBM Cast Iron to integrate different clouds and applications.

On top of the Foundation is the Infrastructure as a Service layer, SmartCloud Services, which includes Pay-as-you-go Managed Backup Services, Tivoli System Management and Cloud Automation “middleware”,  Managed Security Services, and IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, which according to IBM delivers "enterprise-class public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)—delivers secure and scalable hosted IT infrastructure with on-demand access to virtual server and storage resources."

The top layer is the Applications Tier, Software as a service (SaaS), SmartCloud Solutions,  "a software model with applications centrally hosted in a cloud computing environment and accessed by users over the Internet."  As described in the first section, IBM has identified SaaS as half the opportunity growing at 25% CAGR; this is where the rubber hits the road. IBM has never been known as an Application Software vendor, preferring to invest in Systems Software, Database Technology, Tools, Middleware, etc. – which they have done very successfully. In addition, acquisitions over time have steadily been used to both plug holes and repurpose for gaps in applications - Cognos, CoreMetrics, SPSS and Unica being examples in Analytics, along with Sterling for e-Commerce, Merchandising and Supply Chain Management. The bold decision  (at the time) to fully embrace the Open Source movement in the '90s and leverage it with their tools like Websphere to participate in the rapid growth in web-based computing has also had a positive impact (i.e., SugarCRM). This answers WHAT SOLUTIONS offer the opportunity for SMB Channel Partners.

IBM’s Five Mid-Market Cloud Options for Channel Partners

The approaches SMB Channel Partners can choose to work with IBM is next, and  is  evident in this chart. Ranging from Tools, to Infrastructure, to Cloud Building, to SaaS Application Providers, Partners have a variety of options from which to select. This chart is pretty self-explanatory, so we won’t go into redundant detail here. This third leg of the stool is a clear view of HOW the Opportunity can be addressed by Partners.

This is not meant to be an endorsement for IBM - they are not the only Systems Vendor that 1) has a strategy, 2) has an integrated solution stack and 3) has a Cloud Partner Program. As a firm that helps companies sell more effectively into the SMB space, what appealed to us was the simplicity of the message and the ease with which the story was communicated and re-enforced using  credible, robust and tested Enterprise-level offers. In our opinion, IBM sounded a lot more like a young SaaS start-up than a hundred-year-old East Coast manufacturing company.

Postscript: When thinking through how the industry has consolidated around a few major system vendors, we wonder whether Cloud Computing strategy and execution have impacted confidence in the company?

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Sound Planning for Deployment of Cloud-Based Solutions Ensures Success for SMBs

IT projects are notorious for running over budget and time frames. This is especially true for implementation of new technologies, whether on-premise or in the cloud. Therefore, SMBs should carefully plan for the deployment of new cloud solutions.

Develop a project plan with measurable milestones and assign authority and accountability to specific individuals
While this may seem too obvious to even mention, many SMBs don’t pen down specific detailed project plans for cloud deployment. While the cloud vendor is responsible for hosting the hardware and software on behalf of the customers, SMBs need to understand what specific steps need to be taken – both for developing/customizing new services and for migrating on-premise solutions to the web. This includes all the steps starting with stating the objectives, specifying the requirements, prototyping, testing, training the users and final deployment, with criteria for successful deployment being clearly defined. Some cloud vendors have standard plans for standard services and help SMBs customize these plans for custom service development and deployment.

Measure the actual progress against the plan
This requires working with the vendor’s staff to ensure that actual progress meets the specified milestones and the project is not going over-budget or time schedules.

Take corrective action when actual progress deviates from the plan
Taking corrective action becomes much easier if the original plan provides the required authority to relevant individuals to implement the plan and these individuals can be held accountable for their results.

Test the new service to ensure it performs according to expectations
Even the most experienced cloud provider or developer cannot ensure that the new service is 100% error-free. It is important to test the service not only to ensure that it works error-free but also provides full intended functionality so that the business can realize the full benefits of the service and justify its investment.

Provide training to the end-users to use the new services
It is often very difficult to get end-users to dedicate the required time for training as many end-users perceive it as a distraction from their regular duties. However, lack of training can result in under-utilization of all the functionalities of the new service.

There are some key lessons to learn from those SMBs that have gone through not one but several deployment cycles. Selection of right vendor is not only important but imperative to have a smooth and uneventful deployment.

Tavishi Agrawal
Techaisle

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Cloud Computing Levels the Playing Field for SMBs

Since the emergence of the Internet in early 90s, experts have been predicting the use of software applications over the Internet, whereby users did not need to install any applications software and servers on their own premises. Instead, they could simply connect to the Internet and access their applications and data from their service providers, much like the telephone, where all the telephony networks and infrastructure are installed at the telephone company’s operating centers and users only need to buy a phone to use all the telephone-related services they need.

The concept was particularly appealing for small and medium businesses (SMBs) that did not have adequate financial and technical resources or the scale of operations required to install the required IT infrastructure in-house. Indeed, up until recently, many SMBs found themselves at a disadvantage in competing with large companies, which implemented the new (and often resource-intensive) complex applications to improve their productivity, develop new products and services better and faster, and provide superior customer service.

