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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.

What is driving SMB converged infrastructure adoption

For all the talk of a world predicated on software-defined resources, there is still need for capable, reliable, scalable physical infrastructure to support these software layers and the features and applications that sit atop them. The rise in virtualization has been driving an accompanying demand for converged infrastructure: products that combine processing, storage and networking into a robust and scalable unit that can support and respond to the options inherent in virtualization.

While the migration from separate server, storage and networking products to converged infrastructure is still in its early stages, the Techaisle SMB & midmarket converged infrastructure survey and corresponding Techaisle SMB & midmarket virtualization adoption trends survey shows that it is beginning to gain traction, especially within more sophisticated accounts. Data shows that 10% of small businesses and 27% of midmarket businesses (weighted data) are planning to adopt converged infrastructure. Current midmarket adoption rates for converged infrastructure are below findings for VDI but differences readily become apparent when analyzing the data from the lens of Techaisle’s segmentation by IT sophistication. Converged infrastructure adoption rises steadily with increased buyer sophistication in both the small and midmarket segments. As the market matures, we expect to see accelerated adoption of converged infrastructure across the SMB market.

What is driving converged infrastructure adoption?

While there are technical advantages that make converged infrastructure products more effective virtualization hosts than traditional servers, Techaisle’s research shows that SMB buyers adopt converged infrastructure for one or more of five primary reasons:

  1. to benefit from converged infrastructure’s integrated design and efficiency,
  2. to tap into its ability to enable centralization/management of resources,
  3. to capitalize on performance/time-to-benefit advantages,
  4. to improve IT agility and its ability to meet business needs, and
  5. in response to core requirements for cost savings and improved security.

Drilling down into the data Techaisle finds that core requirements inform many converged infrastructure strategies, and the benefits and efficiency of integrated solutions are also frequently cited as a driver of converged infrastructure adoption.

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HPE – doubling down to be SMB’s IT partner of choice

HP has split into two – HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Almost all SMB relevant products and solutions (except PCs and printers) now reside within the HPE organization. The global small and midmarket businesses, SMB (1-999 employee size) market has been the growth engine for the IT industry at large. The reason is quite simply that SMBs account for over 80 percent of businesses in any country – developed or developing. As per Techaisle, SMBs are forecast to spend US$597 billion on IT in 2015. Their IT requirements range from servers, networking and storage to cloud, mobility, analytics, managed services and collaboration solutions. Today, most SMBs are looking towards IT suppliers that offer appealing value propositions in either of three IT delivery models – traditional infrastructure built on-site from hardware and software components; hosted solutions and/or applications most often purchased on a “pay as you go” model; and, cloud infrastructure delivered on-demand.

HPE – the new incarnation of HP and its focus on SMBs with Flex solutions

Since the launch of its “Just Right IT” portfolio (September 2010) for SMBs, HPE has been striving to better serve its SMB customers by consciously lowering cost of solutions, improving agility in deployment and enabling faster time to value in managing IT assets. Just Right IT includes products, services and solutions specifically engineered for SMBs. The portfolio offers management, data protection, communications and connectivity solutions that are designed and priced "just right" to deliver affordability and value to SMBs. These solutions revolve around HPE’s core offerings of servers, storage and networking which comprises of:

  • Servers: ProLiant MicroServer, ProLiant 10 Series Servers, ProLiant 100 Series Servers, ProLiant 300 Series Servers
  • Networking: 1950 Switch Series, R100 Wireless VPN Router Series, Cloud Managed Networking, and 2920 Switch Series
  • Storage: Solutions for the virtualization, SQL Server, Exchange, File sharing and Backup

In November 2015, soon after the split, HPE announced a new portfolio of ProLiant Generation 9 (Gen9) Servers (ProLiant DL20 Gen9 and ProLiantML30 Gen9) that are specifically engineered for SMBs to help reduce cost and complexity to run the new style of IT, web, collaboration, and business workloads. HPE is hoping that the new server portfolio advances its vision for compute and the future of data center technology.

HPE also announced its Flex solutions which bundles various services around its server, storage and networking products including support services, financial services, ISV software, distribution services, and management. It is specifically targeted at three different segments of SMB market at the low end of which are the SMBs who are “starting out” and at the high-end are the SMBs who are “expanding their business”. This does align well with what Techaisle analysts find in Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket IT Sophistication Segmentation as shown below.

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SMB Converged infrastructure: Poised for growth at the expense of traditional servers?

The ongoing migration to server virtualization – within small businesses that have not yet adopted virtualization and within midmarket enterprises that are consolidating workloads on new, virtualization-ready infrastructure – will drive substantial near-term demand for converged infrastructure. Techaisle survey data shows that adoption of converged infrastructure is expected to double within the one year planning horizon. This is unlikely to represent ‘net new’ server demand; instead, Techaisle expects converged infrastructure growth to occur at the expense of traditional server products.

While the migration from separate server, storage and networking products to converged infrastructure is still in its early stages, the Techaisle SMB & midmarket converged infrastructure adoption trends survey shows that it is beginning to gain traction, especially within more sophisticated accounts. In the US, converged infrastructure is currently used within 32% of midmarket businesses, with another 31% planning to acquire within a year. Techaisle’s segmentation by IT sophistication demonstrates converged infrastructure adoption rises steadily with increased buyer sophistication in both the small and midmarket segments. US SMBs spent US$3.8B on converged infrastructure solutions’ implementation in 2014.

