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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.

Cisco makes enterprise-grade small business solutions affordable and easily deployable

Post-pandemic, as small businesses look ahead to focus on getting back to growth, Cisco has identified the small business segment as a key priority and one of its most significant opportunities. Cisco is committing more resources than ever before to energize and activate Cisco partners' prospects in this space. Cisco identifies its addressable opportunity to be US$30 billion. It is no doubt less than Techaisle's global IT spend forecast of US$230 billion in 2021. But then, Cisco's product portfolio is not all-encompassing, and its definition of small business is on wallet share, any company that spends US$200K or less on Cisco products and services. However, Cisco's is sharpening its focus on the sub-$50K wallet-size small business segment, where Cisco's market share is minimal.

Let us analyze how Cisco is planning to address the small market.

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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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HPE is serious about addressing the technology needs of SMBs

In 2019, the phrase doubling down on SMB was mentioned several times, including the keynote address by Antonio Neri at HPE Discover. Fast forward to the present, HPE's SMB momentum is building. George Hope, a 22-year veteran with SMB channel experience, is the new worldwide channel chief. With more than a decade of SMB market understanding, Maciek Szczesniak is the new Vice President and General Manager SMB and Mid-Market. HPE's GreenLake, a flagship, "as-a-service" product, which offers a flexible alternative to traditional IT hardware consumption, is now available in a smaller starting capacity targeted at channel partners and their SMB and midmarket customers.

HPE is undoubtedly doubling down on the SMB segment. Last week HPE made several announcements:

- Smaller starting capacity for HPE GreenLake
- SMB FlexOffers program for SMB and midmarket customer
- Specialist support for HPE GreenLake and Storage portfolios

Smaller starting capacity for HPE GreenLake

HPE GreenLake packages now are available from as low as $70,000 with storage (HPE Nimble Storage) and compute (HPE ProLiant servers). The storage starting capacity is 15TB and compute at 4 servers. HPE will continue to offer a 17 percent reseller rebate to drive profitability with partners selling HPE GreenLake. In the coming months, HPE plans to expand to provide a lower starting capacity across the technology portfolio. The speed with which HPE is lowering the minimum threshold is commendable. In mid-2019, HPE had announced a $200,000 minimum targeted at midmarket customers, only a year ago.

The announcement is very significant in addressing the technology needs of SMBs and midsized businesses. Most SMB executives understand that technology plays a central role in their management processes. Many also realize that payback on any technology asset increases as one approaches full utilization and that economies of scale tend to benefit larger rather than smaller organizations. SMBs know that they cannot realistically target and reach optimal IT resource utilization. A small business has trouble consuming all of the new systems' capacity, meaning that they often pay for resources they are not using. Those that do get to full utilization have a different problem: systems that lack adequate storage, memory and compute capacity frequently crash. SMBs cannot rapidly deploy new servers, storage, and networking equipment. Even if they were, the SMB would know that it is paying some form of premium: an SMB will never get to the purchase volumes needed to warrant large scale discounts. Hence, HPE's GreenLake, with its consumption-based business model, is an excellent fit for SMB customers.

However, the awareness and advantages of a consumption-based technology acquisition model are limited and challenging within the SMB segment regardless of whether SMBs are the front-runners in cloud adoption. Techaisle data shows that as the complexity of technology increases over the next five years, most small and midmarket firms will not realize the return on investments for long periods or as their businesses scale. HPE and its partners are well-positioned in the market to gain from the massive shift to XaaS procurement models.

SMB FlexOffers program for SMB and midmarket customer

Channel partners are the primary conduit to HPE's SMB and midmarket success. Price-conscious SMBs are demanding agility from their channel partners in their digital transformation deployments of core infrastructure solutions. To meet the SMBs and the partners' needs, HPE debuted its FlexOffers program providing distribution and SMB-focused solution provider partners the ability to customize their built-to-order (BTO) products at bundled discount prices. Partners get the flexibility to select preferred options that, through dynamic attach-driven pricing, can help them access and ensure the best price. Besides, solution providers will drive quicker delivery times by leveraging distributor inventory, and distributors will benefit from an automated, simplified claiming process. In the initial phase, SMB FlexOffers include HPE ProLiant Servers and HPE Storage products. HPE FlexOffers is being offered through select distributors during the pilot starting in November 2020. Partners will leverage the iQuote partner portal that HPE has been refining for the last two years.

Specialist support for HPE GreenLake and Storage portfolios

However, selling "as-a-service" requires that channel partners invest in pre-sales activities. There will be a proverbial opening of floodgates of latent demand from channel partners with the new announcements. Recognizing the need, HPE is committed to providing specialist support for HPE GreenLake and dedicated pre-sales for the channel. HPE will also be providing training for partners to accelerate their HPE GreenLake knowledge and positioning. The additional support will be in the form of dedicated enablement initiatives, like workshops with experts, to help partners personalize their as-a-service journey.
HPE is serious about equipping its partners to participate in the "as-a-service" business model. It offers partners training on HPE GreenLake and an opportunity to self-assess partner "maturity" to shape their own consumption/aaS journey with HPE around their (and their customers') needs.

The shift to "as-a-service" has been in the making for a long time. In FY21, HPE plans to extend partner support and activation through unique and specific enablement initiatives piloted last year with a few partners, who also participated in HPE's "Consumption Advisory Council" meetings. An example is Advizex, an HPE Platinum partner for 35 years.

Not three years ago, the HPE Channel & Pointnext team started to help partners shift to consumption IT and HPE GreenLake to expand opportunities, accelerate digital transformation, and gain competitive advantage. HPE's team collaborated with Advizex on marketing initiatives, education, and dedicated workshops and enablement. This strategic effort allowed Advizex to assess their readiness to shift to consumption, identify the knowledge and actions needed, become proficient in selling HPE GreenLake and consumption IT ahead of the competition, and develop a strategic plan to drive consumption IT with HPE. Now, as HPE doubles down on HPE GreenLake specialist resources, it can extend this kind of support to all partners who decide to focus on HPE's consumption offering.

Solution providers and distributors will also have the opportunity to elevate their conversations and accelerate sales by working with HPE's "Storage Rangers" - outcome-based solution selling experts with a high degree of technical skills. These specialists will help partners enhance the request for quotation (RFQ) process to execute existing campaigns and initiatives.

Storage Rangers are funded heads (aka Champions, partner-badged) with a specific focus on storage. The geographies that have opted-in to the program have nominated a Program Lead (HPE-badged), and that is the go-to person if a partner wants to have a Ranger. HPE offers a specific training curriculum for Sales & Presales Rangers and local support to help them deliver on the request for quotation (RFQ) process and generate new business opportunities.

Each IT supplier is currently focusing on streamlining deal registration for its channel partners. Techaisle's latest global channel survey research of our 2400 partners shows that fees and activity-based incentives, solution development funds, and deal registration are significant enablement incentives for 40% to 50% of partners. Partners have an unmistakable idea of their criteria for partnerships - vendors that are easy to do business with, technical support, quality of partner programs, and those who offer end-to-end solutions that are easy to deploy, integrate are preferred. HPE is increasing its commitment to providing its partners with price and margin protection and new incentives as part of its deal registration program.

Final one-line Techaisle Take

Competition with Dell is on full display. There is no reason to ignore HPE as an IT supplier and a vendor partner for addressing the technology needs of the SMB and midmarket firms for better business outcomes.

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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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