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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.

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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Dell-EMC deal – sense and sensibility or solid reasoning

On October 12 Dell took an enormous step along its new chosen path of reorienting away from a provider of low-cost PC and server hardware to a role as a more sophisticated supplier to businesses that view technology as a strategic asset rather than as a tactical necessity. Dell announced a “definitive agreement” to acquire EMC (including EMC’s ownership positions in VMware, RSA Security, Pivotal Software, Virtustream and other industry firms and joint ventures) for $67 billion – the largest-ever acquisition in the information technology industry. The deal was announced to analysts and media in a conference call that featured Dell Founder and CEO Michael Dell, EMC President/CEO/Chairman Joe Tucci and Silver Lake Partners Managing Partner and Managing Director Egon Durban, and included VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, Dell CFO Thomas Sweet, and David Goulden, who acts as CEO for EMC’s Information Infrastructure business.

Two second Take

The acquisition greatly enhances Dell’s position in higher-margin, higher growth markets: storage is expanding faster than servers or PCs, and EMC is focused on the higher-margin software used for device management as opposed to the creation of physical devices themselves.

Revenue Synergies – the $67 billion question

While the call eschewed any commentary on staff redundancies between the two organizations, it focused its messaging on “revenue synergies that are three times larger than cost synergies,” a justification for the deal that comes primarily from new growth opportunities rather than from squeezing out costs through headcount reductions.

It can be assumed that most of this growth potential comes from expanded market rather than product positioning. In his remarks, Michael Dell noted that Dell/EMC (including VMware) have already established “leadership positions in storage, servers, virtualization and PCs,” and have strength in IT’s “most important growth vectors,” including software-defined data centers, hybrid cloud, converged infrastructure, mobility and security – and are “positioned as a leader in an amazing 22 Gartner Magic Quadrants.”

If Dell and EMC are already leaders in all of these large and/or expanding areas, then the question is where will further growth come from? It appears that the combined entity is banking on the benefits associated with increased customer account presence. In particular, Michael Dell noted that “as the data market moves to a compute-centric, converged model, Dell’s server franchise is a natural fit with EMC’s strength.” The theory appears to be that by combining EMC’s prowess at selling to enterprise accounts and Dell’s broader compute portfolio the company can increase share of wallet within major accounts; there is also some opportunity for using EMC to drive increased storage presence within Dell’s “growing commercial infrastructure franchise” in the SMB base, but this is likely to be a secondary consideration.

Security, Converged Infrastructure, Mobility, Big Data

Dell has been investing heavily in building a comprehensive security portfolio, assembling advanced threat identification services firm SecureWorks (acquired by Dell in 2011), firewall/unified threat management from vendor SonicWALL (acquired in 2012), backup software specialist AppAssure (2012) and identity monitoring and management software vendor Quest (also acquired in 2012), plus related capabilities sourced from thin client vendor Wyse (purchased by Dell in 2012) and from work done by Dell’s own engineering team. With the latest acquisition Dell adds encryption pioneer RSA Security (which became a division of EMC after being acquired in 2006) and enterprise mobility management supplier AirWatch (acquired by VMware in 2014), thus diversifying the portfolio even more. Dell has been positioning end-to-end security as a differentiating feature of its infrastructure portfolio for some time and with the acquisition Dell’s security story becomes even stronger, and even more distinct from the approaches of competitors like Lenovo, HP and Oracle.

Although it is tempting to look at a Dell/EMC/VMware combination as a means of consolidating a converged infrastructure offering capable of competing with the Cisco-led Vblock (Cisco, EMC, VMware) and FlexPod (Cisco, NetApp, VMware) offerings, it appears that Dell’s vision is broader and more strategic.

The acquisition also gives Dell a foothold into the big data deployment market opportunity where the enterprise spending is still hardware driven rather than software and analytics uptake.

And with AirWatch in the mix, Dell finally gets a mobility story in place beyond just the mobile devices.

Move to cloud

Michael Dell believes that “the combined company is very well positioned to address the move to the cloud,” both by providing infrastructure to public cloud providers and private cloud operators and through VMware’s ability to enable hybrid cloud. But in his remarks, he went further, observing that “I think what you’re seeing with the Software Defined Data Center is an ability to take the benefits of the public cloud and bring them into an on-premise data center.” He considers the complexities associated with connecting compute, network and storage as a major demand driver for public cloud, and virtualization and converged infrastructure as a means of delivering greater simplicity in on-premise environments, allowing firms to focus on optimizing for “the application user, quality of service and security.”

