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HPE’s array of hybrid workplace offerings provides silver lining for customers amid the pandemic

HPE bundles its existing portfolio in a GreenLake wrapper

When CEO Antonio Neri initially announced in June 2019 that HPE (NYSE: HPE) will offer everything “as a Service” by 2022, many were skeptical that the plan would resonate with the market as a whole. It was clear that pockets of customers would buy into this offer, particularly in the SMB space, where pricing can have a greater impact. But for major customers, the conversation often boiled down to something as trivial as where to put the expense on the balance sheet for stakeholders. However, considering the changing market dynamics over the last six months due to the pandemic, this aggressive marketing campaign could not have come at a better time. Because HPE has been pushing GreenLake hard since 2019, the vendor is now serendipitously ahead of peers on its “as a Service” offerings.

HPE’s “as a Service” push is directly related to increases in IT sprawl. “Sprawl” is a concept the IT industry has grappled with for decades. Prior to distributed IT environments, the term was used to describe the increase in the variety of workloads in each environment. Now, it is used when describing a single-pane-of-glass management console to ease the burden placed on IT personnel when managing a diverse environment of IT infrastructure. Sprawl is now the upshot of the increasingly diverse application of technology to business, or digital transformation. Diverse applications lead to diverse IT requirements, from the edge to the core to the cloud, making cloud an integral piece of the story and establishing the importance of bundled solutions that provide business outcomes, which is precisely what GreenLake can provide.

GreenLake does come at a premium, as software and services are baked into hardware deals consumed through this model in many cases, but pricing it as a monthly subscription makes these solutions more available and affordable to firms with less capital support. HPE GreenLake clearly resonates with customers, as key competitors Dell Technologies (NYSE: DELL) and Lenovo both formalized their own consumption-based pricing offerings after GreenLake began to gain traction, although Dell Technologies did have informal offerings emerge around the same time as GreenLake initially. With COVID-19, the edge becomes increasingly more important as organizations deploy new workloads in their factories, office spaces and retail locations to ensure public safety while returning to work.

HPE’s workplace portfolio of solutions is attractive for several reasons. HPE’s existing infrastructure portfolio is augmented by HPE Aruba’s connectivity engine and associated services through HPE Pointnext Services, which combines expertise across workplace networking and IoT. The combined offering is then layered with GreenLake and sold as a use-case-based package to end customers, the primary benefits being the efficiencies gained in conjunction with the fact that the solutions are positioned and sold as business outcomes. Essentially, HPE takes care of the grunt work normally weighing down the end user but offers increased manageability and increased control at a reduced effort through GreenLake, leveraging the existing expertise within its organization to reimagine how the world of knowledge-based employees works and what is necessary to make it operate seamlessly in a hybrid model.

IT vendors are poised to solve the challenges that have arisen in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is a prime example of a vendor that, in response to the pandemic, is addressing previously unforeseen challenges by formalizing offerings pertaining to the workplace. Hybrid working was a pre-existing trend that COVID-19 has accelerated. However, for those individuals working in a knowledge-based field or with school-aged children, how they work and learn has fundamentally and permanently shifted. Further, people with non-knowledge-based jobs, many of whom lost work due to COVID-19, will find in-person work again, and these jobs will also see a fundamental shift in how they are performed to ensure safety and productivity. HPE’s announcements today at Workplace Next highlight how the company’s portfolio can be leveraged to ease customers’ COVID-19 mandated digital transformations.

Vendors’ ability to develop nonlinear revenue growth model will be tested once again as COVID-19 sets the stage for demand in ‘as a Service’ sales

Market overview

The 14 benchmarked vendors continued to hire and acquire resources, albeit at a much slower rate in 1H20 than in 1H19 due to COVID-19, a trend we expect to accelerate in 2H20. 1H20 was a tale of two quarters as vendors had to swiftly change priorities and mobilize their staff to work remotely while continuing to provide support to ongoing digital transformation (DT) projects. As COVID-19 accelerated in late March and April, buyers paused many of their DT programs and increased focus on run-the-business projects, compelling vendors to adjust their hiring and reskilling programs and demonstrate capabilities in cloud, cybersecurity and workplace solutions management. Vendors can learn from their own experience three years ago when revenue contracted much faster than they were able to adjust hiring before rebounding back to maximize productivity and ROI.

Automation and profitability

As vendors went into damage-control mode amid the pandemic, most deployed legacy, proven, cost-rationalization methods, including layoffs, salary freezes, and limited SG&A spend to protect profitability. Automation also continued to play a role in this effort but was not, as many had hoped, the single most important variable in offsetting top-line and cost of services pressure associated with the legacy labor arbitrage model. With the consulting model most challenged due to limited face-to-face interaction, we expect vendors to begin exploring new channels to increase share of profitable sales. Vendors could either accelerate bringing consultants back to clients’ sites to increase higher-value advisory opportunities or begin to add digital routes as a sales channel to attract new buyers, particularly in the SMB space. Either scenario carries its challenges and opportunities, but in the long term, as vendors strive to increase “as a Service” sales, KPIs and expectations must also be aligned.  

