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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.

dinCloud: A Channel focused Desktop-as-a-Service Provider for SMBs

techaisle-VDI-blogThe desktop virtualization juggernaut continues to gather steam as more companies choose to use the technology to reduce costs, improve security, better disaster recovery, easier management and work from anywhere. Numerous Total Cost of Ownership reports have been published and the message from vendors to IT departments is clear – Desktop Virtualization is the way to securing desktops and reducing costs of management.

dinCloud has been making a lot of noise lately in the hosted virtual desktop area with its 100 percent channel-focused cloud-based business provisioning offerings for SMBs. We therefore had to sit down with Ali Din, CMO and Barry Weber, CTO to understand if the noise was pure cacophony in the media or were they really creating music, as their tag line says “Delivering a Heavenly Experience in the Cloud”. What followed was a series of questions and answers. (This Q&A was not sponsored by dinCloud)

What is the unique value proposition that dinCloud brings to the table for SMBs? All providers talk about customer service, understanding SMB requirements, lowering costs, etc. but we want to know what are the 2-3 unique selling points that resonates with SMBs as far as dinCloud is concerned?

dinCloud offers SMBs a fully integrated solution to run their business including backup & recovery, hosted virtual desktops (HVDs), data center security, networking, and servers. Our unique channel centric approach allows SMBs to continue to do business with the local MSP, VAR, and SI they have a relationship with, giving them local hand holding and supplemental services to run their business. Our SMB customers enjoy cost savings of up to 50 percent, enhanced security and compliance, enterprise class IT infrastructure and services, and an OPEX subscription model conserving capital.

How does dinCloud help SMBs assess and design solutions to meet SMB requirements?

We have developed a standard requirements gathering and onboarding process to rapidly migrate our SMBs’ IT infrastructure to their own virtual private Tier 3 data center. In addition, our proprietary cloud orchestration platform, dinManage, automates provisioning and migration tasks including creation and synching of the Active Directory infrastructure. dinManage is often white labeled by our partners.

How much time does dinCloud actually spend with an SMB prior to its becoming a client? What is the typical interaction?

dinCloud approaches the SMB customer through our channel partners. Engagement time varies to almost zero once our VAR/MSP partner has migrated the first of its customers, to several days of discovery for larger more sophisticated engagements.

How much time does dinCloud actually spend with an SMB on an ongoing basis once they become a client?

dinCloud’s channel partners front end most of the customer support activities; typically we will see approximately 1-2 tickets per week per customer.

In your view why does an SMB consider a hosted solution as compared to on-premise?

The SMB customer will enjoy enterprise-class infrastructure, security, and operations possibly for the first time in their history - they will conserve cash only paying for what they need, giving them unparalleled flexibility. They will now have IT compliance as well as backup and DR protecting their business. dinManage offers the remaining IT staff full visibility and control of their virtual private data center. No more HR costs and problems with training and maintaining several IT resources. Hosting in redundant tier 3 data centers not only provides enhanced security and uptime, but environmental factors such as cooling, electricity, and backup power are eliminated. Hardware, software and multiple point solutions no longer need to be purchased, supported, maintained, and managed. The SMB customer will be able to leverage BYOD and anytime, anywhere access. Additionally the SMB customer will immediately realize 30-50% cost savings when compared to a traditional on-premises model.

dinCloud has partnered with many different vendors, with which vendor solution has dinCloud seen more success? Why?

We have had a great deal of success with the purpose built custom high density super-computers by Super-micro giving us extremely competitive pricing and performance on our servers. Additionally, our investment in 100% NetApp has allowed us to leverage their industry leading tools (SnapMirror and SnapVault), as well as very efficient replication of data between our data center and the customer’s primary backup locations.

What are the top challenges you face in implementing virtualization solutions? 

From dinCloud’s perspective, there are a couple of challenges. There are so many great hypervisors to choose from today and dinCloud offers customers the choice of either VMware or KVM. We strive to stay current with hypervisor versions but coordinating the right time to upgrade hypervisor versions with customer schedules is sometimes a challenge.  While an upgrade should not impact to a customer, they are still very cautious about allowing dinCloud to do this.

