For years, I have been watching all sorts of research predictions about IT spending plans. But for the past three or four years, I have put less credence in them.
That’s mainly because I feel that focusing strictly on what businesses are saying they intend to spend for hardware or software or networking gear over a given time period under-represents what they are actually willing to pay for a solution to a business problem – a solution that happens to be based on technology.
In my mind, there are quite a few businesses — at least the ones that are thinking about the future — that are willing to spend more on technology than their actual IT budget suggests, if that technology helps address a specific business need.
So, instead of trying to figure out the size of a given company’s technology line item and how much of it they can claim, solution providers should be thinking about what portion of each business process is dependent on technology. And on helping the business decision-maker in charge of that process find the money to improve it.
This really isn’t a new concept for the IT solution providers of this world that spend their time really consulting with their clients about their plans and that take the time to figure out what is motivating them.
What’s different right now is the fact that the services are now in place that make it simpler for businesses to make those decisions and to act without having to wait in line for an internal IT department.
Research firm Gartner calls this “The Nexus” – a convergence of social, mobility, cloud infrastructure and information management trends that are “digitizing” different segments of their business.
Marketing is a great example of a business function that is being completely transformed by these things. Historically speaking, the marketing function may not have requested many of its own applications (or been allocated all that much). But now, a much larger portion of what marketing teams spend is being dedicated to all sorts of new cloud services tied to the social media world.
Gartner figures that in the past, about 20 percent of all technology spending was outside the domain of the IT department. By the end of this decade, it will account for 90 percent, the research firm predicts.
“The Chief Digital Officer will prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead, and IT leaders have the opportunity to be the leaders who will define it,” said David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst for Gartner. “The Chief Digital Officer plays in the place where the enterprise meets the customer, where the revenue is generated and the mission accomplished. They’re in charge of the digital business strategy. That’s a long way from running back-office IT, and it’s full of opportunity.”
In just three years, one-quarter of all companies will have a Chief Digital Officer, Willis believes.
That will create even more fragmentation — and opportunity — when it comes to helping companies manage those digital services in the context of the larger picture. Security, in particular, will play a critical role. In fact, Gartner forecasts a 56 percent increase in overall spending on security solutions, while usage of cloud security services “will almost triple.”
Whether or not you believe those numbers, the shift that is going on is very real. The existence of cloud services – which may or may not have to be approved by an IT contact before they show up on a credit card or invoice – is completely rewriting the rules of engagement for solution providers.
You can choose to lament that fact or use this as an opportunity to dig deeper into organizations to find the right decision-makers, who may be willing to spend more than the IT budget spending data suggests.
Every fall, many CIOs and information managers flock to the annual Gartner conference to hear the research company’s proclamations and predictions about the IT world for the upcoming year. I won’t regurgitate all of the items on the latest list issued this week, but I do want to hone in on five trends that I believe will have particular relevance for IT solution providers.
- Windows 8 won’t really matter until 2015. Just two days ago, Microsoft went nuts with its big Windows 8 operating system launch – an upgrade that is a dramatic departure from the past. Gartner is suggesting that 90 percent of enterprises will wait until the OS becomes more stable – maybe by 2015 – before they opt for broad migrations. That’s probably true, but I think that smaller companies that are using tablets in any kind of meaningful way for their business will move sooner – because of the software’s close link with that form factor.
- Big data will drive the creation of 4.4 million jobs. The second part of that prediction is that two-thirds of those jobs will go unfilled, which means enormous service opportunities for VARs and systems integrators that spend time developing practices that can support interest in solutions for data management, analytics and related business expertise. Incidentally, a separate Gartner report out in mid-October predicts that big data will account for $28 billion in IT spending in 2012.
- 40 percent of enterprises will suffer mobile information leaks by 2017. Because so many people are now using smartphones or tablets for both personal and professional purposes, this will affect how corporate contact information is being used. This is especially true for those using Facebook – the social network now downloads personal information from profiles indiscriminately. So, companies need to think more carefully about how to protect customer records and other private information.
- The number of employee-owned devices compromised by mobile malware will be twice that for company-owned devices. While it is unlikely that this will thwart the BYOD trend, it offers another good reason why IT services companies should be involved with helping their customers define clear policies for managing these devices.