Additional survey data illustrates that suppliers of converged infrastructure should be proactive in making potential customers aware of the benefits of their technologies. While roughly half of both small and midmarket businesses describe themselves as being in the information gathering stage, one-third are currently identifying potential solutions, and 15%-20% are evaluating suppliers. It seems unlikely that buyers will ‘mix and match’ converged infrastructure technology, so it is important for suppliers to win initial orders – and the data shows that many of these purchase decisions are already underway.

While there are technical advantages that make converged infrastructure products more effective virtualization hosts than traditional servers, Techaisle’s research shows that SMB buyers adopt converged infrastructure for one or more of five primary reasons:

  1. to benefit from converged infrastructure’s integrated design and efficiency,
  2. to tap into its ability to enable centralization/management of resources,
  3. to capitalize on performance/time-to-benefit advantages,
  4. to improve IT agility and its ability to meet business needs, and
  5. in response to core requirements for cost savings and improved security.

In another section of the Techaisle SMB 2015 research, respondents were asked to identify projects that prompt consideration and purchase of converged infrastructure products. Comparison of small and midmarket business drivers finds both some commonality and some variations. Both small businesses and midmarket enterprises are most likely to acquire converged infrastructure to support data center consolidation, and virtualization applications as well as impetus for data migration. Key applications – Big Data and unified communications, SharePoint, and in small businesses, custom applications – are also project types that can drive adoption of converged infrastructure.

To enhance the scope of comparisons Techaisle also posed similar question to channel respondents in Techaisle’s SMB channel partner trends survey. The data provides yet another perspective reflecting the situations in which the channel is drawn into converged infrastructure decisions. Big Data – which requires a relatively wide range of competencies – is the project type that will most commonly require the channel to deploy converged infrastructure systems, and SharePoint projects which also demand a broad skill set, are the third most common project cited as a converged infrastructure adoption driver.

Question is “what sales channels are best positioned to intercept this demand?” Data shows that converged infrastructure routes to market will likely follow the pathways used to acquire software management layer that controls these physical resources. Both small and midmarket businesses are most likely to turn to hypervisor and networking vendors. Systems integrators have a substantial presence in the supply of these solutions whereas as VARs and managed service providers (MSPs) have more limited presence/appeal as virtualization solution sources.

In many ways, the key market issue surrounding converged infrastructure isn’t vendor-vs.-vendor competition, but rather, the ability of converged infrastructure as a system class to gain share quickly vs. traditional server products, while not being obviated by the cloud before attaining mass market penetration. However, suppliers are competing for share in this growth category, and understanding SMB what buyers are looking for – and what they struggle with when they adopt converged infrastructure – is important to positioning a brand as a credible solution.

 

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SMBs Projected to Spend over $250 Billion on Data center technology between 2012 and 2016

SMB Datacenter SegmentsSmall and Mid-Market firms will invest over a quarter trillion dollars in Datacenter Technology in the period between 2012 and 2016, according to the most recent report from Techaisle. Datacenter segments include Servers, Networking including Security Appliances and Storage solutions. We can also begin to add Virtualization within the context of data center as virtualized data centers are becoming front-and-center. As seen in this bubble chart, the nine key segments include each of the three product categories in the three largest regional markets, North America, Asia Pacific and Western Europe.  As we have shown in recent reporting, the rise of China continues to offer some of the most interesting market opportunities for vendors marketing to SMBs; the Asia/Pacific Storage Market being is the latest example, with combined spending over the forecast of $16B alone at a CAGR of over 22%. This is followed by the Asia/Pacific Networking Market, which is expected to reach $24B at a 14% rate. Although not growing as fast at 7%, the Asia/Pac Server Segment is expected to reach ~$17B. Other important points include:

    • Growth rates for the combined Datacenter volume by region are forecast at 14% CAGR for Asia Pacific, 7% for North America and 5% for Western Europe. Worldwide is estimated at 8%. Combined market share of these three Regions accounts for 80%+ of Spending over the period.

 

    • The North American Market with lower growth rates manages to stay ahead in volume overall for the combined spending, but as is happening with Japan and Western Europe already, the US Market will most likely be eclipsed in volume by China in the following, post-2016 forecast.

 

    • Western Europe Networking and Server Segments will be overtaken during the current forecast, again squeezed by increases to Asia/Pacific by China.

 

    • Latin America is growing relatively quickly at over 9%, driven by rapid Networking and Storage adoption but Spending is limited to <6% of the WW Total.



SMB Datacenter by RegionAs mentioned, North American SMBs will spend the most, with Storage expected to grow fastest at ~11%, and while Western Europe Spending remains stable, Storage is also expected to grow the fastest at ~7%.  Asia/Pacific at ~14% overall is influenced by rapid growth in all three Segments, especially Storage, which was the fastest rate among all Regions and Segments that had real volume, i.e. 2%+ WW Share.

As per Techaisle's upcoming channel report, over 35 percent of VAR channels have started to address data center solutions. And as always, China is an anomaly where over 40 percent of VAR channels are now offering data center solutions.

 

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