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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 Defines Channel’s Role in its Cloud Strategy: Partners Can Play a Role Based on Their Resources and Competencies

On March 29th, 2012, Dell announced a new Cloud Services and Solutions Certification program for its channel partners that want to transition to cloud-based business model. This program specifies additional sales and technical training required for the new certification and is initially directed at channel partners who already have a certain level of infrastructure-related skills and sell Dell’s enterprise products.

Dell’s Cloud Services & Solutions Certification is comprised of three primary pillars in providing cloud services and solutions:

  • Cloud Builder – for channel partners that can provide services to design and develop a cloud infrastructure for their customers. This is typically suitable for VARs.

  • Cloud Provider – for channels that have the capabilities or want to acquire skill-sets to operate a cloud networking operating center (NOC) enabled with Dell technology to provide cloud services. These include:  Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS).  This is typically suitable for SaaS ISVs, Service providers.

  • Cloud Service Enabler – for those channel partners that want to act as aggregators or brokers identifying, securing and integrating the appropriate set of cloud technologies and services from multiple sources and operating the resulting cloud for their customers through a set of managed services. This is typically suitable for MSPs & Systems Integrators.


Techaisle believes that Dell’s new channel program is a step in the right direction. Techaisle’s research has shown that businesses are looking for advice and guidance from their channel partners on the use of cloud services & solutions. In addition, Techaisle’s channel research has also shown that many channel partners who want to offer cloud-based offerings to their business clients, themselves need help and support from their vendors. The new training requirements will ensure that channel partners have the required cloud-related skills to be the best in business. Dell is also making it easy
for partners to demonstrate their infrastructure-related skills by accepting their membership in channel programs of recognized vendors in technology areas of security, networking and virtualization. In addition to getting preferred pricing, Dell’s Cloud Partners will also have access to financing from Dell as well as support engagement from Dell Direct Sales and Services.

A key feature of Dell’s program is the recognition that channel partners vary greatly in their size, skills and resources. The program allows partners to transition to the cloud computing model in a manner they feel is best suited for them – be it as a cloud builder, cloud provider or as an cloud service enabler (aggregator). The program also allows partners to supplement Dell’s technology with their own technology services, giving them significant flexibility to offer Dell-based cloud offerings without having to write-off up their investment in their existing services.

Dell has steadily evolved its channel strategy over the last five years and this new certification represents an important step in that evolution. Given this steady evolution, Dell’s channel partners can expect Dell to further fine-tune channel’s role in the cloud, develop additional support programs and also expand its cloud-based offerings for the channel.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle
  0 Comments

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabooks – Demonstration of Dell’s New Focus on SMBs

This week, Dell unveiled its Ultrabook, XPS 13 featuring an edge-to-edge glass, near “frameless” display, all-day battery life, and the latest innovative technology for a superb overall user experience. Starting at 2.99 lbs and less than a quarter-inch at its thinnest point, the XPS 13 sports the latest Intel technology, such as Rapid Start and Smart Connect, to enable users to be productive, connected and responsive anywhere.

While Dell did not participate in this year’s CES, Dell’s announcementwas a pre-planned set of announcements by Intel’s OEM partners to unveil their new UltraBook PCs, Intel’s response to Apple’s MacBook Air. What made Dell’s announcement stand out was that while the new ultrathin PCs like MacBook Air have generally been targeted at consumers, Dell has added features and functionalities for businesses, including the ability of IT staff to manage the XPS 13 efficiently and effectively. These include features like standard Trusted Platform Module for BitLocker Data Encryption and optional remote and on-site managed services (i.e. ProSupport after-sales service and Configuration Services such as custom imaging and asset tagging) that allow SMBs to proactively manage their IT
devices and applications, avoid downtime and increase their IT infrastructure availability.

Also while, Dell XPS 13’s starting price point is the same as Apple’s MacBook Air, Dell delivers much more at $999 than Apple does at the same price.

The obvious question that arises is why would Dell adapt a (presumably) consumer-focused product launched primarily at a consumer-oriented show, to also meet the needs of businesses? The answer lies in Dell’s increasing focus on the SMB market since the creation of its new SMB Business Unit a few years back. While SMB business lies under the CSMB group (Consumer & SMB), until recently headed by Steve Felice, SMBs’ needs seem to be getting ingrained into Dell’s DNA.