In recent years, however, the playing field has begun to be leveled with the emergence of cloud computing, whereby the servers, applications and networking equipment are installed at an external hosting company and users can use the applications they need using any device they want (e.g. desktops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones) without incurring any large capital expenditures upfront, paying for the use of applications on an as-needed basis. One of the most famous examples of such cloud computing is the CRM application offered by Salesforce.com, the single largest pure play cloud computing vendor in the world. While large companies spent tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to install, maintain and periodically upgrade their CRM applications from large vendors like Oracle and SAP to serve their customers, SMBs can now acquire similar capabilities by paying a few dollars a month per user.

Several changes have taken place in recent years and now the stars seem to be finally all aligned for a rapid and sustained growth of cloud-based solutions.  Enter cloud computing accelerated by mobility and the work from anywhere and anytime culture.

The New Economy and Increased Demand from SMBs
The dramatic shock to the global economy in 2008 had a multifold effect on the decision making of businesses. With sharp drop in revenues and profits and decreased availability of credit, SMBs found themselves starved of the capital they required to invest for in-house IT infrastructures to meet their increasing IT needs to improve their employee productivity, develop new products and services and provide higher levels of customer service to compete in the globalized economy. With the global economy unlikely to recover anytime soon and resume its long-term growth of earlier years, SMBs have become quite averse to make large capital investments and prefer to pay on an as-needed basis. Cloud computing meets this need of the SMBs by converting capital expenditures into operating expenditures.

Increased Employee Mobility
A second factor that has increased the demand for cloud solutions is the increasing mobility among SMB employees and their need to be able to access their applications anytime from anywhere using any device (e.g. desktops, notebooks, tablets, and smartphones). Cloud solution providers have developed new capabilities in recent years that allow SMB employees to do precisely that. Applications and data can be accessed over fixed and wireless connections and they adapt the data views automatically depending upon the access devices being used by the mobile workers.

Technological Developments
Cloud computing is also being enabled by the fact that new applications are increasingly being developed with Internet delivery in mind rather than just adapting the older client-server technologies for the Internet. A key element of this new trend is the evolution of integration platforms that allow users to integrate the web-based and on-premise applications to work together and exchange data on an as-needed basis automatically. Over time, this will allow SMBs to have multiple applications that work seamlessly like a single system without SMBs having to be concerned about transferring the data accurately and quickly for use by different applications thereby reducing their needs for internal IT skills.

Cloud computing is also becoming more economical by the increasing use of virtualization, which allows use of fewer servers to serve the needs of multiple SMB customers. Virtualization also allows for greater security, backup & recovery and higher levels of IT availability, which have become increasingly important for SMBs with their increasing reliance on IT.

Development of the Cloud Computing Ecosystem
Finally, a more complete ecosystem is evolving, consisting of cloud solution developers (e.g. Salesforce.com, Netsuite, Taleo, Concur) , infrastructure providers (e.g. Dell, IBM, Cisco, HP, etc.), hosting companies (e.g. Equinix, Savvis, Rackspace) as well as local channel partners that collectively have the capability to develop and deliver cloud-based solutions to the large number of SMBs spread out all over their markets. Furthermore, collectively they have the financial & technical resources and credibility to convince SMBs to adopt the new technologies.

Tavishi Agrawal
Techaisle

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SAP & SuccessFators: There is still no “S” in SAP

SAP has agreed to acquire cloud-based human capital management (HCM) offerings provider SuccessFactors for $3.4 billion. Under the acquisition, SuccessFactors' team and technology will be added to SAP's cloud assets and the combination of SAP and SuccessFactors will establish an advanced end-to-end offering of cloud and on-premise solutions for managing all relevant business processes.

Without a doubt SAP has made a good move and in the right direction. One may argue that paying 13 times the revenue for a loss making company with nearly 66% of revenue going towards SG&A does not make financial sense. However, if SAP can leverage SuccessFactors’ technology and talent to speed up its transition to the cloud, the price would be quite worth paying. In fact, by offering SuccessFactors’ technology to its current customers, SAP could help reduce the cost of new customer acquisition for SuccessFactors, which has been a major concern for many SaaS providers.

SAP has been trying to add subscription-based cloud solutions to its license and services offerings for a long time. A lot has been written about non-success of SAP’s Business ByDesign – a SaaS offering for large-scale business-management deployment focused on growing mid-market companies. SAP needed just the right acquisition to truly begin its journey into the cloud.

SuccessFactors will not only provide SAP with 3,500 customers, but also technology and above all talent. SAP’s task in the immediate future would be use the technology and talent to scale across businesses, in effect a larger customer base. This is something that Cisco does well and has repeatedly demonstrated its capabilities across numerous acquisitions.

While enterprise and mid-market businesses can be targeted through the acquisition, there is still no “S”, that is, small business, within the SAP portfolio. The small business cloud computing market is the most fragmented and among the fastest growing. SAP should continue to look for acquisitions in the area. Possibilities could be Concur, SugarCRM, Zoho and others.

Several companies are ahead of SAP in delivering SaaS to small businesses including Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce.com and NetSuite. Microsoft also has one of the largest numbers of channel partners that are very conversant with Microsoft cloud solutions and Salesforce.com has its Force.com platform that enables channel partners to develop new solutions for their customers. SAP should also think about expanding its SMB-focused channel partner base and offering PaaS for those partners to develop new solutions for
SMBs.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle

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