But Michael Dell is not satisfied by simply focusing on leveling the terrain between cloud and on-premise infrastructure, his vision is to supply infrastructure across different environments (public clouds, SaaS, hyperclouds, private clouds), providing common, connected and secure platforms to customers of all sizes, wherever their IT workloads reside.

Financial challenges

A lot has been said and written about financial challenges but due to the enormity of the deal size it is worth another read, from our point-of-view. The cost of debt may have an impact on the overall cost of operating the newly-expanded Dell entity. Dell was thought to have about $12 billion in debt prior to this deal; clearly, this figure will increase substantially after the acquisition. Michael Dell did state that observers could expect “a significant deleveraging” resulting from cost savings, increased revenue and cash flow management improvements that come with being a private company, but $67 billion represents a very high hurdle for these activities. Obtaining the funds themselves is not an issue but it seems likely that the costs associated with debt service may affect product prices and margins, and it is difficult to boost either in many of Dell’s core hardware markets. It might well be that asset sales become important to enhancing corporate profitability by reducing the cost base of the company.

Should debt reduction become a priority, the newly-expanded Dell would have a few options, starting with VMware. Although there was no mention of selling VMware as part of this deal – indeed, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger was described as having a “very bright future” in the new organization – EMC’s 80 percent stake in VMware is worth more than $26 billion at current valuations. It will be very tempting to convert this equity into reduced debt to help the competitiveness of future hardware products, though this would be at the cost of an ownership position that (as per the terms of the Dell deal) accounts for 40 percent of EMC’s overall value. There are other avenues Dell could pursue – for example, it could combine its in-house security assets with RSA, and perhaps AirWatch, to create a stand-alone security business that could be monetized via issuance of public market shares – but a VMware sale is clearly the most direct means of raising capital to reduce debt.

Go-to-market challenges

An often-overlooked ingredient in a merger is the extent to which go-to-market staff and strategies can be melded in a single organization. This will likely be a significant issue for the expanded company. Dell and EMC customer-facing staffs have very different skills and compensation levels and may not be neatly amalgamated into a single sales force. The channel strategies of the two firms are different as well. Because EMC has focused primarily on large deals within large accounts and Dell has been more SMB (and consumer) focused, it may be that the sales staff and channel strategies can be aligned by sector but that will not erase the GTM discrepancies.

EMC sales staff work large, high margin deals, and are among the best compensated reps in the industry; Dell certainly cannot afford to reduce EMC-classic rep compensation (which would trigger a mass exodus to competitive startups) or to pay EMC rates to Dell-classic sales staff (which would consume more than 100 percent of current margins). From a channel and alliance perspective, EMC is a strategic partner to its enterprise-level services and software partners; Dell is primarily a tactical resource for SMB-focused VARs and integrators. These approaches target different partners with different programs and are delivered in different ways. Again, it is possible to align strategies by market sector, but many partners are likely to try to “shop” across programs to “Frankenstein” together blends of services and compensation structures that optimize the supplier benefits that they derive from the new Dell, and some – notably, Cisco, which is an EMC ally via Vblock – will find a Dell partnership untenable.

Final Take

While there are reasons to admire Dell’s strategy, it is very rare to find successful examples of a merger yielding a combined market presence that eclipses the individual positions of the firms involved. However, these are still early days, and the hard decisions will not be made until mid-2016, but there are still many operational issues to be ironed out between now and then. Even though Dell is not a public company, it will need to explain its expectations of “revenue synergies” to customers, analysts and the press, and Silver Lake will likely need to do the same for its current and potential investors.

There are reasons to both admire and to question the Dell/EMC deal. The answer to the $67 billion question will be found in the opportunities for “revenue synergies” that extend well beyond today’s converged infrastructure SKUs, and into the cloud and the core operating models of customers ranging from EMC’s traditional public sector and large enterprise accounts to Dell’s SMB buyers. If Dell can extend its reach across the full spectrum of IT/business infrastructure, it may build a position as the behemoth HP believed it would become, before it was bifurcated into two distinct business units. If it does not, it may more closely resemble Oracle, trying to assemble a coherent vision from a series of mismatched pieces.