Dell has increased its focus on SMBs on a worldwide basis and this is also being reflected in Techaisle’s SMB tracking studies. In Techaisle’s recentstudy on purchase intention of Ultrabooks, SMBs rated Dell as their number 1 choice for Ultrabooks, even before the products were announced. Techaisle expects that at least 3.6 million Ultrabooks will be purchased by US SMBs in 2012, resulting in 1 in 5 PCs (desktops and laptops) shipped to SMBs. With increased mobility, size and weight of mobile PCs have become important factors for road warriors, who want to be able to work from anywhere and everywhere they go. While Ultrabooks are considered more stylish and cool as compared to other form factors, including tablets, SMBs also value their long battery life, lightweight, built in security features, ability to run Windows 8 and fast boot times.

Techaisle Survey showed that Dell had even a better preferred status for the upper mid-market SMBs, that is, from 250-999 employee size businesses which are less price-sensitive than their smaller counterparts. Additionally, 47 percent of SMBs plan to purchase directly from a manufacturers’ website, which gives Dell an added advantage, given its history of success in selling through the web.

The introduction of Ultrabooks by Dell could not have come at a better time. With increasing mobility among SMB employees, UltraBooks fill in the gap between the lighter (but also somewhat limited in their functionality) tablets and the traditional heavier laptops. Ultrabooks can perform all the tasks (and more) of the traditional laptops but with much greater convenience.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle

  0 Comments

Future of SMB: Death of Layers, Rise of On-Demand Flat IT

The World is Flat (© Thomas L. Friedman) and so has become IT, especially for SMBs. With a Flat world, rises an opportunity for SMBs to employ workers who are globally distributed, travel and telecommute. With a Flat world comes Flat IT. And the IT vendors are missing the dialogue with their SMB customers- some vendors more than others. They are also missing a new understanding of SMB IT adoption cycle.


But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us first understand the world of Flat IT.


Waves have Evaporated to Form Clouds


Analyst firms typically use words such as IT waves or eras in describing SMB IT adoption - client/server wave, networking wave, Internet wave, etc. There is nothing wrong with this wave theory except now that there are no more waves left, all water is evaporating to form clouds. But some analysts still continue with that philosophy and call the coming wave as mobility wave. These do not do any good to either a vendor or the end-customer. Mobility started with notebooks & Wi-Fi. An SMB does not buy IT considering the wave, it does not even think whether the wave is waxing or waning. A typical SMB buys IT because it needs IT and the SMB with the help of channel partners becomes smart enough to understand what IT to buy to make itself more efficient, productive and profitable.


Waves were relevant more than a decade ago when technology products were evolving in piecemeal basis. Today all technologies are available at the same time and its adoption among SMBs is dependent upon the business plan.


Building Block IT


Enter the building blocks. SMBs started off their journey into IT by unknowingly using simple building block concepts. Their first purchase was always a PC which served as the foundational block. When they added employees and file sharing became important, they built a network and added a server – the next block stacked up on the foundational block. When they reached a certain size they added more servers, the third and subsequent blocks became applications such as CRM, ERP and Line of business. All of these blocks could not be added without the existence of the previous block. Very soon when an SMB reached a mid-market level of operation, the blocks were neatly stacked one on top of another. And when the blocks became vertically unstable, they brought in external experts such as consulting organizations to help manage these blocks and possibly break them into small chunks that could be easily maintained. SMBs looked for Enablement.



IT vendors thrived. Dell concentrated on the foundational block, Cisco connected the blocks, HP played with all block layers while IBM refocused to the top layers. Vendors like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle provided the layers that enabled the blocks.


The process of an SMB growth and its relative steps to absorb IT were steady and predictable. Some SMBs stacked the blocks faster than others but steps to get to the top of the block were always same. It was also dependent upon the financial capacity of an SMB to the extent that those with large dollars available for investment built the blocks faster not necessarily having the same end-results as SMBs with limited investment capabilities and which moved slower. Call it cutting edge versus laggards, but such nomenclature also never proved that the cutting edge SMBs were more efficient or profitable than the laggards. IT vendors and channels made money as they exploited the IT imbalance among various SMBs creating a race to reach the top of building blocks as fast as possible.


Flat IT


Enter Flat IT. Cloud, mobility, virtualization, and managed services have effectively toppled the blocks down in one fell sweep and have laid everything flat on the table. SMBs are now automatically empowered but they do not know it yet, because nobody has told them so directly. The concept of cutting edge and laggard has been torn apart because
it carries little meaning as SMBs now have a rich menu of solutions available that can be plugged into in a very short time. Now it is not a race to the top, but how can an SMB reach its full potential in the shortest period of time.


In a Flat world, with Flat IT, similar technology is now available across all countries and gap between developing and developed worlds is narrowing. In some of the emerging markets, IT is not only Flat but leapfrogging technologies as building blocks are not fully present. Where converged infrastructure is becoming a possibility, Cloud services will
be delivered via wireless.


