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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.

SMB Server virtualization penetration is increasing but challenges remain

Techaisle’s SMB Server Virtualization adoption market trends study shows that US SMB server virtualization penetration has reached 54 percent (un-weighted), up from 41 percent two years ago. Within midmarket businesses the penetration has reached 88 percent and another 7 percent are planning in the next one year.

Figure below uses data from multiple surveys to illustrate trends in virtualization penetration within SMB accounts that have adopted server virtualization. In 2013 the proportions of servers virtualized was very similar across all employee size categories, ranging from 61%-62% in microbusinesses (which sometimes only have one server, making virtualization an all-or-nothing proposition) to just over 50% in midmarket enterprises with 500-999 employees, which can be expected to have many servers. The statistics for 2014 show virtualization penetration rising in all employee-size segments: rapidly in microbusinesses and the 500-999 midmarket enterprises, and gradually in other SMB segments. The perspective on future intentions, drawn from the Techaisle SMB 2015 survey, indicates that these trends will continue and accelerate. Microbusinesses and larger SMBs (including both the 250-499 and the 500-999 segments) are expecting rapid further penetration of virtualized servers, and the other midmarket segments are expecting a further 6%-10% of servers to be virtualized.

percent-servers-virtualized-within-smbs-2015-techaisle

What does this trend mean to the market?

Clearly, there is increasing opportunity for hypervisor sales, and Techaisle would expect that VMware will find purchase within companies looking to connect virtualized servers to other infrastructure assets (especially, for example, hybrid cloud or software-defined networking or storage), while alternative suppliers, such as Microsoft, gain share in the core market as multi-hypervisor strategies become more common. Techaisle expects that this trend also indicates increased opportunity for converged infrastructure products as these systems can be used to capitalize on advanced virtualization capabilities.

Location of Virtualized servers

A comparison of 2013 and 2015 research results shows that within each employee size segment, SMB end-user organizations are becoming more likely to virtualize servers that are located outside of their business premises. Across the entire SMB community, there has been a 45% increase in off-premise virtualized servers in the past two years: an enormous shift that highlights the broader shift towards remote management of infrastructure resource.

location-of-virtualized-servers-smbs-2015-techaisle

If virtualizing servers is so popular – why isn’t it universal?

The Techaisle interview of 848 US SMB ITDMs uncovered a number of reasons why SMBs struggle with virtualization adoption. The top five challenges cited in the research illustrate the complexity that can accompany infrastructure changes.

The most prominent challenge, cited by 34% of SMB respondents, was the high cost of virtualization licenses, which may explain why the expansion of virtualization within current user accounts often includes investigation of (and in many cases, migration to) a multi-hypervisor strategy that adds “free” options such as Hyper-V and Xen.

top-5-server-virtualization-smb-challenges-2015-techaisle

The third most common challenge is that management of virtual servers proved to be more difficult than anticipated, which may reflect initial learning curve struggles and/or incremental complexities associated with environments relying on multiple hypervisors.

The second leading challenge, “projected cost/space/power savings not achieved,” highlights both the cost and complexity issues: it can be difficult to obtain projected densities/utilization rates during the adoption/migration period, and expenses can escalate in several ways: due to costs associated with virtualization solution licenses, and also because of the “high cost of ISV licenses for applications running in a virtualized environment” and generally higher-than-anticipated project costs. It is worth noting as well that in small businesses (1-99 employees), “lack of experience” is also seen as a major server virtualization challenge, cited by 22% of survey respondents.

On the positive side, the relatively high level of server virtualization experience found within the SMB channel partners (Techaisle SMB Channel Trends study) may help mitigate this issue – but it should act as a caution when evaluating market outlooks for VDI and DaaS, where experience levels within both the SMB buyer and SMB channel communities are much lower.

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VMware Mobility Solution: Innovation to Execution

Techaisle Take

VMware won – handily – the battle for leadership in server virtualization. The company attained broad acceptance within companies looking to bridge the gap between growth in compute demand and contraction in CAPEX budgets, and then drove penetration within these accounts, to the point where virtualization is the default approach to servers, and VMware is the de facto standard for virtualization within the data center.

The issue for VMware now is – what next? There is still some opportunity for growth in server virtualization, but customers are starting to hedge their virtualization bets by moving to multi-hypervisor strategies, including Hyper-V, Xen, and/or KVM within their environments. While successfully competing in its core market is essential, the “next big thing” for VMware isn’t found in beating back smaller server competitors – it’s expanding into the two big adjacent markets, client virtualization and cloud infrastructure management.