The real winner though is Silver Lake. It has positioned itself as a central force within the technology industry, an unusual position for a private equity firm, and may signal that excellence in financing is joining excellence in inventing technology and excellence in technology marketing as paths to the industry’s pinnacle.

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Indian IT Hardware Retail – Shifting Landscape

India is witnessing unprecedented growth driven by favorable demographics, a young working population, rising income levels, urbanization and growing brand orientation. India’s retail industry has emerged as one of the fastest growing industry and is projected to grow almost to US$1 trillion by 2020 from the present market size of US$600 billion in 2015 driven by income growth, urbanization and attitudinal shifts.

However, it must be said that Indian retail is still dominated by unorganized sector. Organized retail penetration is just 8%. The biggest challenge facing the Indian retail sector is the lack of efficient supply chain. Within retail, India's IT hardware market includes many product segments such as desktops, laptops, phablets, tablets, printers, and other peripherals.

Techaisle team has been tracking the channel market and specifically sales out of various IT products in India for a decade. At last count, Techaisle India channel census data shows that there are over 30,000 channel partners in India. Supporting this vast channel network are eight national distributors and 159 regional distributors. Techaisle research shows us that there are typically four types of retailers.

With a country so large with varying maturity of IT adoption and number of distributors and retailers/resellers it is but natural to see a very complex PC distribution flow. Techaisle team tracks the percent units that flow through various intermediate channels from the OEM to the end-customer.

techaisle-complex-pc-distribution-flow

It is common knowledge that India’s e-commerce market India is still in nascent phase, yet it is growing rapidly but IT hardware sales through e-commerce websites or through the company's own website are still in the single digit-range as percentage of total sales because most of laptops, desktops, and tablets sales are still sold through bricks and mortar shops. In order to expand in India, large technology companies have been increasing their focus on smaller towns and non-tier 1 cities. For example, by end of 2015, Dell plans to more than double the number of its stores (named Dell Exclusive) in India to 825. In 2014, Dell had already doubled its number of stores to 400 from 2013.

Organized retail started more than a decade ago and significant growth has been achieved. However, most of the retailers have struggled to achieve a desired level of profitability. Leading retailers are now putting profitability at the top of their agenda. Croma was the first multi-brand store to sell consumer electronics among other retail products. Today, major retail players include Reliance Retail (Reliance Digital – 151 stores), Pantaloon Retail Ltd (eZone – 92 stores and Electronic Bazaars), Videocon (Next Retail Ltd – 144 stores), Tata Sons (Croma – 101 stores), Sumaria Appliances and Vijay Sales (54 stores).

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Table of Contents

  • Indian IT retail landscape
  • Major IT retail hubs in India
  • Distributor and Retailer count
  • Increasing focus on OEM branded stores
  • Leveraging distribution and sales networks through strategic partnerships
  • Types of Retailers
  • Complex PC Distribution Flow
  • Pain points of smaller retailers
  • Explosion in E-commerce and M-commerce retail channel
  • Overcoming inefficient supply chain management
  • Overcoming logistics and warehousing challenges of Indian e-commerce
  • Organized retail sector competing with online retail
  • Brick-and-mortar retailers warming to E-commerce

techaisle-india-it-hardware-retail-pov

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Dell’s desirability increases within SMBs and Channel Partners

Techaisle’s latest SMB and Channel partner research shows that Dell more than doubled its approval scores among channel partners since 2013, and improved 15% among SMB tech buyers compared to 2014. 52% of US SMBs say they like Dell, which is up from 45% in 2014 and 53% of SMB channel partners, up from 26% in 2013. Dell is still vying to acquire a seat at the enterprise CIO table but at least within SMBs and midmarket firms Dell’s impact is being felt.

Dell is in a good place. Bolstered by its decade of purposeful targeted acquisitions and thrust into the center as its competitors disintegrate and regroup. Perhaps, without the confluence of these fortuitous events Dell may have been the engine that could but did not. While it has some ways to go before it reaches its destination, Dell’s end-to-end solutions train is on the move, on the right track and making good progress. Faster, stronger, better infrastructure solutions that span from the center of IT to the edge of network can only fuel growth to a certain extent. In an industry which is vying for the mindshare of buyers, Dell has to rise above with expanded branding and general awareness initiatives, including thought leadership campaigns, and not rely exclusively on its massive sales strengths. There is some good work being done by Dr. Jai Menon, Chief Research Officer & Vice President on technology evolution such as SBDC (Software-based Data Centers), HVC (High Velocity Clouds), NVM (Non-Volatile Memory) and DLP (Data Loss Prevention). Dell is also doing a great job of leading conversations on the importance of entrepreneurship around the globe to help spur innovation, employment and economic growth. Dell acquired more patents in 2014 (20+% growth) than any year in Dell history. However, most SMB buyers are yet unaware about Dell’s full capabilities and investments in these areas and how they affect the future readiness of SMB and midmarket firms' own IT.

