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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Cisco’s Master Plan for Seizing the SMB Market Opportunity

According to data from Techaisle, it is projected that the global IT expenditure of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will escalate to a staggering US$1.35 trillion by 2024. Furthermore, this spending is anticipated to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7%, extending through 2028. Cisco is making a significant push into the SMB market, a segment where it has enjoyed steady growth. In fiscal year 2023, which concluded in July, the SMB segment was Cisco’s top-performing customer category for a third consecutive year. Cisco sees this segment as a $25 billion addressable market opportunity, captured with mid to high-tier SMBs transitioning to cloud and SaaS solutions. Notably, about 20% of Cisco’s SMB business comes from new customers every year, underscoring this segment's critical role in expanding Cisco’s reach and reflecting on the growing demand for technology amongst SMBs.

Cisco’s go-to-market in the SMB segment is partner-led, catalyzed with continuous partner-focused programs, initiatives, and marketing investments to foster robust relationships. According to the latest research by Techaisle, a significant majority of SMBs, 87%, depend on their partners for technology solutions. Furthermore, these SMBs channel nearly 89% of their IT expenditure through these partners. Cisco is, therefore, continuously enhancing its engagement with partners, revamping its marketing strategies, and adapting to the changing needs of its customers. A vital part of this strategy is the focus on the new “Scale” go-to-market initiative, aligned to engaging SMB customers and Partners in this space, as unveiled at the company’s sales kickoff meeting in August. This model offers partners and customers enhanced sales and marketing support, ensuring that SMBs receive expert advice in crucial care-about areas such as cybersecurity or hybrid work.

The concept of “digital transformation” has become a staple in corporate discussions over the years. While some may write it off as a fad, many, particularly SMBs, understand its importance. For these businesses, digital transformation involves adopting digital technologies to streamline operations, improve customer relationships, and position themselves as agile and innovative entities in their respective fields. Techaisle data reveals that 71% of SMBs are investing in digital transformation, and 37% have a holistic digital strategy. SMBs, once perceived as technologically behind, are actively embracing cloud solutions to meet their IT requirements. These technologies have become crucial to their digital transformation journey, enabling them to automate various operational aspects and gain a competitive advantage through essential business process automation tools, orchestration, and integration or advanced offerings like custom AI and analytics applications hosted on cloud platforms.

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Techaisle survey shows The Rise of Generative-AI in SMBs and Midmarket Firms

According to recent survey data from Techaisle, the use of Generative-AI is rapidly increasing within SMBs and midmarket firms. The survey found that AI has become a priority for 53% of small businesses, up from 41% in April 2023. Among core-midmarket firms, 87% prioritize AI, up from 75% in April 2023. Similarly, 89% of upper-midmarket firms prioritize AI, compared to 87% in April 2023. Overall, 60% of SMBs and 84% of midmarket firms are either using or planning to use Generative-AI within the next six months.

The survey also found that between 40% and 45% of midmarket firms have developers and architects specializing in AI/ML, DevOps, hybrid cloud, and app modernization. Additionally, between 35% and 45% of these firms plan to increase their investments in Edge computing, Containers, Open-source technologies, app development, and analytics. Most notably, 72% of midmarket firms are increasing their in-house hiring for Generative-AI.

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IBM’s Transformation of Watson into watsonx and Launch of QRadar Suite: Enhancing Security and AI Capabilities

I have been a regular attendee of IBM Think for many years. The recently held IBM Think 2023 was a defining moment in more ways than one. First, IBM presented a cohesive narrative around Open Hybrid Cloud, Security, AI, and Ecosystem that resonated with customers and partners. Second, IBM demonstrated its commitment to helping companies leverage AI by introducing watsonx. This platform includes foundation models, generative AI, and a governance toolkit. Finally, at its recent Think event, IBM emphasized the impact of ChatGPT and AI on businesses and demonstrated the capabilities of watsonx. The company also highlighted the importance of its partner ecosystem and announced plans to invest in and expand its network to double its revenues. In this article, I will discuss several strategic initiatives that are likely to make a significant impact. In particular, I will delve into the details of the new QRadar suite, the generative AI capabilities of watsonx, and IBM’s efforts to empower partner success.

The rise in remote work and global interconnectivity of devices has brought significant changes and challenges to cybersecurity. Organizations are dealing with complex IT systems that require better visibility, threat detection, and incident response capabilities. Adopting cloud technology, especially hybrid cloud environments, has further complicated the situation. Security teams need help to secure public-facing applications running in the cloud and ensure all applications are up to date.

There is a growing demand for gathering more security data to enhance visibility. However, data collection can be costly and complicated, particularly when transferring it between different cloud platforms. In addition, organizations deploy multiple security tools to protect their new cloud infrastructure, adding to the challenges faced by security professionals.

Organizations are setting up enhanced Security Operations Centers (SOCs) to address these challenges. However, SOC professionals often face overwhelming workloads and require user-friendly tools that can be integrated with different security products. In addition, manual investigation of threats slows down their response time. To address these challenges, IBM has introduced a range of security solutions, including the IBM QRadar Suite.

QRadar Suite: Overview

The QRadar Suite is a subscription-based (SaaS) offering that combines AI-enhanced versions of IBM's existing threat detection and response solutions into a comprehensive global product. It represents a significant advancement and expansion of the QRadar brand, encompassing all critical technologies related to threat detection, investigation, and response. The original QRadar technology was integrated into IBM's portfolio after the acquisition of Q1 Labs in 2011. The new QRadar Suite goes beyond traditional security information and event management (SIEM) capabilities, aiming to provide a unified experience for security management. Its goal is to assist organizations in managing extended detection and response (EDR/XDR) capabilities, SIEM functionalities, and Security Orchestration Automation and Response (SOAR) in cybersecurity.