The client virtualization space poses some interesting challenges and opportunities, especially in the SMB market. Mobility has become a “must have” capability in today’s IT portfolio, but there’s no single, well-established path to deploying it: the visible hardware vendors (Apple, Samsung) don’t provide enterprise-grade solutions, and there is no existing standard for the various software components required to seamlessly support corporate and BYOD devices in an enterprise network. At the virtualization layer, Citrix is the current and clear leader, but anticipated growth provides enough opportunity for multiple competitors and strategies.

With its Horizon portfolio, VMware is attempting to position itself as an enterprise-grade answer to mobility requirements. The approach is interesting – but will it resonate with the channel serving the millions of SMB customers that fueled VMware’s success in server virtualization?

End-user Computing

Last week’s VMworld was a showcase for messaging about execution. Bite-sized announcements centered around three key areas – end-user computing, hybrid cloud services and software-defined data centers.  End-user computing is perhaps the most exciting for small and mid-market businesses as it directly feeds into their voracious appetite for mobility.

Techaisle study shows that the worldwide SMB Mobile Workforce will grow to 298 million by 2016 at 6.3 percent CAGR from 2013. Nearly 150 million SMB employees will be telecommuting and 120 million will be traveling on business. We are in a mobility cycle now that is characterized by intense competition for hardware, system software and applications leadership. The wave is young enough to offer margins on hardware, software and services, but as de facto standards become more entrenched this market will consolidate, and reseller focus will move to recurring service revenue as the margins erode in the hardware space.

With rapid increase in number of mobile workers, there are five main concerns that are percolating to the top of SMB's concerns: Cost of solutions that support mobile workers, security from theft and data privacy, mobile data pricing, transaction security and mobile device pricing. Recognizing some of these issues, Sanjay Poonen, VMware EVP & General Manager, End-User Computing said, “Mobility is a management and security problem”.

To cover its bases, VMware is currently betting on its Horizon Suite consisting of three products:

  1. Horizon View: VMware’s Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering powered by View
  2. Horizon Mirage: VMware’s physical desktop management tool based on its Wanova acquisition
  3. Horizon Workspace: VMware’s mobility management solution enabling mobile users to access corporate data, applications and virtual desktops from different endpoint devices

As Ben Goodman, Lead Evangelist, End-User Computing told Techaisle, “Workspace is a single space for getting your stuff”. It will include MDM (Mobile Device Management), MAM (Mobile Application Management) and plans are afoot to develop MIM (Mobile Information Management) and MCM (Mobile Content Management).


VMware is slightly late into the SMB mobility space as most SMB-focused channel partners are offering Citrix solutions and a plethora of niche MDM solutions for SMBs. But Sanjay Poonen’s aggressiveness was palpable. He plans to invest heavily to drive growth in VDI. VMware is bullish on the potential for its installed base of 500,000 customers, many of them SMBs, to become customers for its mobility solutions. It plans to focus on IT (not just end-users) who are open to centralized policy management and who agree with VMware’s vision that mobility is part of a larger platform. This strategy has its advantages and disadvantages. By VMware’s own admission, Horizon Suite lies in the chasm between Innovators and Early Adopters along the adoption curve. For VMware, Early Majority to Laggards is a big white space. But this highly fragmented, disjoined white space within the SMBs is getting filled with its competitors. To achieve success, VMware must:

  1. Target its customers that have yet to adopt mobility management solutions
  2. Target its customers who are willing to rip and replace
  3. Target SMBs that are still investigating viable mobility management solutions


MDM and MAM are by far the most prominent top-of-mind issues for SMBs across different geographies. Surveys conducted by Techaisle reveal that SMBs worry about these issues a lot, but fail to protect themselves adequately. A Techaisle survey of 9,500 SMBs across different geographies found that accidental loss of device followed by imminent danger of mobile viruses are the top concerns of SMBs while using mobile applications. This clearly demonstrates the need for remote mobile device management, authentication, and remote erasure of data.

For a vendor like VMware, the route to these SMBs is through channel partners, who are themselves increasingly turning towards their vendor suppliers as their trusted advisors. Techaisle’s channel partner study shows that on the technology side of the business, 50 percent of channel partners want training on mobility solutions including VDI, DaaS and BYOD. Partners are also looking for help in marketing: to help position these solutions to customers, 42 percent of channel partners are looking for case studies that are relevant to their own client base. In addition, channels want to acquire capabilities to be able to customize mobility solutions for their SMB client base. Affordable maintenance and support, ease of use and features and functionalities suitable for SMB needs are top sales messaging that are being used by channel partners to sell end-user computing solutions.

