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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.

Dell Technologies emerges as a new compelling challenger in the as-a-service market

HPE is not the only game in town. Dell had announced its entry into the aaS arena in 2017 with PCaaS on the client-side. Dell Technologies, the only IT supplier with an end-to-end portfolio, announced its latest foray into the "as-a-service" (aaS) arena with Project Apex, which it hopes will take Dell Technologies' aaS capabilities to the next level. Its objective is to unify Dell's as-a-service and cloud strategies to provide a consistent experience wherever a workload runs - on-premise, at the edge, or in the public cloud. Project Apex aims to simplify customers' and Dell Technologies partners' access to Dell's as-a-service portfolio. The first product, Dell Technologies Storage as a Service (ST-as-a-service), delivers a pay-per-use model and elastic capacity and is deployed on-prem but fully managed by Dell at the initial launch. The key enabler of Project Apex is the Dell Technologies Cloud Console. This single web interface enables customers to manage their cloud workloads and services, available to a few select early customers with a wider roll-out in 2021. Dell has a long road ahead with "everything-as-a-service" as a final destination. After STaaS, Dell is expected to roll out compute-as-a-service (COMPUTEaaS), PCaaS, Data-protection-as-a-Service (DPaaS) and vertical solutions (SAPaaS). PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) is already available. Apex will enable it to move from a bundled, "leased" offer tying software and services to each device in an annual price per seat to modern, flexible aaS capabilities providing customers with tailored offers of hardware, software and services delivered over the air and accessed/ managed through a single portal enabling customers to seamlessly scale up and down specific to their unique needs and renew effortlessly, with one simple price per month.

HPE may have the lead, but nobody can claim a victory lap as yet. It is too early to declare a winner. Dell is a compelling challenger. It matters to SMBs, Midmarket firms, Enterprise customers and Partners.

Cloud, private cloud, and conventional infrastructure are three parts of a whole. Dell Technologies is currently betting on it by providing simplicity, consistency, and flexibility. However, the current branding of solution offerings of Dell Technologies Cloud Platform and Dell Technologies On Demand will need to merge quickly to avoid digressing and having complex customer conversations on the merits of each. And then, there is the VMware Cloud, which adds to the choice complexity.

Let us discuss why the as-a-service challanger status matters to SMBs, Midmarket firms and Dell Technologies' Partners.

Why the announcement matters to SMBs and Midmarket firms

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Poly empowering platform-independent collaboration for hybrid workplaces of all types and business sizes

Communication, collaboration, and human connections are a central component to virtually all business activities. In today’s business environment, we interact at all points in the business cycle: in cross-functional planning and management, within a single co-created document or spreadsheet, in the stages and connection points defined by our business processes. From a supplier’s perspective, these are both encouraging and daunting times. SMB and midmarket customers are eager to acquire collaboration capabilities. Still, at the same time, they are far more demanding in terms of the scope of those capabilities, and their expectation, that any tool can seamlessly connect to any other.

Collaboration and video-conferencing are increasingly crucial to SMB business success. They are among the top five technology priorities to satisfy their desire to make employees more productive in a hybrid work environment. Techaisle’s latest global survey of N=2450 SMBs shows that 73% are increasing investments in collaboration solutions. As SMBs tighten budgets, conferencing solutions take center stage. While these solutions have been around for a long time, Techaisle believes that broad adoption among SMBs is upon us, as evidenced by the priority assigned to such technologies versus the pre-pandemic penetration level. There are many solutions that SMBs can take advantage of, and no technology other than video conferencing has consistently shown the promise of high adoption rates in recent times.

Poly, with its audio and video intelligent software, is well-positioned to drive platform-independent, cloud-managed, unified communication and collaboration adoption within the SMB segment.

Why Poly for SMBs and Midmarket firms

Poly is a company that empowers human connections for remote work and the impending return to the office. Formed in 2019 with Polycom’s acquisition by Plantronics, Poly is on a mission to deliver a comprehensive set of endpoints for the unified communications and collaboration market through differentiating software. Two strong players, both leaders in their respective audio and video technology areas – came together to pave the way in the era of digital transformation, taking human communication, be it collaboration at home or office, to the next level. It is, indeed, succeeding.

