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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.

US SMB IT spending will grow by 7.6 percent in 2021

US SMB IT spend is forecast to grow by 7.6% in 2021 over 2020. In July 2020, we had written that resiliency, agility, and adaptability would accelerate recovery for SMBs. Techaisle's survey of 1720 US SMBs confirms the prognosis for the US market. Data shows that 45% of US SMBs will be in the high growth segment, with IT budget increases ranging between 7.5% to 15%. However, 12% of SMBs will experience budget decreases of more than 5%. The majority of the declining IT growth segment will be in the 1-49 employee sizes. Regardless, the small businesses will grow their IT spend. There is an apparent dichotomy appearing in how technology is likely to be acquired by SMBs. Nearly two-thirds of micro-businesses prefer acquisitions structured around leases, whereas one-fourth of midmarket firms plan to move to "as-a-service" approaches.

IT services spending will grow by 8.6%, driven by managed services, data/platform integration, cloud orchestration, and business process automation. As cloud applications increase, the demand for hybrid IT is becoming a pressing requirement for SMBs.

2021 will be the year of the midmarket segment, with IT spending forecast to grow by 8%. Data illustrates a fascinating picture showing IT budget increasing in direct proportion with size, from 100-249 to 500-999 employee firms. The upper midmarket (1000-4999 employee size segment) will have an average budget increase of 6.1%, slightly lower than the 500-999 size business.

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SMB and Midmarket hybrid cloud adoption likely to explode exponentially

The explosion in cloud use has led to considerable increases in the extent of automation within SMBs. Techaisle SMB survey research data illustrates, SMBs are absorbing cloud systems at a very rapid rate: core infrastructure requirements (such as storage and productivity applications), systems of record (e.g., accounting), and systems of engagement (e.g., collaboration/conferencing) are increasingly cloud-based, and the cloud is paving the way for new automation in these areas, and in systems of insight (analytics) within SMBs.

As the adoption of cloud applications increase, there is a pressing demand for hybrid within SMBs. SMBs want to integrate multiple delivery sources into a single unified fabric. They also want to assign workloads to the best (rather than “best possible today”) location and connect data and critical services (notably, security) across platforms. Techaisle data shows that 34% of midmarket cloud workload is on hybrid cloud, 31% of midmarket firms are using advanced hybrid infrastructure with automated links between platforms. In 2021, the percentage is likely to increase by 45%. Techaisle expects hybrid momentum in the SMB market to grow in 2021 and beyond, with a 5X increase potential in the small business segment.

Comparing 2020 and 2021 data shows that although there was tremendous interest in expanding hybrid automation/orchestration in 2020, many SMBs put their plans on hold in favor of emergency responses to pandemic-related requirements. Still, though, the need for capable hybrid architecture and management is only becoming more acute over time.

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IBM Acquires Red Hat – What does it mean and to whom

IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat makes sense on several levels: it adds a high-growth software portfolio to boost software and recurring revenue, and provides IBM with a bit of a ‘halo’ in the tech community, as it now controls the industry’s leading Open Source supplier.

Moving down a level, though, why might this acquisition matter – and to whom? Techaisle’s take on the most important angles that shaped and will determine the success of the deal. (Download Techaisle Take report)

Who does this matter to?

Imagine you are an enterprise with a large legacy infrastructure, possibly in a regulated industry (like financial services or government). You see that IT service delivery is advancing faster outside your walls than within your firm, as other businesses aggressively adopt cloud, Agile, DevOps and containers.

You are motivated to try to integrate these advanced platforms/products/methodologies into your environment as well – to capitalize on the advantages that they can deliver, or because you’re afraid that if you don’t act you’ll be left behind, watching competitors introduce new IT-enabled capabilities faster and at lower cost than you can.

In an organization like this, IT executives are unlikely to want to dive headlong into a deep/committed relationship with a public cloud provider like AWS. They will understand the importance of building a multi-cloud, hybrid IT infrastructure, but will want to manage that environment internally, with a focus on existing capabilities (both installed products and skills). “Cloud first” won’t be a living mandate – it might describe an approach to new and non-critical applications, but won’t be a serious consideration for core systems of record.

Advantages (and some potential pitfalls) of a combined IBM/Red Hat

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The connection between hybrid cloud use and focus on orchestration

Techaisle’s US SMB & Midmarket Orchestration, Integration & Automation study finds that use of multiple IT service delivery platforms – various forms of cloud, plus on-premise, colo-based and hosted infrastructure – increases the complexity associated with connecting, balancing and optimizing systems, and as a result, creates demand for automation and orchestration to ensure that these processes aren’t bottlenecked by requirements for operator intervention.

It seems intuitive that firms that are currently using hybrid cloud systems would register very high levels of use/interest in orchestration and automation tools. This is largely true. Roughly half of small businesses and two-thirds of midmarket firms are using or planning to use hybrid cloud. Two-thirds of small businesses and nearly 90% of midmarket firms using/planning use of hybrid consider orchestration tools to be “critical” or “very important.” Expanding the midmarket data survey shows that 20% of midmarket firms that use hybrid cloud systems say that orchestration tools are critical to deploying workloads on hybrid platforms and another 69% say orchestration tools are very important.

When analyzed by IT maturity data shows that nearly half of the Advanced IT group and two-thirds of the Enterprise IT group are already using hybrid cloud, with use projected to rise to/beyond 70% over the next 12 months. Despite these high current usage levels, though, Advanced and Enterprise IT users do not, for the most part, currently consider orchestration tools to be “critical” (less than one-quarter across the two segments), though they do classify orchestration as “very important.”

Techaisle also analyzed data by current digitalization strategy and cloud maturity level. “Holistic” firms (with organization-wide digital transformation strategy) are both much more likely to be using hybrid cloud today and to consider orchestration to be “critical;” these firms would appear to be good targets for SMB/Midmarket-focused orchestration campaigns. More than half of both “mature” and “born-in-the-cloud” firms are using hybrid today, with penetration expected to rise to 70%-80% over the next twelve months. Fully 40% of BITC and more than a quarter of “mature” cloud users also view orchestration as critical – making this another useful segmentation for marketers of orchestration tools looking at the SMB/Midmarket opportunity.

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