Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

February 23, 2009

Cloud Computing and Managed Services Opportunity – Is it the Large Enterprises or SMB/Mid-Market Enterprises?

The convergence of web delivered IT services – Cloud Computing, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Hosted Applications, Software-as-a-Service, Virtualization – will continue to redefine and add value to the SMB/mid-market IT services landscape, especially in the current economic climate.

Our outlook calls for rapid increase in adoption of various Cloud Computing and Managed Services components over the next 2-3 years as businesses look to cut costs and reduce capital expenses. This adoption will still be on a piece-meal – with Online Storage/Archival and related services, Hosted applications, Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery and SaaS delivered Business Applications being the most sought-after capabilities (SMB/Mid-Market Key IT Initiatives in the Current Market Environment blog). We see early adoption of these services starting in 2008-2009 and gaining more momentum into the mainstream market by 2011-2013 when the global economy emerges from the current financial conundrum.

It is interesting to see some of the SaaS companies like Salesforce.com focus on small number of enterprise accounts which account for half of their revenues through their direct sales force (they don’t have much of a channel presence). Even in the recent earnings call for NetSuite (again majority of the focus is on direct sales with some VAR efforts), all the financial analysts had questions only on the large account focus. In the U.S.(total 6.5 million businesses with commercial locations), there are less than 0.1% large enterprises(more than 1000 employees) and 0.4% midmarket-enterprises(500-999 employees); the remaining 99.5% are SMB companies. As the low hanging opportunities in large enterprises are already converted into customers, the growth of these SaaS companies is slowing. Why the continued focus on large enterprise, direct sales focus?

Well, to begin, if a vendor is serious about selling to the SMB segment, they should first seek to become their market channel, or connect to their channel – a strategy and value proposition they need to create. The SaaS value propositions that convinced the large enterprises do not always work well for the elusive SMB segment, which is a much more difficult and complicated market, but offers tremendous revenue potential. Although, with somewhat different value propositions, pricing and revenue models.

Who are the well positioned channels or links to the channel to enable selling to the SMB and mid-market enterprises? This can be addressed by segmenting this SMB/mid-market market and then looking at the channels that are well positioned to sell to the various segments based on the existing relationships and touch points. A topic for a future blog!

The vendors that have a good lead in the cloud computing segment are Amazon.com, some of the hosted services vendors like Rackspace and Savvis, and managed services vendors like Iron Mountain, IBM, BT and EMC. Virtualization will play a big role in this migration; vendors like Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are developing cloud services and platforms to help virtualize the data centers of some of the cloud solution and services vendors. Who out of these vendors understand how to navigate the complex SMB segment?

Cloud Computing and managed services providers (and their technology partners) need to learn from the business models of SaaS companies and early cloud computing vendors. Then put in place strategies and channels to capitalize on the huge IT services opportunity in the SMB and mid-market enterprises that lack the IT and financial resources of large enterprises, outside of the small number of technologically sophisticated SMBs and software developers (ISVs) that are the early adopters and have the IT resources to leverage the cloud solutions and services. In addition, by taking advantage of the internets’ low-cost marketing and delivery capabilities, companies can profitably mine the “long tail” of the SMB market.

February 6, 2009

IBM Dynamic Infrastructure Announcement and the Mid-Market Enterprise

With today’s ‘Dynamic Infrastructure’ initiative announcement, IBM is positioning itself as a holistic technology solution and service provider and partner. It combines all the element of separate cloud delivered services (cloud based, managed, and on-premise) and also traditional on-premise hardware, software and services.

  • Managed Services
  • Cloud Computing
  • Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service
  • Traditional on-premise based software, hardware and service

If IBM is to become a trusted partner of mid-market enterprises, they need to present a vision of a holistic technology/solutions partner that understands the mid-market enterprise and the value proposition that IBM’s Dynamic Infrastructure brings. Several vendors can offer pieces of these solutions like managed services or SaaS, etc., but no single vendor has the experience, product/services portfolio, industry experience and partner/ISV ecosystem to become this trusted partners. IBM has the market presence, solutions and partner ecosystem to be this vendor with the ‘Dynamic Infrastructure’ initiative.

Why will IBM be more successful with this strategy in the mid-market?