Polycom devices, such as Trio or Soundstation family, have been the default choice for audio conferencing. Most SMBs that Techaisle has surveyed refer to Poly as Polycom. Trio with Poly logo is not on office/home desks yet, but it will be. After all, it has only been a year and a half since the new logo and company name announcement. Within the last 12-18 months, the design language has evolved at Poly, resulting in a refresh of its entire product and services portfolio.

While it is true that the average SMB user may not know the Poly brand, it has over 400K customers worldwide. It is relatively widely known as the conferencing leader in the midmarket and enterprise IT community. Many small businesses use consumer devices, conferencing hardware from PC/Smartphone OEMs, tools from meeting service providers, mainly due to aggressive marketing and pricing models. We feel there is nothing to prevent newly formed Poly from becoming a stronger player in this market.

Poly’s portfolio is so comprehensive that it addresses the needs of the enterprise, SMB, and home-office workers covering different workstyles – conference rooms, desk phones, large rooms, huddle rooms, video conferencing devices, and on-the-go headsets. 95% of Poly’s employees work remotely / from home and use Poly products.

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Remote work is escalating need for connected digital workplace platform within SMB and Midmarket

Distributed, remote, mobile – these are the realities of today’s workforce. The workspace isn’t defined by windows and walls and common area couches. For millions of SMB employees, the workspace isn’t a physical location – it’s a virtual space defined by access from multiple screens which are used from multiple locations. Consider these data points from Techaisle’s SMB survey research. Pre-pandemic, 24% of SMB global workforce was mobile. Today, the number has jumped to 51% within small businesses and 47% in midmarket firms. These numbers are down from a high of 78% during country lockdowns. The category, “mobile workers”, is increasingly indistinguishable from “workers.” This means new ways of working, taking advantage of new technologies and capabilities to build an agile, mobile, secure work-style enabled by cloud, remote work, security and collaboration. When working remotely, 47% of SMB mobile workforce are using notebook to access corporate data, 9% tablets and 44% smartphones. If the office of an SMB is defined by devices, workplace is defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices and their users are located. As a result, 64% of SMBs are increasing investments in remote work solutions, and survey data shows there will likely be a whopping 380% increase in digital workplace adoption in the next one year within small businesses and 48% increase within midmarket firms.

The key focus is about the ‘future of work’: workflow, workspaces, workforce and the ways that an increasingly-connected world can support pursuit of previously-unattainable objectives for the SMBs and midmarket firms. Their most important technology-related effort is on connectedness – connected cloud, edge, applications, security, collaboration, workspaces and insights. Cloud and mobility are navigation routes but the always-on, everywhere-connected unified platform is the destination. These SMBs are looking for benefits arising from the interconnection of all types of resources: platforms/environments, information, devices and applications. Depth discussions and quantitative survey research with SMBs and midmarket firms points to a trend that is playing out across seven key areas as shown in the chart below:

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SMB-Midmarket Digital Transformation fast-forwarding adoption of several technologies

Pandemic has changed how businesses operate, employees work, customers purchase and goods/services get delivered. This has also changed how small and midmarket firms are evaluating their core, cloud and edge technology needs to address their accelerated digital transformation objectives of cost efficiencies, operational excellence, innovation, business growth, organizational empowerment and customer intimacy. Clearly, core infrastructure has evolved to meet future digital transformation demands, but the question is how are small businesses and midmarket firms planning to adopt forward-facing solutions, like Artificial Intelligence, 5G, AR/VR, IoT, analytics and several others. There is a general sense within the SMBs that these advanced solutions will increase insight into and control over key aspects of their business operations and deliver benefits in different ways and to different ends.

Remaining true to the core belief of tracking the future of SMBs and channel partners, Techaisle studied global SMBs to determine future, planned and likely adoption patterns of several technology areas. The study of SMB and Midmarket digital transformation trends identified top 15 technology categories where the adoption growth rates will likely be highest in the next six months to a year. There are some surprises, for example, chatbots (for customer responsiveness), 5G (for enhanced mobility), open source (for cloud management, modernization and lower TCO), AI (for customer experience, security, operations) and several expected, for example, SD-WAN, HCI, WVD/VDI/DaaS and UCaaS.

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