The Global Delivery Benchmark provides efficiency comparisons, assessments and insights into global delivery strategies and investments across 14 leading IT services firms. The research highlights overarching resource management market trends, discusses implications to operations from increased labor automation and examines disruptors that shape new business models and KPIs.

With Project Apex, Dell aims to surround the public cloud and tame it

At the virtual Dell Technologies World on Oct. 21 and 22, the company painted a picture of the future, a picture it calls Project Apex. “Apex” can refer to a summit, but it is also the term used to describe the top predator in an ecosystem. Dell Technologies spokespeople did not clarify which definition they intended in naming the project, but it is likely that the predator definition is used widely within the organization. The company aims to use Project Apex to conquer not only public cloud providers, its biggest threat, but also competitors that have similar offerings, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo.

Project Apex is a combination of Dell Technologies Cloud and the company’s goal of offering everything “as a Service.” Dell Technologies Cloud is a multicloud system that includes public and private clouds as well as all of an organization’s assets. Dell Technologies is prepared to manage these assets, both on premises and in the company’s data centers. This system combines the benefits of public cloud — demand-based pricing, simplified operation and outsourced management — with those of on-premises resources — greater control and flexibility, and more efficient use of edge devices. Dell Technologies intends to surround and engulf public clouds.

Project Apex is similar to HPE’s GreenLake initiative, which has the tagline, “The Cloud That Comes to You.” It is not surprising that the two largest data center hardware companies have similar strategies. In fact, while Lenovo’s multicloud and consumption-based pricing strategies are promoted less than those of Dell Technologies and HPE, Lenovo is moving in the same direction. These common strategies are a response to a common threat: the public cloud. Public cloud providers are meeting an increasing share of organizations’ computing and storage requirements, reducing hardware providers’ revenue and profits. All data center vendors have cloud service providers (CSPs) as customers, but CSPs’ scale and ability to provide their own services drive down hardware companies’ margins. The public cloud is a threat, and these combinations of multicloud offerings and consumption-based pricing are the hardware companies’ countermeasure.

Dell Technologies paints a rosy picture of the future, with free movement of data and workloads from the edge to the cloud and everywhere in between. This kind of fluidity would make it much easier for companies to implement and refine large numbers of diverse applications, enabling responsive and flexible digital transformation. The future, of course, is never as bright as pictured in the brochures. But the technology world is making progress in that direction, and Dell Technologies, as the self-defined provider of “essential infrastructure,” is well positioned to deliver it, albeit incrementally.

Project Apex includes the major technologies and techniques that fuel digital transformation. Dell Technologies Chairman and CEO Michael Dell listed six: hybrid cloud, 5G, AI, data management, security and edge. Every large IT system will include these components as well as others. 5G is especially interesting because, apart from critical hardware components for data transmission, it is a software-defined system, giving networking the flexibility that underpins Project Apex.

Project Apex is more a direction than a goal, and Dell Technologies and other tech companies have been moving in that direction since virtualization and its inevitable offspring, the cloud, became important. With the increasing importance of edge devices and edge-generated data, the Project Apex vision, where the public cloud is part of the picture but is no longer dominant, becomes more plausible.

Right now, however, the public cloud is growing rapidly at the expense of traditional on-premises data centers, and hybrid multiclouds are mostly just a vision. There is progress in “as a Service.” Dell Technologies on Demand, the company’s “as a Service” portfolio, now has a $1.3 billion annual run rate, reflecting 30% year-to-year growth. Annual recurrent revenue, which includes traditional financing and services, is $23 billion. Dell Technologies and the other hardware vendors cannot really see the light at the end of the tunnel, but they can describe it.

SaaS sweetens the cloud pot but requires vendors to up their ante to participate

‘Best of breed’ spawns diversity in the SaaS provider landscape

The vendor landscape may be consolidating on the IaaS side of the cloud market, but that is not the case for SaaS. Customers are most likely to increase the number of SaaS vendors utilized over the next two years, supported by a number of market trends, including new workload and feature adoption, platform ecosystems, and integrated multicloud deployments.

For workload adoption, there is a leveling of the playing field for which services customers are considering cloud as a deployment method. ERP, for example, used to lag in public cloud adoption but is now much closer to par with often adopted services like CRM and HR. Much of this increased consideration comes from enhanced comfort on behalf of customers for delivering sensitive workloads from cloud providers versus their on-premises data centers.

The other factor is the proliferation of complementary services available via PaaS ecosystems. The most tenured and largest example of this comes from the Salesforce Platform, which supports thousands of ISVs developing and selling solutions that complement and extend core CRM. Salesforce may have been the first, but other SaaS vendors, including SAP, Workday, Microsoft and ServiceNow, are taking the same approach, exponentially growing available SaaS services. The last driver is the continued rise of best-of-breed customer purchasing. For contracting and performance reasons, customers have long yearned for multivendor application environments, and now vendors are actually moving to accommodate that desire. Salesforce’s acquisition of MuleSoft and SAP’s introduction of the Intelligent Enterprise vision are the latest examples of how vendors are supporting customers in choosing and integrating solutions from numerous providers.