What should vendors be doing to help you in offering and implementing virtualization solutions for SMBs?

dinCloud requires next to zero support from its vendors outside of normal bug fixes and some assistance in marketing (Netapp and Microsoft). We work very hard to provide a whole solution for the SMB market. This whole solution includes a private cloud environment with a firewall, selectable IP ranges, integration with AD, HVDs and HVSs, an easy to use cloud portal, choices of hypervisors, monitoring and white glove treatment to help the SMB easily and rapidly achieve their infrastructure goals and optimize operations costs and process.   We do not just provide a virtualization solution.

What are your top core challenges with the SMB customer? 

The SMB customer is often caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to internal IT skills depth and breadth. dinCloud works to make infrastructure and operations easy for the SMB customer by pre-packaging the whole solution, by automating the implementation and by offering services to extend those that exist within the customer. The SMB customer is often faced with enterprise level requirements (PCI, HIPAA, etc.). They are challenged to deliver on these requirements. dinCloud’s challenge and goal is to continuously solve for their future problems. The SMB customer faces not only a budgetary challenge for skilled resources; they may also have small budgets that don’t match the typical costs of achieving the business IT goals. dinCloud works to continuously driving costs down, thereby helping customers protect their budget.

Any final words before we conclude?

dinCloud is gaining rapid momentum through our 100% channel sold model of complete end-to-end “Business Provisioning”. We believe that SMB customers have always relied on local MSPs and VARs and will continue to do so. dinCloud is emerging as the “Cloud Offering of Choice” for these traditional regional MSP/VARs, and more than any other market segment the SMB customer has a perfect use case for cloud-based IAAS, delivered by their local and trusted long time IT resellers.

Techaisle Take

dinCloud, a reseller has become a service provider. As we have written and presented several times that cloud computing is continuing to challenge the channel forcing them to develop and be trained in new competencies. These encompass service provisioning, billing, data center management, customer support and a whole host of related competencies. dinCloud by standard definition is not an IT vendor like VMware or NetApp but it has developed offerings by combining products from established vendors and instead of selling directly to customers is funneling its sales through its own channel partners.

Most SMBs rely on their local channel partners for maintenance & management of their IT infrastructure as well as for advice on new IT purchases. dinCloud is developing a network of channel partners and providing them appropriate training and skills to sell and manage cloud solutions for their local SMB customers. They are - Educating and training channel partners on what cloud actually means and how it impacts the SMBs; Developing solutions and use cases; Providing an effective and efficient pre-sales support to their channel partners to engage with SMBs.

DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) is poised for growth and dinCloud has positioned itself extremely well. Techaisle's survey shows that there is a growing SMB intent to use hosted VDI as shown in the chart below. The data compares the current implementation versus planning to implement. The survey shows that there is a 46 percent increase (from current 15 percent to planned 22 percent) in intent to use hosted VDI within mid-market businesses when compared with those that have currently implemented.

techaisle-VDI-blog-implemented-SMB


 

techaisle-VDI-blog-planning-to-implement-smb


dinCloud is a good example of what Philippe Fossé,  Vice President of Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) Channels, EMC wrote today, “More and more we see service integrators becoming resellers; resellers becoming service providers; and even users becoming service providers. This evolution is unprecedented, but is only the tip of the iceberg”

dinCloud has the right business philosophy, market understanding and product portfolio. They are making noise at the right time. They have had some major wins in the past few months such King Hawaaiin, maker of the number one branded dinner roll in the US which selected dinCloud to implement its hosted virtual desktop, server, and storage services to help IT improve efficiency and better manage operations across all its baking facilities and restaurants.

That noise they are creating could well become an orchestra.

 

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Mid-Market Businesses Upgrading Network - Voices from the Field

One of the areas we watch most is the evolving needs of the SMB customer, who is being consistently pressured to speed up all core business processes while simultaneously reducing costs, generally  through the introduction of new technologies and specifically by adopting Cloud Computing approaches.