In addition, IBM has enhanced the suite's capabilities via strategic acquisitions. For example, the inclusion of SOAR capabilities results from the purchase of Resilient in 2016, while the EDR capabilities are attributed to the addition of ReaQta in 2021. Additionally, the QRadar Suite includes a new product, QRadar Log Insights, a cloud-based tool for security log management and federated search and investigation.

Standout Elements: Unified Interface, Automated Investigation, and Flexible Purchase

The QRadar Suite stands out due to three key features: a unified interface, automated investigation capabilities, and flexible purchase options.

Firstly, the suite has been developed in collaboration with security analysts, resulting in a unified and modernized interface that centralizes capabilities and workflows across IBM QRadar and 3rd party solutions. The Unified Analyst Experience (UAX) centralizes insights across both IBM and 3rd Party security tools, not just IBM products. It does this through its “Federated Search” capability. This consistent interface assists analysts throughout their investigation, response, and threat-hunting workflows across EDR/XDR, SIEM, SOAR, and Security Log Management (SLM). In addition, it empowers them to navigate the attack chain swiftly and efficiently, enhancing their response effectiveness.

Secondly, the suite includes Threat Investigator, an AI-powered automated investigation feature that helps manage and prioritize threat alerts by providing comprehensive details about threats and recommending automated response actions for quick mitigation. By automating the data mining processes across various security systems, Threat Investigator reduces the manual effort required for alert investigation, enabling faster response times. The suite also combines essential threat detection, research, and response technologies. Built on an open hybrid cloud platform (OpenShift), it enables extensive interoperability with over 900 pre-built integrations and has a comprehensive partner ecosystem. Leveraging MITRE and SIGMA natively, the suite allows security teams to adapt and keep pace with attackers seamlessly.

Thirdly, it offers flexible purchase options. Customers can obtain individual components separately or as a comprehensive suite. While most components are delivered as a service through AWS, the SIEM component is initially present on the IBM Cloud. It becomes available on AWS at the end of June, allowing for streamlined deployment, enhanced visibility, and seamless integration across cloud environments and data sources. In addition, the modular design of the suite enables customers to start using it with their desired products and easily add additional components as needed.

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Mitel's Customer Lifecycle Management: Streamlining Communication for Enhancing Customer Value and Partner Success

Mitel’s strategy is to provide more choice and flexibility than any other vendor. Unlike most communications vendors offering off-the-shelf solutions, Mitel’s unique approach provides customizable options for cloud, deployment, collaboration, and vertical applications. In addition, Mitel helps customers navigate their communications and collaboration journey through its Customer Lifecycle initiative.

Mitel understands the importance of CLM in adopting UC and has made it a critical initiative. Mitel provides partners and customers with extensive CLM, data, and analysis to effectively plan their communications and collaboration solutions as part of its business strategy.

Techaisle data shows that 47% of SMBs and 49% of core & upper midmarket firms are focused on business resiliency enablement to manage change and uncertainty. At the same time, 27% of midsized businesses are targeting investments for growth and long-term success. In response to increasing business operating costs, economic uncertainty, and rising interest rates, customers are seeking communication solutions that are both flexible, effective, and affordable long term. Further, the shift towards hybrid work has increased the requirements of unified communications (UC) systems connecting individuals in different locations. 32% of SMBs and 22% of upper midmarket firms’ employees are expected to be hybrid. Updating UC systems to meet these changing requirements can be complex.

Future-ready businesses are seeking communications solutions that are agile, adaptive, transformative, flexible, and empowering. Thus, many organizations require guidance on the most efficient ways to invest in and modernize communication solutions. This is where customer lifecycle management (CLM) comes into play. By aligning an organization's goals with the UC technology being adopted or upgraded, CLM helps streamline the UC adoption process, ensuring that communication solutions are optimized to meet business objectives. As a result, CLM helps organizations maximize business value for customers and future-proof their investment in UC.

Mitel's approach to CLM

Mitel has differentiated itself from its competitors in the communication solutions industry by adopting a customer-centric approach that provides flexibility and choice throughout the communications lifecycle. Its CLM approach is designed to support customers using on-premise, hybrid, or cloud solutions. It has two main strategies – UC (communication and collaboration tools) and migrations (moving customers from on-premise or hybrid solutions to the cloud) – to ensure customers receive value and flexibility, regardless of their current solution.

Mitel's CLM approach focuses on delivering customer value in three key areas. Firstly, it adds value to existing customers' businesses by understanding their needs through innovative analytics. Secondly, it targets vertical markets such as healthcare, hospitality, state, local, and education (SLED), which require a private or hybrid cloud model due to security and regulatory requirements. Lastly, its strategic partnership with RingCentral helps customers migrate to public cloud solutions when most appropriate per their needs.

Techaisle survey data reveals that organizations have unique communications needs with a mix of infrastructures: on-prem, public cloud, private cloud, or a hybrid solution. A one-size-fits-all approach is only viable for some. It is a customer choice issue. Today, on-premises UC solutions are dominant, with 88% of organizations using some on-premises UC solutions. However, 44% are combining on-prem solutions with cloud solutions. Cloud communications solutions are also on their long-term plans, with 47% either evaluating or moving their on-prem communications to the cloud. However, customer choice and complexity create decision inertia for 64% of firms. Hence partners become the guiding beacon to manage the customer communications adoption lifecycle.

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