Let us break down some key areas of SMB IT investment and Dell’s relevance.

Mobility

Mobility is a top IT priority for 76% of global SMBs and in US alone SMBs spent US$50B on mobility in 2014 (Source: Techaisle 2015 global SMB and Midmarket Mobility Adoption Study). There is no doubt that Dell has a strong presence in the mobile device segment with its laptops (especially XPS13), and Venue tablets. Dell has chosen not to participate in the Smartphone segment and rightfully so. But question remains: How does Dell stay relevant in emerging economies such as India which have moved overwhelmingly to the mobile phone and are moving rapidly to the smartphone, where Dell is not a significant player? The answer may lie in Dell’s focus on commercial PC segment where the market is both under-penetrated and has low PC to employee density.

SMB mobility is usually defined not by devices but by the workplace where those devices and their users are. Accordingly, SMBs are not only planning to adopt mobility applications, but are also seeking mobility solutions that enable their mobile workforce - specifically solutions that provide management, security and infrastructure needed to connect mobile devices and applications into corporate IT environment. Mobility solution is Dell’s strongest suite of offerings built from various components such as Dell KACE, Dell SonicWALL, Dell Cloud Client Computing (Wyse thin clients), Dell Data Protection software and Dell Mobile as well as Desktop Workspace (Wyse vWorkspace).

However, Dell is not the first mobility solution supplier that comes to mind. A category that is in high growth mode today, which responds to a rapidly-growing SMB market need and drives high spending levels within SMB accounts is clearly attractive to a wide range of potential suppliers. Ordinarily, one would expect to find that large horizontal IT vendors like Dell with its portfolio of mobility security and mobile management offerings have staked out the high ground in a market of this type, and that channel members are acting as guides to their SMB clients. However, data from Techaisle’s SMB Mobility Adoption survey shows that SMB buyers are predominantly turning to specialized firms for mobility solutions.

Recognizing the need to be front and center Dell is investing in training its channel partners on mobility solution offerings but to be really successful Dell must define its offerings in more commonly understood categories - Mobile device management, Enterprise mobile management, Windows-as-a-service, thin clients and mobile app security.

Cloud

Cloud is no longer a trend that is discrete from mainstream IT. Techaisle’s global SMB and Midmarket Cloud Adoption trends survey data shows that cloud computing is viewed as an IT priority by 96% of US SMBs and a similar percent globally. Within the US alone, SMBs spent US$30B on cloud in 2014. Cloud is established as essential IT infrastructure for SMBs and Techaisle expects cloud momentum to continue as cloud addresses some of the key IT issues faced by SMBs.

Data shows that the larger SMB cloud trend is towards deeper use of SaaS. There is still scope for additional use of cloud infrastructure to replace and/or supplement physical back-office gear, but there is a limit to how much infrastructure is required by an SMB. Dell is a cloud infrastructure supplier with a formidable set of offerings and services which includes its converged infrastructure solutions, cloud client computing capabilities, and infrastructure management and integration solutions for cloud environments. But again, despite its investments, Dell is not the most widely recognized suppliers of converged infrastructure by SMB end-users and SMB channel partners (Sources: Techaisle SMB Converged Infrastructure Adoption Study & SMB Channel Partner Trends study). Nor is it mentioned among the top 5 IT suppliers for cloud infrastructure solutions by SMBs as per Techaisle’s recent survey.

But for those SMBs and midmarket firms that are moving rapidly to private or hybrid cloud deployments Dell combines the scale and efficiencies of its PowerEdge FX portfolio with solutions like Active Systems Manager and Dell Cloud Manager to deliver the infrastructure building blocks and management capabilities needed for private or hybrid environments. Furthermore, Dell works closely with partners, such as VMware (for EVO: RAIL) and Microsoft (for Azure) in delivering tightly integrated and engineered cloud solutions. There is tremendous merit in what Dell is doing and specific SMB segments are paying attention. As per Techaisle’s SMB attitudinal segmentation, Dell is becoming a go-to supplier of on-premise cloud infrastructure for “growth-aspiring” and “innovation-driven” SMBs and Midmarket firms.