Looking Forward to SDN and SDDC  

Networking Spending Among Mid-Market companies (between 500 and 999 employees) recently interviewed, over 75% described their business being completely “Network Dependent” with a large share planning to move beyond Virtualization to Software-Defined-Networking (SDN) and Software-Defined-Data-Centers (SDDC).  Almost all had implemented Remote Managed Services (RMS), Cloud Computing, and Server Virtualization or VDI.

“Yes, I have heard about it (SDN) and we even tested it on one of our servers. We can get the software easily but we need to get proper hardware implementation as well and that too keeping our costs in control. So, both the things need to be evaluated. Yes, probably we would be investing in it, in the coming future. There are many things that are a concern for us right now, like cost, space and efficiency. So we need things that could help us in these areas.” - 900 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker


Mid-Market Reliance on Outsouced  IT Support

As we have written in the past, the larger SMB customers are more likely to rely on channel partners or vendor direct relationships to free up lean SMB IT departments and allow them to do more with less by supporting the research and selection process, and then testing and implementing the solutions, especially for those solutions involving a high level of configuration and remote management capabilities. The speed that specialists bring to the configuration, testing and implementation tend to outweigh the costs and speed up the decision cycle.

“Yes, the channel partners had a huge role. I sat down with their Cisco engineers and we looked over the changes we were going to make, then we did put together a business case, as to why we needed to upgrade or make changes to the system and what benefit it would result in. They were helpful and they made things look easier for us.” - 750 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker


New Functionality is driving Adoption

Global NetworkAs we move into the Late Majority of SMB Cloud Adopters, there is less perceived risk and enough pressure to move companies toward implementing the architecture, if only to remain competitive.

"Now there are products available with better features and are cost effective. Earlier the cost of moving to the cloud was higher. Now because of the tough competition, the costs have marginally decreased. So, these things are enticing to look at different solutions. When we moved on to the cloud there were various benefits like cost effectiveness, in terms of IT management perspective. Previously it required 10 people, but now it can be done with 2 people. Previously the concept of datacenters was not that…important…, but now people are getting rid of the existing hardware and are moving towards datacenters to host most of their things that are in their offices. The datacenter costs are also competitive. If we look at any datacenter today and what they used to offer 5 years back, there has been a significant drop in prices due to the competition in the market.” - 500 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker


Budgets Continue to be Tight

We also see a significant effort on the part of customers to extend the life of the existing equipment and upgrade only the parts that are needed to achieve specific objectives such as 10GB capacity, which may require more robust firewalls, routers and switches, especially in those moving to VOIP. Typically we saw a reluctance to spend until it was necessary.

“Management here is very price conscious; they did not see the value of doing these things in the first place. The major factors were to increase speed and the reach of the network. So by these upgrades, we were able to demonstrate increased speed and increased network segmentation.” - 750 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker


Brand Importance Increases with Size of Company

While in certain areas such as SaaS, SMB end customers tend to be less likely to consider Brand as the key decision criterion, in the area of Networking among Mid-Market firms, virtually all said Brand was very important in their decision, mostly because of the expected service level associated with larger vendors but also to provide cover in a crowded market:

"There are a thousand solutions available in the market, but we had to ensure that what we chose was the best solution available and were cost effective. The new technology and the need to expand our business base were the main factors that drove the change.” - 900 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker

“Brand perception is very important because the management is not very technology minded, so to have a big name like Cisco was important to them. We depend on our channel partners for networking support or for help with windows server and Citrix products. They are our trusted partners.” - ~1,000 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker


Re-enforcing this tendency to Brand, the majors in the market were cited repeatedly as go-to Vendors. Cisco got the most mentions by far, followed by Citrix, Microsoft, HP, Juniper and Dell. As seen in the quote on outsourced support above, the vendors can also help in creating a business case.