Clearly, VMware has to use every trick it has in its arsenal to address these issues if it is to make end-user computing market segment the “next step” in its overall growth strategy.

For more information on Techaisle mobility and/or channel research, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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SMBs Mixing and Matching Vendors to Find Best Virtualization Solutions

Techaisle’s SMB technology adoption study shows that 72 percent of SMBs find Virtualization to be one of the most relevant technologies for their business, 2nd only to backup and disaster recovery. The actual adoption gets hindered because 56 percent of SMBs find Virtualization to also be one the most complex technologies to understand and adopt. (See infographic)

SMBs cite several reasons for adopting server virtualization; key among them are reducing operating cost, backup and disaster recovery and reducing cost of IT support. Improving existing server and hardware systems utilization is mentioned by 32 percent of SMBs.

In our survey of SMBs either currently using or planning to use Virtualization technologies we found that SMBs currently using Virtualization tended to have a mixed brand Virtualization environment, not relying on a single vendor for the solution, but mixing and matching as they saw appropriate based on their specific requirements.

techaisle-smb-diverse-virtualization-installations


For example, the above chart shows that within VMware Server Virtualization environments, 66 percent of SMBs also use VMware client Virtualization technology, with both Microsoft and Citrix making up the difference for the client side. Similarly, 78 percent of SMBs that use Microsoft server Virtualization also use Microsoft client Virtualization. Several other findings become apparent from the above chart:

  • VMware and Citrix have the most relatively mixed virtualization environment as compared to Microsoft

  • Citrix and Microsoft may have a slightly deeper partnership that enables SMBs using Citrix server Virtualization to be combined with Microsoft client Virtualization more easily and cost effectively


However, we cannot look at the above chart in isolation. SMBs have been using Virtualization technologies as the market developed.

In the words of one VP of IT for a mid-market business, “We use Citrix, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and emulation from Ericom. There are ‘n’ numbers of products that are being used in the whole gamut of things”.

The Venn diagram below not only exposes the vulnerabilities faced by Virtualization vendors but also demonstrates that the market is big enough for solutions from all vendors to work in a heterogeneous IT environment.

techaisle-smb-virtualization-mixed-brand-adoption


For example, the above Venn diagram shows that only 12 percent of SMBs use only VMware Virtualization solution which is twice that of Citrix and almost one-fourth of Microsoft. And 9 percent of SMBs use Virtualization solutions from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. Once we start to include solutions from Parallels, NComputing, Oracle and others the overlaps become very complicated to map.


Our research found that SMBs usually go through a round of server consolidation before moving to Virtualization.

“The very first step was actually to go for server consolidation. Once the servers were consolidated, then the desktop virtualization was performed. So, typically for VDI architecture or any other technology, the first thing is the server consolidation and after that the procurement of solution and licenses were done from VMware and Citrix for the VDI and after which the user terminals were changed”, this according to one IT Director, Mid-market business.

Not all Virtualization projects finish smoothly. SMBs have also had different experiences with each of the three major brands for server Virtualization projects as shown in the chart below:

techaisle-smb-virtualization-project-implementation-issues


The factors affecting each of the projects could be dependent upon:

  • SMBs’ readiness

  • Channel partners’ capabilities


However, the top 3 most common areas that need addressing are Compatibility Issues, Cost Overruns and Lack of Experience, which are perennial issues as all SMB users adopt new technologies.

“The major challenge was the cost, because the initial hardware investment was huge. Getting rid of the system and moving to the cloud and installing virtual servers required purchasing of physical storage and upgrading the system. Another challenge that we faced was the initial configuration which was addressed timely and efficiently by our partners”, Vice President, IT (500 employee size company).

But SMBs have gained tremendous advantages from using Virtualization. “It certainly has helped us to avail richer network services without increasing our capital investment and has increased our operational efficiency. Moreover computing and networking are much simplified now”.

For additional information on this and other topics from the blog, please feel free to contact us for a discussion and gratis consultation.

To purchase Techaisle’s SMB Virtualization Trends and Adoption study or engage Techaisle in a deep-dive custom research please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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VMware: Serious SMB Focus, Re-ignited SMB Strategy

A new and restructured VMware took the stage at VMworld 2012 amid major changes driven by commoditization of “must-have” virtualization technology within enterprises and a cultural change where mobility is driving many technology decisions. Although the most important announcements included the vCloud Suite, the software-defined datacenter and the death of vRAM pricing, there were several other pronouncements that were especially relevant to SMBs, most significantly vSphere 5.1.