- Market consolidation will displace 20 percent of the top 100 IT service providers. Gartner believes that the converging forces of mobility, big data, cloud services and social media (not necessarily in that order) will accelerate a consolidation between the biggest outsourcing companies and systems integrators — especially those that fail to redefine their value-add. That could be a good thing for smaller channel players that really take the time to specialize or that can provide the benefit of local touch.
There is no denying the fact that direct purchasing and retail channels account for a larger portion of IT hardware sales than in the past, but small and midsize businesses (SMBs) prefer to work with VARs and systems integrators to define their strategies for networking, storage and server solutions, according to research from NPD Group.
The value-added channel still accounts for at least one-third of core IT hardware sales, according to the research firm’s SMB Technology Monitor.
“While direct selling is well-established in low value categories, we are seeing SMBs of all sizes turn to value-added channels to provide them with complex products such as servers and networking infrastructure,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD, in a press release about the data.
Another interesting trend: really small businesses that used to default to retail or e-commerce channels for almost all of their technology purchases are more inclined to see the advice of VARs for managing their networking and storage needs. Approximately one-third of them will look to the value-added channel for their purchasing needs in these categories during the next 12 months, according to the NPD research.
“Smaller SMBs use more channels and use them more diversely across product categories,” Baker said.
More evidence of how software as a service and other forms of cloud computing are reshaping IT infrastructure is out this week in the form of IDC data showing that the number of data centers started shrinking in 2009.
That’s significant because the amount of data center capacity grew by about 1 percent in the same time frame, according to the IDC Datacenter 2012-2016 forecast.
The data center consolidation that began accelerating in 2009 is inspiring the closure of literally hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller remote locations, many of them smaller data center closets or server rooms. That trend will continue: the number of data centers in the United States will decline to about 2.89 million by 2016, compared with 2.94 million this year, according to the IDC predictions.
At the same time, individual data centers will get significantly bigger. Total data center space will grow to more than 700 million square feet in 2016 versus 611.4 million in 2012. Fewer locations plus more space means the average size of each data center is growing, although IDC doesn’t offer a figure in its press release about the report.
Cloud service providers are helping drive this shift and will account for more than one-quarter of all the U.S. data center capacity by the end of the forecast period.
“CIOs are increasingly being asked to improve business agility while reducing the cost of doing business through aggressive use of technologies in the data center,” said Rick Villara, vice president of Datacenter and Cloud Research at IDC. “At the same time, they have to ensure the integrity of the business and its information assets in the face of natural disasters, datacenter disruptions or local system failures. To achieve both sets of objectives, IT decision maker had to rethink their approach to the datacenter.”
The primary implications for technology solution providers are twofold.
Those who have been primarily focused on data center installations supporting branch offices of larger companies could see that business disappear during the consolidation movement, unless they focus on helping drive that consolidation in the first.
What’s more, the movement toward larger cloud service providers will mean that MSPs will need to keep adding value to their own infrastructure service offerings – or risk losing out to economies of scale.
How many other IT product sectors can claim nine quarters of consecutive year-over-year sales growth?
Worldwide revenue for security appliances rose 6.3 percent during the second quarter, compared with the same time period in 2011, reaching slightly less than $2 billion, according to ongoing data collected and reported by International Data Corp. (IDC) If you want that expressed in unit shipments, we’re talking 6.5 percent growth to reach slightly less than 500,000 devices for the second quarter.
That IS slower than the results for the first quarter of 2012, in which revenue for the security appliance segment grew 9.7 percent while unit shipments expanded 12.9 percent compared with last year.
Strong sales for unified threat management products were a highlight during the second quarter, IDC reported. The category represented about 27.8 percent of the total security appliance market during the quarter, posting 19 percent year-over-year growth.
From a regional perspective, security appliance revenue in the United States grew a healthy 8 percent, IDC said. But the fastest-growing geography was Latin America, which reported an 18.6 percent year-over-year increase. Sales growth in Central and Eastern Europe was only slightly behind that, reaching 18.5 percent.
The top five vendors in the market captured almost half of the total revenue. The leader, Cisco, slipped while Fortinet’s sales leapt.