“Well, I guess some of the ones (increase share) would be Cisco, HP, Dell and Microsoft. The major ones I know are trying to get there, if they are not close. It’s very hard to say who is going to lose much (share), but probably Microsoft or Apple are going to lose some. ~800 Employee SMB IT Decision Maker


We believe these attitudes represent some evolution that is becoming more pronounced as the market matures and intelligent networking becomes increasingly important to SMBs in general and Mid-Market companies in particular.

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SMBs Mixing and Matching Vendors to Find Best Virtualization Solutions

Techaisle’s SMB technology adoption study shows that 72 percent of SMBs find Virtualization to be one of the most relevant technologies for their business, 2nd only to backup and disaster recovery. The actual adoption gets hindered because 56 percent of SMBs find Virtualization to also be one the most complex technologies to understand and adopt. (See infographic)

SMBs cite several reasons for adopting server virtualization; key among them are reducing operating cost, backup and disaster recovery and reducing cost of IT support. Improving existing server and hardware systems utilization is mentioned by 32 percent of SMBs.

In our survey of SMBs either currently using or planning to use Virtualization technologies we found that SMBs currently using Virtualization tended to have a mixed brand Virtualization environment, not relying on a single vendor for the solution, but mixing and matching as they saw appropriate based on their specific requirements.

techaisle-smb-diverse-virtualization-installations


For example, the above chart shows that within VMware Server Virtualization environments, 66 percent of SMBs also use VMware client Virtualization technology, with both Microsoft and Citrix making up the difference for the client side. Similarly, 78 percent of SMBs that use Microsoft server Virtualization also use Microsoft client Virtualization. Several other findings become apparent from the above chart:

  • VMware and Citrix have the most relatively mixed virtualization environment as compared to Microsoft

  • Citrix and Microsoft may have a slightly deeper partnership that enables SMBs using Citrix server Virtualization to be combined with Microsoft client Virtualization more easily and cost effectively


However, we cannot look at the above chart in isolation. SMBs have been using Virtualization technologies as the market developed.

In the words of one VP of IT for a mid-market business, “We use Citrix, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and emulation from Ericom. There are ‘n’ numbers of products that are being used in the whole gamut of things”.

The Venn diagram below not only exposes the vulnerabilities faced by Virtualization vendors but also demonstrates that the market is big enough for solutions from all vendors to work in a heterogeneous IT environment.

techaisle-smb-virtualization-mixed-brand-adoption


For example, the above Venn diagram shows that only 12 percent of SMBs use only VMware Virtualization solution which is twice that of Citrix and almost one-fourth of Microsoft. And 9 percent of SMBs use Virtualization solutions from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. Once we start to include solutions from Parallels, NComputing, Oracle and others the overlaps become very complicated to map.


Our research found that SMBs usually go through a round of server consolidation before moving to Virtualization.

“The very first step was actually to go for server consolidation. Once the servers were consolidated, then the desktop virtualization was performed. So, typically for VDI architecture or any other technology, the first thing is the server consolidation and after that the procurement of solution and licenses were done from VMware and Citrix for the VDI and after which the user terminals were changed”, this according to one IT Director, Mid-market business.

Not all Virtualization projects finish smoothly. SMBs have also had different experiences with each of the three major brands for server Virtualization projects as shown in the chart below:

techaisle-smb-virtualization-project-implementation-issues


The factors affecting each of the projects could be dependent upon:

  • SMBs’ readiness

  • Channel partners’ capabilities


However, the top 3 most common areas that need addressing are Compatibility Issues, Cost Overruns and Lack of Experience, which are perennial issues as all SMB users adopt new technologies.

“The major challenge was the cost, because the initial hardware investment was huge. Getting rid of the system and moving to the cloud and installing virtual servers required purchasing of physical storage and upgrading the system. Another challenge that we faced was the initial configuration which was addressed timely and efficiently by our partners”, Vice President, IT (500 employee size company).

But SMBs have gained tremendous advantages from using Virtualization. “It certainly has helped us to avail richer network services without increasing our capital investment and has increased our operational efficiency. Moreover computing and networking are much simplified now”.

