Cloud Services Begin to Impact SMB ICT Shipments, Report Finds

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

Research from AMI-Partners finds cloud computing advances are impacting information and communications technology (ICT) shipments among SMBs.

Small to medium-size businesses in the United States are rapidly increasing their use of cloud services, which is beginning to reduce their need for on-premises information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and is also allowing them more flexibility in the types of mobile devices they use, according to a report from IT research firm AMI-Partners.

The report found this development is beginning to affect the demand patterns for on-premises ICT hardware like servers, storage and networking, as well client devices such as notebooks, smartphones, netbooks and tablets, The company’s research focuses on the adoption of cloud services by SMBs in a dozen countries.

Broadly, AMI’s analysis shows demand shifts in three areas. While the overall SMB server shipments are still growing, these are driven by first-time server buyers, who need it for improving their productivity, as well as replacements and upgrades by SMBs who had delayed their purchases due to the economic environment over the last couple of years. However, with the growth of hosted cloud services, SMBs no longer need on-premises servers for many applications, the report found. AMI found this factor, combined with consolidation and the growing use of virtualization, especially among the larger medium-size businesses, is reducing the growth rate of server shipments.

"While a majority of SMBs are using cloud services in conjunction with their existing applications and services, a small but growing number are using them to replace their on-premises infrastructure. This is especially true for cloud services like CRM, hosted e-mail, hosted SharePoint and others. This has started to affect demand for ICT infrastructure required to run these applications," said Anil Miglani, senior vice president of IT infrastructure and managed services research at AMI-Partners. "The full impact of this shift will be seen much more visibly over the next couple of years, once the replacements/upgrades are completed and also more SMBs start moving their on-premises applications to the cloud."

Secondly, the report predicted demand for storage products would also follow the server demand. In addition, the increasing use of the cloud for backup and storage is reducing the need for on-premises storage hardware and software, Miglani said. The report noted that while part of the SMB server and storage demand will likely shift toward the cloud service providers, their multitenancy models will prevent them from fully offsetting the decline in total SMB server shipments.

"Thus, the SMB server market will be pulled in two different directions: toward smaller, less powerful and less expensive servers driven by first-time server buyers and toward more powerful servers by the larger SMBs as they consolidate their servers and use virtualization on a broader scale," the report said.

The third shift taking place relates to mobile devices. With applications hosted in the cloud, some SMB employees no longer need the full functionality of the larger notebook PCs as they can meet their needs using lighter devices like netbooks, smartphones and tablets. These lighter mobile devices have shown significant increase in penetration and ownership among SMBs, the report found. Notebook shipments, which have been growing at a brisk pace for the last few years as businesses replace their desktops with notebooks, are likely to see lower growth rates, followed by a long-term decline in the coming years, AMI predicted.