Big Data

Techaisle’s study on SMB and Midmarket Big Data Adoption and Trends shows that 7 percent of small businesses and 20 percent of midmarket businesses are currently using Big Data solutions and that another 17 percent & 38 percent respectively is planning to adopt within the next 1-2 years. The promise of superior data-driven decision making is motivating SMBs to invest in Big Data technology. This represents a sizable opportunity considering that the segment is relatively new, it requires a certain level of IT sophistication and a history in linear investment in IT enablers to be successful. In 2014 US SMBs spent slightly over US$3B on big data. Specifically, midmarket attitude towards Big Data has transitioned from “over-hype” to must-have technology with the increase in employee size.

Dell has certainly dipped its toes into big data analytics with its acquisition of StatSoft and its Statistica advanced analytics solution. Its other two big data products Dell Kitenga and Dell Toad Data Point are incidental yet complementary to Dell’s big data solution stack. It is not out of place to mention that both Kitenga and Toad Data Point came from acquisitions. But the overarching anchors of Dell’s big data strategy are its partnerships with Cloudera & Intel (integration of Dell’s in-memory appliance with Cloudera Enterprise) and Dell’s professional services. Statistica may have one leg up on SAS due to its visualization capability and another leg up on Tableau with its statistical functionality. But it will be interesting to see where and how much of resources will Dell commit to drive its big data solution stack adoption beyond the healthcare vertical (where it has tremendous strength due to acquisition of Perot Systems). For now, most SMBs and midmarket firms are turning to Dell for their big data infrastructure platform. In a most recent set of depth interviews conducted with midmarket firms, Techaisle found that almost 9 out of 10 big data implementations were on Dell platform. Techaisle’s expectations are that, in true Dell fashion, Dell may be best positioned to commoditize big data solution and bring it out from the farmers’ market to the freezer aisle for SMBs to accelerate adoption.

Supplemental to big data, IoT is another relevant area for SMBs. Techaisle’s most recent global SMB technology adoption study shows that 52% of US midmarket firms and 18% of small businesses are either currently investing or planning to invest in IoT predominantly for security, fleet management, asset tracking and supply-chain visibility. Dell has a new IoT division and its first product is a US$500 gateway (re-purposed Wyse Thin Client) which supports Ubuntu, Wind River and Thinkworks PTC. Although one may argue that Dell is going back to its product DNA and building commoditized IoT solution but Dell may well have an advantage. By combining security from SecureWorks, analytical engine of Statistica and wrapping with Dell professional services, it may be well ahead with an end-to-end IoT solution. At least, Dell’s IoT offering is easy to understand and deploy for small and midmarket businesses.

Security and Virtualization are two other areas of importance for an SMB organization. Dell is present in both these areas. In security Dell has its own IP whereas for virtualization Dell is platform agnostic and has designed a set of blueprints that works with VMware, Citrix and Nutanix. However when the security market is growing at double digits, Dell’s software security growth in the area has been 7% (Dell does not disclose its entire security revenue details). Dell may well be suffering from a 1 vs. 1 selling as opposed to wider knowledge of Dell’s security offerings.

Final Techaisle Take

Dell has successfully put together a full set of flexible and scalable technology solution building blocks. Its sales organization is learning how to use these “blocks” successfully to build robust and future ready IT solutions for its SMB customers. Dell’s channel organization has also been focusing on equipping its channel partners with the same level of understanding. Dell has also set up cross-functional teams as Centers of Excellence that are empowered to educate and guide channel partners. These blocks may look very easy to assemble but articulation of their capabilities is very tough unless a complete picture of the end outcome is shown beforehand. And Dell has its homework assigned – demonstrate business outcomes through use cases and show thought leadership by expounding forward thinking because within the eyes of many SMBs and SMB channel partners, Dell still lags other IT suppliers on innovative and cutting edge technology front (Source: Techaisle 2015 SMB survey). That said, Dell Blueprints, for integrating piece parts into whole solutions, may just be the answer that SMBs and channel partners are looking for.

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