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Hardware as a Service: 4Q21 insights from TBR’s Data Center team

Sometimes referred to as DaaS (Device as a Service), XaaS (Anything as a Service) or consumption-based models, hardware subscription offerings have become abundant in the market as vendors compete to build lasting customer relationships.

Join Principal Analyst & Practice Manager Angela Lambert and Senior Analyst Eric Costa Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, for a discussion on trends emerging among hardware subscription services.

Don’t miss:

  • Key developments and new offerings entering the market
  • TBR’s forecasted market growth
  • Differences in the market dynamics for PC subscription offerings versus data center offerings
  • Drivers and inhibitors that we expect to impact market expansion

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Lenovo unveils on-demand service for data centers, joining competitors

Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) has unveiled TruScale Infrastructure Services. A Hardware as a Service (HaaS) solution with subscription-based pricing, TruScale makes DCG’s entire ThinkSystem and ThinkAgile portfolio available to customers “as a Service” through both Lenovo sales associates and channel partners.

For a monthly fee, customers will gain access to data center infrastructure, which can be installed at the customer’s location of choice. Cost will be based on power consumption, as power consumption is a relatively accurate way to measure usage without compromising infrastructure security. The hardware remains Lenovo-owned, -maintained and -supported, and with no minimum usage requirement, customers gain the financial flexibility available through public cloud offerings without the risks associated with taking data off premises. — Stephanie Long, Analyst

Lenovo unveils TruScale Infrastructure Services, consumption-based data center pricing

In February Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) unveiled TruScale Infrastructure Services. A Hardware as a Service (HaaS) solution with subscription-based pricing, TruScale makes DCG’s entire ThinkSystem and ThinkAgile portfolio available to customers “as a Service” through both Lenovo sales associates and channel partners. For a monthly fee, customers will gain access to data center infrastructure, which can be installed at the customer’s location of choice. Cost will be based on power consumption, as power consumption is a relatively accurate way to measure usage without compromising infrastructure security. The hardware remains Lenovo-owned, -maintained and -supported, and with no minimum usage requirement, customers gain the financial flexibility available through public cloud offerings without the risks associated with taking data off premises. Further, the monthly pricing structure includes installation, deployment, management, maintenance, remote monitoring, system health checks and removal of the hardware once the subscription expires. Pricing details of the solution have not yet been disclosed and are likely to be determined case-by-case. The solution is currently available only in English and priced in USD and Euros.

DCG’s late-to-market status will be advantageous in the consumption-based pricing realm

DCG is a fast-follower in consumption-based pricing, as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Dell Technologies have offered consumption-based pricing for over a year. While these offerings have greater market longevity, as they are typically multiyear agreements, customer adoption remains relatively nascent for consumption-based pricing models. These deals are more complex than traditional hardware sales, and therefore require a mindset shift in some ways to promote adoption, just as cloud did initially. DCG’s entrance into the market times well with customer interest, and the vendor’s later arrival to the space will not prove to be a major inhibitor to growth.

The total inclusion of DCG’s channel partners, in addition to its direct sales force, in providing TruScale, is an asset and distinction for the group. Because Lenovo’s services portfolio is not as mature as that of vendors such as Dell EMC, providing channel partners with this opportunity will prove to be a win-win as it enables channel partners to sell attached services while affording Lenovo a more passive revenue stream. Involving the channel has been an initial challenge for some vendors offering consumption-based pricing as the partners need to be incentivized to pursue it over a traditional hardware sale, in which they would get a lump sum payout versus a subscription-like payout. TBR believes that because Lenovo has arrived to market later than peers with its consumption-based pricing offerings, it was able to work out channel partner challenges before going live with the solution.

Is the IT hardware market ready for Hardware as a Service?

Hardware as a Service — or maybe you call it PCaaS, DaaS or XaaS — is basically referring to bundling some type of hardware (e.g., phones, PCs, servers) with life cycle services and charging a recurring fee over a multiyear contract. The customer never really owns the hardware, and the vendor takes it back at the end of the agreement.

Sure, it’s not a new concept. But the solution hasn’t exactly taken off like a rocket ship, either. So, is it going to? Maybe. Its initial speed may be more like a Vespa than a SpaceX Falcon, but there are a few things working in its favor.

Why do buyers want it?

  • Retiring hardware is a huge pain. I have talked to IT leaders who have literally acquired warehouse space solely to store old hardware they have no idea what to do with.
  • Making it easier to stay up to date with tech. Management can no longer deny the negative impact on morale brought by an unattractive, slow and/or unreliable device.
  • Automation & Internet of Things (IoT) usher in new capabilities. Who doesn’t want to make managing hardware easier? Hardware as a Service is basically IoT for your IT department. Device management features like tracking device location and health are key functions of many IoT deployments and is a core selling point of Hardware as a Service offerings.

Why do vendors want to sell it?

  • Business models are changing. That darn cloud computing had to come along and change expense models, not to mention make it easier to switch between vendors. From Spotify and Netflix to Amazon Web Services and Salesforce, “as a Service” is second nature to IT buyers in both their personal and professional lives.
  • Creating stickiness. Hardware is more often perceived as “dumb” with the software providing the real value. If you’re a hardware maker (or a VAR), you need to make the buyer see your relationship as one that’s valuable and service-oriented versus transactional.
  • Vendors desire simplicity. Most vendors will tell you they have been building similar enterprise service agreements on a one-off basis for years. These new programs will hopefully create swim lanes to make it faster and easier for partners to build solutions.

Buyers are used to monthly SaaS pricing models, but that’s not really what creates the main appeal for Hardware as a Service. Buyers really want the value-added services and fewer managerial headaches.

So, how’s it going?

As someone who manages several research streams, I get to peek at results from a lot of different studies. Here are a few snippets of things I’ve heard and seen in the last month or so.

  • Personal devices: It certainly seems like there’s the most buzz around PCs, with Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo all promoting DaaS offerings. I have also heard from enterprises doing initial DaaS pilots with as many as 5,000 PCs, but we seem to still be in very early stages of adoption. Both PC vendors and their channel partners are beginning to report “legit” pipeline opportunities tied to DaaS.
  • Servers: Either outright purchasing or leasing servers is still the overwhelming choice of purchase method for about 90% of IT buyers recently surveyed by TBR. Perceptions that an “as a Service” model will be more expensive in the long run is the main customer concern to date that vendors will need to address via emphasizing the value-added life cycle services.
  • Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI): A bundle of hardware and a services bundle? This is the bundle of bundles! Not too many HCI vendors are openly promoting an “as a Service” pricing model at this point, but 80% of current HCI buyers in TBR’s most recent Hyperconverged Platforms Customer Research indicated they are interested in a consumption-based purchasing model, particularly to enhance their scalability. About 84% of those surveyed are using HCI for a private or hybrid cloud buildout, so maybe a more cloud-like pricing model make sense. Make no mistake, interest is not synonymous with intent, but it’s safe to say these buyers are at least paying attention to their purchasing options.

My general verdict is that things are still moving at Vespa speed. PCs have a head start over data center hardware based on the concerted go-to-market efforts of the big three OEMs and a consumption model that more closely aligns with the consumer services we’re used to. The second half of this year will be an interesting proving ground to see if the reported pipeline growth is converted to actual customers. Depending on how that goes, maybe we’ll see the data center guys making more serious moves in this space.

What do you think? Add a comment or drop me an email at [email protected].