Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

March 19, 2009

Why are SMBs and Mid-Market Enterprises interested in Cloud Computing?

As SMBs and mid-market enterprises are looking at their IT budget and face the realities to cut them, they look at what is discretionary and what can be supported through innovative IT strategies. However, at the same time they need to adopt new technology solutions that will make them more competitive in the current economic environment and prepares them to grow when the economy improves. They following arguments shed light on why these companies are actively exploring various cloud computing initiatives:

  • Vendors Making it Easy to Adopt Cloud Services – Amazon leads the cloud computing movement because they make it very easy for companies to adopt their platform and storage services with implementation and pricing services that are easy to understand and try without the need for complex contracts and pricing. Vendors that seek to service the SMB market need to learn from the simplicity and flexibility of the Amazon Web Services model.
  • Change in Appetite for Risk – SMB and mid-market companies focus on risk has changed, driven by the realities of the current economic environment. Instead of making do with outdated systems and slowing adoption of new technologies, these companies are now more comfortable with the risks associated with cloud computing solutions. This is driven by examples of success achieved by some of the high-profile companies through “show-me” examples. They are feeling more comfortable with security, access and reliability issues.
  • More Effective Backup and Disaster Recovery SMBs usually do not have remote data centers. Cloud services provide them the ability to encapsulate the internal virtual machines and replicate them to the cloud off-site. Virtualization vendors like VMware and Citrix are making this easier.
  • Shift away from New On-premise Hardware Purchases – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises look at the Key IT initiatives that are being considered in the decision-making processes, initiatives that will help save costs and show quick ROI are getting attention. IT strategies based on flexible monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment is gaining momentum. New hardware purchases and upgrades have a lower priority; business applications that are critical to the business operations are getting approval. However, implementing new business applications sometimes require additional new hardware purchases, the spending on hardware purchases can be alleviated by adopting flexible pay-as-you-use cloud computing solutions and services with business applications which are delivered software-as-a-service (examples NetSuite and Salesforce.com) or hosted in the cloud (example Rackspace).
  • Increase in Adoption of Virtualization – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises adoption of virtualization solutions enters mainstream, adoption of cloud computing solutions is becoming easier.
  • Significantly Reduced Application Implementation Time – SMBs don’t have to go through a two week purchase order process and an additional two weeks of configuration and testing before an application is available for productive use.
  • ISVs Solutions Supporting Cloud Platforms – Majority of the ISVs are now developing solutions that are multi-tenant and built to be delivered over the cloud. Some of them are using cloud platforms like force.com or Quickbase built to support cloud solutions.
  • Savings in Power and Data Center Space – Cloud computing enable SMBs to control server and storage sprawl by moving some of the applications and storage to the cloud vendors data centers, freeing up data center space and at the same time saving on power consumption costs. These SMBs do not want any more hardware in their equipment closets.

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.

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