Here are those companies, ranked by the percentage of total revenue claimed by each vendor in the second quarter:
- Cisco (17.6 percent, off 1.1 percent)
- Check Point (13 percent, up 15.8 percent)
- Juniper (7.3 percent, off 0.1 percent)
- Fortinet (5.9 percent, up 26.9 percent)
- McAfee (5.6 percent, up 12.2 percent)
There used to be a time when a Microsoft Windows operating system release inspired the sort of awe and excitement now reserved for the latest and greatest smartphone edition or gadget.
But how much does a generation of technology users enthralled by mobile gadgets, social networks and cloud applications delivered via a Web browser (usually not Internet Explorer) really care about something like Windows 8, which will get its official debut at what is likely to be a splashy New York press conference scheduled for Oct. 25.
I was invited to the launch (which made me feel like I matter, thank you!), but I already have other plans that day that I’m not inclined to change. But that invitation inspired me to do a little more reading and thinking about what’s coming, especially because I’ve grown increasingly skeptical about how much desktop operating systems matter in the cloud era and I really didn’t care all that much about the Windows 7 release.
Disclosure, I use a Macintosh notebook computer myself, although it is nearly three years old now and, no, I haven’t upgraded to the latest Apple OS release. Because I don’t feel like it’s necessary yet.
Then, I realized that the reason Windows 8 will be a really important release for Microsoft has less to do with enabling any one “desktop” experience and more to do with helping people better manage and secure and synchronize all the information they manage across all their different computing gadgets — be they smartphones, tablet computers, notebooks, thin clients and, yes, even a good old personal computer.
To do this, Microsoft is taking a big gamble with radical changes to the Windows 8 interface that will make it look more like a tablet than like it has looked in the past.
The so-called Metro-style user interface, which includes big buttons and eliminates the familiar Windows desktop is bound to freak out many long-time Windows users — at least those who have never used any sort of smartphone, like the Apple iPhone or any of the Android-based devices. Or those who abhor tablet computer touch screens. Interface changes are a tricky, tricky thing no matter how much better they are. That alone, may convince some bigger companies to wait or simply proceed with existing plans to move forward with the aforementioned Windows 7.
That is, if they don’t care all that much about supporting mobile devices — especially those being brought into their organizations under a bring your own device (BYOD) policy.
The reason that Windows 8 will be really important for Microsoft, and for its channel, is because it “completes” the push that the company is making to better support non-traditional computing devices and to deliver its productivity and business applications via the cloud.
A new analysis by Gartner calls this a new era for Microsoft. “Windows 8 is not your normal low or even high impact major release of the OS,” said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner. “It’s the start of a new era for Microsoft — the RT era — which follows the NT era, which began in 1993 and is just now starting to fade out. Microsoft eras seem to run about 20 years, so the technology underlying Windows 8 will last a long, long time.”
Whether or not Microsoft has got the timing right remains to be seen, but make no mistake — Windows 8 will be hugely relevant for any solution provider struggling with how to support its customers in an increasingly BYOD, mobile and cloud world. It will mean huge changes for how they support and manage infrastructure on behalf of SMBs — and it is likely to create usability headaches as people grapple with the new interface.
Then again, this is the sort of environment in which the smartest technology solution providers have always thrived. Is your organization up to the challenge?
There is more evidence out this week underscoring the thesis that it is time for solution providers to stop wondering about “if” cloud will become a factor for their businesses and starting figuring out “when” its influence will hit their bottom line — either positively or negatively.
This year, public cloud services will surpass $109 billion in IT spending — with business process applications delivered by the cloud accounting for the biggest part of that amount, or $84.2 billion (up from $72 billion in 2011), reports research firm Gartner.
One reason that number is so big, though, is because it includes money spent for cloud-driven advertising services, which represent about 47 percent of that number.
The second biggest chunk of spending will be for applications delivered as a service, also known as software as a service (SaaS) — projected at $14.4 billion in revenue for 2012. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) will account for about $6.2 billion this year, while platform as a service (PaaS) will drive about $1.2 billion in sales.
Overall, the public cloud services spending will grow about 19.6 percent in 2012, which begs the question: how long can your business ignore its positive influence, in the form of potential new services that you could provider around process consulting, or overlook the potential negative impact on its sales of on-premise solutions that cloud services are replacing?