Several vendors have offered pieces of this service successfully to the SMB and mid-market. However, the mid-market enterprises has limited IT resources and technology expertise. Some of these businesses have adopted segments of this type of solution, piece-meal from several different vendors. Vendor A provides managed security service, vendor B provides online backup service, the vendor C provides on-premise virtualization solutions, etc. When the mid-market enterprise experiences problems – they don’t know who to turn to. Some managed service providers (MSPs) are re-inventing themselves as aggregators of several of these services and have started to see partial success. These MSPs lack some of the deep industry/technology expertise and also some of the flexible computing cloud computing infrastructure that provides the reliability, high-availability and SLA’s essential for getting the mindshare of mid-market enterprises for whom things like these are critical.

How will this service resonate with mid-market enterprises in today’s tough economic climate?

  • If these recessionary conditions are deep and protracted – the mid-market enterprises need to reduce costs by reducing IT resources, postponing upgrades of existing IT infrastructure and applications. These enterprises (especially if they are growth oriented companies) will be able to benefit significantly by this initiatives. When looking at a 3-5 year TCO provided by this initiative. This initiative helps preserve upfront capital expenditures and cash and shifts them to monthly operational expenses.
    • IBM can also benefit with the availability of IBM Financial Services programs for the mid-market
  • If these recessionary conditions are shallow and short – mid-market enterprises will be more inclined to stay the course and possibly look at new initiatives like ‘Dynamic Infrastructure’ over a longer time horizon.

What IBM needs to do to win in the mid-market enterprise with this initiative?

  • Need to engage the regional mid-market service providers(MSPs) more as they have the direct relationship with the mid-market customers.
  • These mid-market service providers can provide the ongoing day-day relationship with the client, 7X24 active management of the services provided to their client, onsite component of the interaction with the client.
  • These MSPs will provide the on-going care-and-feeding and training required to make this program successful.
  • IBM needs to provide a more comprehensive value proposition and short-term ROI with financing and flexible payment plans to get the mindshare of the mid-market enterprises and the ecosystem partners.
  • Convince VAR to work with IBM to offer a bigger portfolio of IBM Dynamic Infrastructure services.

February 4, 2009

SMB’s turning to Conferencing Solutions in tough economic times

In today’s tough economic times, driven by higher travel costs, staff reduction, and tight credit – SMB are turning to solutions that will reduce costs and provide clearly identifiable short-term ROI. In the past year, conferencing solutions service providers that provide hosted audio and integrated web/video conferencing services are experiencing dramatic increases in adoption of these services among SMBs and mid-market enterprises. Not only are more SMBs adopting these solutions, the existing users of these solutions are also using these solutions more often.

  • Audio Conferencing (leading vendors – Intercall, ATT, Verizon ,IP-PBX and hosted VoIP vendors):
    • Distributed workforce conference calls
    • Improve employee collaboration and productivity
    • Support for mobility, don’t need to be in front of screen for conference
    • No need to be at desktop, works well when on the road
    • Integration of VoIP solutions reduces costs by reducing call toll charges
    • Increased adoption of podcasts
  • Web Conferencing (leading vendors – Cisco/WebEx, Microsoft LiveMeeting, Citrix OnLine Go-To-Meeting, IBM Sametime Unyte and Lotus SameTime):
    • Easy-to-use
    • Save travel costs and participant time
    • Support revenue generation activities
    • Availability of hosted service with pay-as-you-go
    • Ability to host impromptu meetings
    • Improve employee collaboration & productivity
    • Better support a global distributed workforce
    • Improve organizations efficiency
    • Better communication and collaboration between employees, customers, partners, suppliers
    • Fewer number of experts become more productive by scaling knowledge
  • Video Conferencing (leading vendors – Polycom, Tandberg,Lifesize,Cisco/Webex,IBM):
    • Save travel costs and meeting expenses
    • Need to interconnect distributed branch
    • Better and more interactive communication and collaboration between employees
    • Ability to utilize off-the-shelf video cameras and headsets
    • Availability of affordable web and on-premise based solutions
    • Increased bandwidth availability
    • Increased adoption of rich media communications – video
    • Better interaction with outsourcing partners
    • Fewer number of experts become more productive by scaling knowledge


This bodes well for the vendors, VAR’s and service providers involved with selling these conferencing solutions. However, businesses need to be careful when selecting a vendor. Stability and financial viability of vendors/service providers becomes more important in the current economic climate, as startups feel the squeeze.


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