 

This special report is part of a series driven by TBR’s Cloud Customer Research reports, for which TBR conducted more than 50 interviews and 200 surveys. These special reports will highlight key trends and topics impacting the cloud industry.

SaaS sweetens the cloud pot but requires vendors to up their ante to participate

Despite the simple graph in Figure 1 depicting SaaS market size, the space remains difficult to sum up. In the eyes of customers, SaaS options are proliferating and spanning a wide swath of business functions and stakeholders. Yes, SaaS is the largest segment of the “as a Service” cloud market—and yes, it will continue to expand. Beyond that, however, SaaS will remain a collection of separate markets, with most vendors specializing in one or two core and adjacent areas, instead of one unified opportunity. Some examples of this fragmented and overlapping landscape include Microsoft leveraging collaboration dominance to reinvigorate its CRM strategy with cloud delivers, SAP returning its focus to SaaS CRM after ceding the market to Salesforce, and Workday investing to build out a financials-focused SaaS business from its HR roots.

The market behaves in contrast to the IaaS market, which is highly consolidated around a standard set of often interconnected services and a small collection of vendors. In the SaaS market, growth will be achieved by new vendors addressing new workloads and features. From a vendor standpoint, there will be greater presence from legacy application providers such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, but also plenty of room for more niche providers as functional and regional niches develop.

While SaaS will grow the overall cloud opportunity, the challenge for vendors is that the SaaS opportunity will be more difficult to capture. That is not to say the historical model for SaaS adoption will cease to exist; there will still be SaaS purchases that are driven by lines of business (LOBs), transacted with a credit card in some cases, and deployed separately from legacy systems. At least some of the growth will continue to occur in that shadow IT model. However, much of the growth will be from SaaS solutions that deliver more critical services, are procured by joint IT and LOB teams, and are tightly integrated with legacy systems. These scenarios will require vendors both large and small to up their ante, bringing more sales, integration and support services to the table to win these more complex deals.

Figure 1

Graph depicting SaaS market size by delivery method from 2017 to 2022

‘Best of breed’ spawns diversity in the SaaS provider landscape

The vendor landscape may be consolidating on the IaaS side of the cloud market, but that is not the case for SaaS. As seen in Figure 2, customers are most likely to increase the number of SaaS vendors utilized over the next two years, supported by a number of market trends, including new workload and feature adoption, platform ecosystems, and integrated multicloud deployments.

For workload adoption, there is a leveling of the playing field for which services customers are considering cloud as a deployment method. ERP, for example, used to lag in public cloud adoption but is now much closer to par with often adopted services like CRM and HR. Much of this increased consideration comes from enhanced comfort on behalf of customers for delivering sensitive workloads from cloud providers versus their on-premises data centers.

The other factor is the proliferation of complementary services available via PaaS ecosystems. The most tenured and largest example of this comes from the Salesforce Platform, which supports thousands of ISVs developing and selling solutions that complement and extend core CRM. Salesforce may have been the first, but other SaaS vendors, including SAP, Workday, Microsoft and ServiceNow, are taking the same approach, exponentially growing available SaaS services. The last driver is the continued rise of best-of-breed customer purchasing. For contracting and performance reasons, customers have long yearned for multivendor application environments, and now vendors are actually moving to accommodate that desire. Salesforce’s acquisition of MuleSoft and SAP’s introduction of the Intelligent Enterprise vision are the latest examples of how vendors are supporting customers in choosing and integrating solutions from numerous providers.

Figure 2

Graph depicting the change in the number of cloud vendors utilized in the next two years

Expectation inflation raises the bar for SaaS providers

There may be a growing pool of revenue and room for more providers, but meeting customer expectations for SaaS solutions is anything but easy. Expectations have been on the rise, stoked by the greater control buyers have with cloud solutions versus on-premises software. The days of long-term software contract risk falling entirely on the customer are quickly coming to an end. Not only has the power dynamic shifted, but, as shown in the graph below, customers are successfully using more of their IT dollars to fund innovation over maintenance of existing systems. As a result, different evaluation criteria are being used for IT investments. Up front, there is a much more collaborative process between IT and LOB teams as they decide which offerings meet their underlying business need, not just what fits into their existing footprint. Calculating the benefits and return from SaaS investments is also a challenging task, as deployments use business outcomes as the ultimate goal. Although hard calculations seem challenging for most customers, it’s clear that enhanced levels of support and “customer success” roles are increasingly valued. Having these post-sale resources available and putting a greater focus on outcomes and other intangible benefits than on technology benefits seems to be the best way for SaaS vendors to meet inflated customer expectations for what the solutions can and should do for their business.

Figure 3

Graph depicting IT investment strategy of SaaS adopters three years ago versus now versus three years from now

IT vendors ‘patently’ sharpening focus on developing newer technologies

IBM has a unique position as a software, hardware and services vendor. — Bozhidar Hristov, Senior Analyst