Next week we will discuss how SMB IT has become Time & Size Agnostic and how the SMBs of today are transforming themselves.


Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle

  0 Comments

Whither India Netbooks – Channel Perceptions

In India the Netbooks were launched about 16-18 months ago, however, growth in terms of sales has been seen only in the last couple of months. One of the major reasons for the growth has been product promotions by the respective vendors by introducing a low-cost “cousin” of the notebook during the economic crisis period. Though the ratio of notebooks to Netbooks remains low the channels see the growth as a positive trend. Netbook volumes are being driven by businesses.

While the Netbook market is still in its nascent phase in India, the channels in India feel that there is a latent market opportunity within three different segments driven by either usage or price-points.

First Segment: Mobile Segment
Initially the netbooks are being purchased by “new-age customers who have a desire to stay connected at all times”. These are:

  • Students,

  • Frequent travelers,

  • Sales and marketing professionals


The market is seeing its usage in the corporate segment as businesses “are placing orders for Netbooks for those employees who were non-users of computing products earlier or for employees who are traveling. We are starting to see orders in batches of 10 netbooks to 25 netbooks for internal teams within SMBs and other businesses”. The low-cost is not the only factor for this segment driving sales, but portability, small size, internet connectivity and smooth functioning of Office applications are other reasons. The channel partners feel that netbooks successfully address an entry level price-point for the segment.

Second Segment: Second PC Household Segment
There are essentially two different types of consumer segments that are either purchasing netbooks or are currently investigating purchasing netbooks. The first type consists of students and children within households:

“Netbooks are essentially being purchased as a second PC by consumers in India. Netbooks may never become the choice for most Indian consumers, who are yet to buy their first PC, however parents are buying Netbooks for their younger children/toddlers for their educational needs or in lieu of video gaming products. This shift from notebook to Netbook preference is due reasonable price, low risk and easy maintenance.”

They see its usefulness in day to day activities like simple office applications or for music, entertainment, instant connectivity to social networking websites, video chatting, video streaming, E-mailing.

The second type of consumer segment is also buying Netbook as a second PC but who require and have a pressing need to segregate work units such as specifically for accounting or for side-business such as real estate or life insurance. They view that the basic applications for which a Netbook are web based applications, simple office applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint presentations. They see its usefulness in day to day activities like financial transactions and E-mailing.

Third Segment: “White Goods” Segment
Currently a Netbook is “tagged” as a computer/computing device and its price point is in the INR15,000 – INR20,000 (US$330 – US$450) range. Once the price point comes below INR10,000 (US$220) the market will likely explode. And that time the vendors should sell Netbooks as “white good gadget” and not as a computer. It will establish itself as an essential item to purchase by females within households, a “must-have” gadget/device/appliance. “We have seen many women of the household buying a Netbook but hesitatingly”.

Why hesitatingly? Channels feel that Intel should bring in some concrete marketing and promotional activities to create awareness for its Atom Processor as many consumers are more processor conscious. If consumers are buying a PC it is because they have the money to buy one and therefore they try to go for a notebook. This trend has been witnessed in the non-metro cities like Nashik, Cochin, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Allahabad , Ranchi to name a few where many consumers are buying their first PCs. With no space constraints and no travel needs, the consumers in Tier 3 and beyond cities follow the mantra of “Bigger the Better”.

Consumers buy cell phones based on price, plan and usage requirements. They do not know and do not care about the processor inside a cell phone. Netbooks although fitting a space between mobile phones and notebooks due to its inherent initial marketing is forcing the consumer to inquire about processors. “It is perceived as an advanced version of a PDA and a far better alternative to high end mobiles”. Channels themselves are selling PCs based on type of processor. Many channels in India believe that either Intel should create more awareness of its processor or take the discussion of processor completely out of the equation and lower the price points.

All major vendors such as Dell, HP, Acer, HCL and Lenovo have launched their Netbook models in India. Brands like MSI, Simmtronics Asus, Benq, Samsung, LG and Sony also have a presence in the Indian market. Many channel partners are of the opinion that if the respective vendors bring the price somewhere below INR10,000 with restructured margins there is no second thought that the demand for Netbooks will grow by leaps and bounds as it aims to provide mobility solution for users including traveling salesmen, housewives, teenagers and consumers who require a stylish internet-surfing device. Then it would not be used as a computing product but also be able to penetrate the market as a “white good gadget” fulfilling needs like video streaming, audio communication & entertainment and gaming. It would clearly become a single product substituting the mobile, MP3, MP4 players, DVD Players and PSP consoles.

A planned intelligent marketing strategy for netbooks is required.

Gitika Bajaj
Techaisle
  0 Comments

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