“The cloud services market is clearly a high-growth sector within the overall IT marketplace,” says Ed Anderson, a research director at Gartner, discussing the data. “The key to taking advantage of this growth will be understanding the nuances of the opportunity with service segments and geographic regions, and then prioritizing investments in line with the opportunities.”
From an investment standpoint, it’s important to know, for example, that the market for IaaS will be roughly the same size as the market for SaaS by 2016, according to Gartner’s projections.
That means solution providers need to think long and hard about whether IaaS will displace hardware they are selling today and start looking at which IaaS models offer the best places for them to add value in terms of management, consulting and security.
North America will continue to dominate absolute spending for cloud services, accounting 61 percent of the anticipated growth between 2010 and 2016, the data show
By that time, worldwide spending for public cloud services is forecast at $206.6 billion, says Gartner.
Even though the outlook for IT spending could be accurately described as uncertain, budgets for security infrastructure and managed services are continuing to hold up, according to new data from Gartner.
This year, worldwide spending on security should reach $60 billion, up 8.4 percent from $5.5 billion in 2011. That trajectory should boost worldwide spending to about $86 billion by 2016, reflecting growth of 9 percent to 11 percent during that timeframe, Gartner predicts.
“The security infrastructure market is expected to experience positive growth over the forecast period, despite risks of further economic turbulence,” said Lawrence Pingree, a Gartner research director.
Overall, about 45 percent of the businesses that Gartner used to make its projections are expecting to increase their budget over time; just 5 percent anticipated a decrease.
Here are some of the priorities surfaced by Gartner’s research:
- Managed security services
- Secure Web gateway appliances
- Security information and event management technology
It’s intriguing to me that mobile security isn’t on this list, which suggests to me that companies plan to rely on better management at the infrastructure level to control this.
I don’t want this blog to be all cloud, all the time, but some additional data about cloud storage subscriptions was released this week that deserves technology solution providers’ attention.
Almost 200 million consumers will add cloud storage subscriptions this year, bringing the total number of subscribers up to about 500 million people worldwide, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.
That’s a lot of growth for one year.
While the forecast increase of 25% (reaching up to 625 million people) for 2012 is small in comparison, any high-tech channel services company that persists in believing that cloud storage won’t affect their practice related to on-premise storage solutions is woefully misguided.
The good news is that all this interest in cloud storage provides a super opening for managed service providers, VARs and other members of the high-tech channel, who can offer some all-important perspective on why a storage service developed with consumers in mind probably isn’t the best idea for a small or midsize business (SMB).
That’s not to say that SMB cloud storage is a bad idea, because it provides small companies supporting lots of remote workers with a great option for allowing them to access critical information and applications. But it is time for some real discussions about what is and is not possible in the cloud when it comes to security and, equally as important, with data management and backup.
Most SMBs looking at cloud storage, for example, probably don’t realize that once something is deleted, it’s probably gone forever. The concept of version control in the cloud is still very rudimentary. That alone could be a deal breaker, and it could give solution providers the opening they need to recommend a cloud storage service designed with businesses — not individuals — in mind.
This isn’t likely to surprise anyone reading this blog post, but Gartner’s latest report on worldwide IT outsourcing pegs “cloud compute” services as the fastest-growing opportunity — on a pace to increase by nearly 50 percent this year to $5 billion (compared with $3.4 billion in 2011).
Managed service providers (MSPs) can take heart. One big driver of IT outsourcing contracts in North American is an interest in managed services relationships that help push out routine maintenance costs, according to the Gartner analysis. That focus will continue until probably 2016.
Here’s the requisite perspective as to why from Gregor Petri, a Gartner research director:
“Today, cloud compute services primarily provide automation of basic functions. As next-generation business applications come to market and existing applications are migrated to use automated operations and monitoring, increased value in terms of service consistency, agility and personnel reduction will be delivered. Continued privacy and compliance concerns may however negatively impact growth in some regions, especially if providers are slow in bringing localized solutions to market.”
Overall spending on IT outsourcing should increase about 2.1 percent this year compared with 2011, to reach $246.6 billion globally, Gartner predicts.