VMware has always offered solutions that were appropriate for the SMB market, but have not been considered a priority as the enterprise business segment, without real competition, kept VMware busy, growing and profitable. However, over the past two years SMBs have begun to grow in importance for VMware driven by several factors:

  • The Enterprise segment has become increasingly virtualized (saturated) and starting to look more limited in growth prospects; the remaining high growth areas relegated  to emerging market countries and increasing penetration of workload yet to be virtualized within the mature economies

  • SMBs have overcome their initial hesitation with cloud-based services and become increasingly comfortable with using emerging Cloud technologies and Cloud Computing in general

  • Mobility and use of multiple devices anytime and from anywhere is becoming increasingly important within the SMB segment

  • Consultants and channel partners serving the SMB segment have evangelized the advantages of virtualization that enable SMBs to reduce IT management costs, provide better security and disaster recovery and improve application accessibility

  • After a slow start, Microsoft made a strong move into the virtualization space at low price points, expanding the awareness of virtualization within their SMB base

  • Microsoft’s huge base of channel partners found it easy to market Microsoft’s virtualization solutions to their customers


As a result of the above factors, SMB market segment began to appear like a growing and untapped opportunity deserving serious consideration and potentially aggressive investment.

SMB Virtualization Opportunity

Our research shows that this consideration has plenty of merit: a recent Techaisle survey of 3,300 SMBs in US, UK, Germany clearly shows that virtualization is now among the top 3 relevant technologies for small and mid-market businesses (SMBs) and rapid growth is expected to continue. Typically, SMBs begin their virtualization journey with either desktop or server virtualization and based on that success, move to other virtualization technologies. This relatively newfound interest among SMBs bodes extremely well for VMware and its channel partners.


 There is no doubt that SMB Server Virtualization is a huge opportunity. Techaisle survey of 3,300 SMBs in US, UK, Germany clearly shows that opportunity is real. If VMware does not move aggressively, others will move in rapidly.



Important VMware SMB Announcements

vSphere 5.1 (there are two versions) with vSphere Essentials Kits for SMBs for up to 250 employees on a single site or vSphere 5.1 with vSphere Acceleration Kits for SMBs with 250+ employees across two or more sites were by far the most significant product announcements for small and mid-market businesses as they are targeted directly at the mid-market space in terms of functionality, price, ease of installation and deployment.

Pricing starts at US$495 for vSphere Essentials and goes up to US$4,495 for vSphere Essential Plus that includes  vMotion (for live migration of virtual machines, no shared storage), endpoint security, high availability and fault tolerance, data protection and replication features , vSphere Storage Appliance. With this new version, VMware has simplified the installation of storage appliance and a one-to-one relationship between vCenter and vSphere Storage Appliance is no longer a requirement.

vSphere Acceleration Kits includes everything that is available in vSphere Essentials plus IT operations management, application inventory and patching, powerful and efficient resource management, and policy-based automation. The pricing starts at US$6,995 per 6-CPU license.  And a new solution, vSphere Standard with Operations Management, includes all the enhanced features of vSphere Standard plus vCenter Operations Manager and vCenter Protect for operations management, application inventory and patching in one bundle for $10,000 per 6 CPU license.

For those SMBs that are tip-toeing into the virtualization arena, there is VMware Go Pro (first announced in January 2011) which is a web-based service to deploy, manage and maintain virtualized environments, and lowering barriers to entry. It offers the ability to convert physical servers to virtual servers through a browser. In fact cloud-based virtual machine capability is a new feature. Incidentally, 30 free endpoint licenses of VMware Go Pro is included in every new purchase for vSphere Essentials or Essentials Plus Kit purchases until December 15, 2012.

VMware View is VMware’s VDI solution and its upcoming Horizon Suite beta is the answer for centralized application and data management addressing the needs of SMBs that are using VDI as a fast-path to mobility.

Techaisle Takeaway

Right Direction by VMware in Addressing the Needs of SMBs

With these virtualization solutions VMware is potentially addressing important needs of SMBs considering virtualization including simplified management, backup and recovery, and security.  The solutions allow SMBs to take advantage of existing investments by relying on the same management interfaces used to secure physical environments. These are the types of characteristics that SMBs have embraced wholeheartedly in other areas of Cloud-based Services, which led to rapid adoption and overthrow of the expensive and overly-complex Client-Server approach to IT.

