Is the market ready for hardware-as-a-service?

Is the market ready for hardware-as-a-service?

Initial speed of the market may be more like a Vespa than a SpaceX Falcon

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 favour.

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 value-added reseller), 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 per cent 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 emphasising the value-added life cycle services.

- Hyper-converged 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 per cent of current HCI buyers indicated they are interested in a consumption-based purchasing model, particularly to enhance their scalability.

About 84 per cent 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 centre 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 centre guys making more serious moves in this space.

Angela Lambert is engagement manager and senior analyst at Technology Business Research

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