For additional information on this and other topics from the blog, please feel free to contact us for a discussion and gratis consultation.

To purchase Techaisle’s SMB Virtualization Trends and Adoption study or engage Techaisle in a deep-dive custom research please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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Citrix Seeds the Cloud

While unveiling a very lucid product and service strategy today, Citrix announced several significant products and alliances that fill gaps in the SMB Cloud Computing marketplace. These include:

  • An expanded Me@Work mobile applications suite, with new and improved apps,
  • A strategic alliance with Microsoft to distribute Windows and Office365 as Cloud Services through XenDesktop,
  • A VDI-embedded and secure Ultrabook Client,
  • Next generation Gateway and next generation cross-cloud bridge,
  • A certified cloud platform developed in collaboration with Apache CloudStack,
  • Improvements to the NetScaler line.

And the most consequential announcement of the day - a wide and deep strategic alliance with Cisco that if well executed, will offer a true 1+1=3 result for both sides and have a major impact in the industry.


As the Cloud matures, Techaisle believes that integration is key and the market will coalesce around virtual versions of the client and server concepts – with communication at the core of the client suite and a collaborative, front office multi-user suite in the middle of the Server environment. With today’s announcements, Citrix moves us closer to this concept.

We will focus on three of the announcements with a point of view on how we consider them to be both strategic and timely, and finish up with huge potential impact of the slew of new alliance announcements.

Part of the achieving the vision is to ensure collaboration is possible across all hardware environments, that application objects can be executed regardless of proprietary operating systems and formats. By supporting all the formats shown here through their Receiver, Citrix already enables apps and data on three billion devices, which is expected to grow to ten billion in the next five years – Like many Korean manufacturers, Citrix is thinking in terms of screens, and knows that consumers are driving adoption of connected screens as part of the lifestyle – my teenage daughter has a MacBook, iPhone, and Satellite TV running all at the same time, each screen running multiple applications. When selecting a workplace, surveys show this generation would rather give up a more lucrative employment opportunity than give up their devices or right to use social media. As Kevin Kelly observed in his visionary work, New Rules of the New Economy, back in 1998:

“Because communication—which in the end is what the digital technology
and media are all about—is not just a sector of the economy. Communication is the economy.”
- Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy, 1998


We could not agree more, and the ME@Work announcement shows Citrix is taking the long view.

The ME@Work mobile app suite includes several productivity and collaborative applications, including the #1 web-conferencing solution, GoToMeeting. We found it interesting that Citrix is simultaneously introducing some competitive products in conjunction with the partnership; an email client – most important component of the collaborative desktop – as well as strong offers in file sharing, personal collaboration, and web conferencing. It is a bold move; for those of us who have been watching the industry for a while,  we remember when there was a triumvirate – Windows, Intel and Novell - and then there was NT with OS-embedded LAN capabilities - and then there were two. And then Netscape came out swinging with a better web browser that seriously pressured Microsoft - and then there was Windows-embedded Explorer - and then there was one.

But Microsoft gets a lot out of these announcements, especially if execution can follow strategy. Microsoft revenue is over 25 times that of Citrix, but they can use the excitement brought by a fast-growing, deeply technical, and cloud-focused next-generation partner. Especially in the SMB space - the 100-249 & 500-999 segments of the mid-market are a real sweet spot for this partnership.

By partnering with Microsoft to bring Windows, Office365 and the SkyDrive to market, Citrix benefits from the practically ubiquitous Windows installed base and opportunity for widespread adoption of Office365, (which we expect to have a banner year in 2013). And access to the most mature global software distribution ecosystem in the world. Microsoft gains an ally that provides substantial support and momentum against Google Apps, a catalyst to move away from packaged software,  additional credibility in collaboration, and adds 10,000 channel partners at the same time.

The Ultrabook client is a strategic offer because it supports the tide of BYOD and it is another route to market for XenDesktop VDI. It also aligns Citrix with Intel and the major OEMs who are looking for returns on large investments in the Ultrabook line.