Included in the offering is a backup and recovery solution for complete data protection for virtual machines and virtual machine level replication. In addition the storage appliance (now included in vSphere Essentials Plus and all vSphere Acceleration Kits) allows SMBs to easily and cost-effectively deploy shared storage even in remote and branch offices. VMware vShield Endpoint helps in strengthening security for virtual machines while delegating antivirus and anti-malware agent processing to a dedicated secure virtual appliance.

There were other solutions that were announced by VMware, primarily targeted at the enterprise segment, but we believe, with some modifications are equally relevant for the SMBs. These are software-defined datacenters and Cloud Operations Services.

Enterprise Targeted Solutions Equally Relevant for SMBs

Software defined datacenters: While relatively unknown to SMBs at this stage, this future mainstay will become highly relevant within the next 3 – 5 years. It is therefore essential for VMware to keep in mind the specific design points and requirements of SMBs in addition to the larger accounts as it develops its product and strategy for software-defined-datacenters. SMBs continue to be concerned about the increasing complexity of IT and 77% have expressed the concern in a recent survey. While provisioning VMs (virtual machines) may only take a few minutes, when storage and networking components are added, the proposition begins to become more complex, requiring more time and resources.  Based on how SMBs are adopting cloud-based services and looking at some of the new, innovative services platform technologies that are gaining quick acceptance in the market, there seems to be some space in the market for a plug-and-play “base datacenter package” that would be appropriate for SMBs in this area.  In a nutshell, this base package should allow rapid provisioning of the key components of the environment (compute, storage, and network) as a virtual datacenter. As SMBs expand operations and grow regionally, the ability to quickly re-configure new and existing locations by shrinking, extending or moving virtual machines along with networking to meet elastic demand requirements would be a very valuable proposition.

Tools for the SMB Trusted Advisor

VMware Cloud Operations Services:  currently positioned as a trusted advisor for CIOs of enterprises on a cloud journey.  It also seems the market is in real need of a simplified and cost-effective version of the services that will be equally relevant for the SMB segment. Techaisle surveys have found that in the rush to implement Cloud Services, users especially among Small Businesses, are beginning to rely much more on independent IT Consultants as their new source of advice. Also, based on the ability of vendors to market, sell and deliver these services completely through a digital channel, SMBs are turning directly to vendors for their advice. As discussed in a previous post, the critical issue, now more than ever, is to be the trusted advisor early in the SMB’s lifecycle and establish the relationship. VMware will also have to empower its channel partners with new training modules, competencies and financial incentive to offer advisory services, and come in and get these new offers up and running fast and right on the first try - the sure fire way to start a long term relationship with the SMB customer.

vRAM Pricing Still Ruling for Service Providers

Finally, it is not out of place to say that although vRAM pricing is dead, it is still the licensing metric for the VSPP (channel program). vRAM pricing for service providers is a different model - whereas vRAM for perpetual was a limitation on the entitlement, in VSPP it is the metric. Although the model allows service providers to offer their customers the benefits of opex-based “pay-as-you-go” service it may leave some smaller-sized service providers wanting more.  These service providers should work closely with VMware to determine possibles solution for their SMB customer needs. For example, in cases where,

  1. SMB customers on a perpetual license wanting to move from an on-premise to a hosted solution specially if they would be operating below the RAM caps

  2. SMB customers electing to use a mixed virtualization environment in a hosted model


As SMBs continue to adopt cloud services and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) becomes mainstream for SMBs, VMware needs to develop a strategy that encourages the hosting providers to address the SMB segment by having same consistent pricing, that is, per processor for both on-premise and hosted models. Until that happens, VMware is potentially opening the doors wider to competing products.

Concluding Remarks

It is quite apparent that VMware is committed to serving the needs of the SMB segment clearly demonstrated by its well thought out product enhancements, packaging and roadmap.  Centralized management and control, ability to “plug in” branch offices, keeping costs manageable and allowing existing IT staff to focus on measurable value are huge value propositions to SMBs. It is also a new service that SMB focused service providers can offer by leveraging these centralized management tools and better support their customers.  It is an excellent opportunity for the channel, which is being rapidly disintermediated by the rise of vendor direct online marketing, new consulting competitors and redeployed internal IT resources, which we have covered in depth in another post. A recent Techaisle study of over 1600 Channel Partners shows many of these partners are struggling for lack of serious value-added opportunities and could benefit from VMware’s new SMB offers.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle


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