While the Microsoft news is a big deal, the even larger news was a strategic alliance with Cisco that involves major commitments of joint R&D, integration of product lines and joint manufacturing in the future. Key Points:

Citrix and Cisco announced broad cooperation in three major areas: Mobile WorkStyles, Cloud Orchestration and Cloud Networking.

Mobile WorkStyles
The big idea here is any data on any device (the billions of screens mentioned above) to support the growing BYOD wave, and leveraging joint strengths to deliver a unified secure environment for applications, data, voice and collaboration. Cisco contributes Jabber and substantial collaboration expertise gained from the Webex acquisition, Virtual Experience Infrastructure (VXI) technology, and MediaNet Technology. For Mobile WorkStyles, Citrix brings a new and improved CloudGateway and Receiver, a new and improved ShareFile service and XenApp & XenDesktop. The alliance aims to bring a richer experience with seamless security and a leveraged support infrastructure than covers the entire stack 24x7 on a global basis.

From a business perspective, Citrix can ride on the back of the 800 pound gorilla straight into the Enterprise, leveraging the industrial-strength performance of Cisco’s premium product lines at a reduced price point. As with Microsoft, Citrix is aligning itself with an old-guard industry titan, in this case, one whose revenue is 16 times that of Citrix. And as with Microsoft, the deal looks like a win for both sides. Our opinion is that it could help revitalize Cisco, whose foray in to software based business created some great products in Webex, but the model was different enough to shake them up. We continue to write on the rise of the digital channel at the expense of a traditional HW VAR Channel. When Cisco acquired Webex they entered a software-based, inbound sales, price sensitive, online-marketed, sold and delivered, six-week sales cycle, user-configured business model that was almost the antithesis of what they were best at: premium quality enterprise hardware-based solutions that are differentiated by making the value of the whole network exceed the sum of its’ parts - sold by an enterprise sales force and delivered by top shelf VARs and SIs. Especially within SMBs, the right combination of price and SLA to solve business, not technical problems, are overriding criteria when buying, and traditional hands-on VARs might not even be called - cut out by online marketing and inbound sales teams. In hardware, it is more about scale economies, quality engineering and brand management - software is all about market share and developing accelerating returns and an ecosystem of fellow travelers.

Cloud Orchestration
The second key area of cooperation is in what is being called Cloud Orchestration, where the objective is to manage the traditional data center functions of computing, network, storage, security, and management, delivered across physical, virtual and cloud environments using Unified Computing, Unified Management and Unified Fabric. This is clearly Cisco’s home territory and they bring expertise and technology including Unified Computing System (UCS), Open Network Environment (ONE) and the Nexus Series of switch technologies to bear on these challenges. Citrix contributes the newest CloudPlatform, a new open source CloudStack and the XenServer to this effort. Using Cloud Orchestration, the alliance aims to deploy Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud environments with unified management that reduces complexity and improves agility, something SMB customers will be happy to see. Embracing Open Source is also a good move for Citrix to increase the footprint.

Cloud Networking
The third leg of the alliance is centered on the Citrix NetScaler Cloud Networking Platform. Here the objective is to adopt NetScaler as the go-to technology and jointly develop the next generation through the alliance. This will be accomplished by offering NetScaler as a strategic component within the Cisco Cloud Network Services Architecture, with seamless integration at the product level in areas including Security and WAN optimization. The order of implementation is that Cisco will adopt, sell and market the NetScaler, it will be manufactured according to a certified Cisco Design specification followed by a joint road-map for product interoperability, development and go-to-market strategy over the long term.

Through these announcements, Citrix has taken several steps to advance Cloud-based services and fill gaps in the market; they have introduced a new channel for Windows and Office365, brought to market their own collaborative suite, and a VDI-embedded client to further the VDI and BYO trends in the SMB space. Other technology announcements were also significant but for reasons of brevity we have not covered them in detail. One thing is for sure - no one can accuse Citrix of being timid. Of course, when snuggling up with the big guys the way they are, Citrix themselves said it best in the announcement: "POs are better than PR". It all falls on execution at this point.

 


 

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