“Blockchain” and “Cryptocurrencies”: What do they mean for businesses?

Overview

Even if you are not up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies that are changing the world, you probably came across words like “Bitcoin”, “Cryptocurrency” or “Blockchain”. There are many strong opinions floating around on whether these are just digital world Ponzi-Schemes or game-changing technologies.

What is “Cryptocurrency”?

In simple terms, Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is created and managed through computer programming rather than being printed by a government or agency.

The first breakthrough came in late 2008, when Satoshi Nakamoto released a paper on “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” and announced “Bitcoin”, the first cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency. Litecoin, Ripple, Stellar and Etherium are few other cryptocurrencies that have gained popularity over the last few years.

Where does “Blockchain” come in?

The technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is “Blockchain”. Blockchain is a digital platform/medium for storing value and compared to just information.

As such, blockchain technology is complex, but the underlying concept is quite simple. It is a public ledger or a distributed database running on millions of devices spread across the globe. It is open to anyone with the key here being, not only can information be stored but anything of “value” can be stored on the database. Money, contracts, music, intellectual property rights or anything that has an intrinsic value can be stored and move around securely.

Unlike traditional solutions, where an intermediary like a bank, government or a company establishes trust and security, with blockchain the trust is established through collaboration with millions of users across the globe and code that cannot be hacked. This makes the entire system difficult to manipulate and ensures integrity.

Until now, blockchain has made significant strides in the financial industry alone. The technology aims to reduce cost and complexity of financial transactions through a decentralized system that is faster, more secure and completely transparent.

As the technology matures and gains traction, other industries have started adopting and developing applications specific to their industry. The stakes are even bigger for industries such as supply chain, music and manufacturing where certain use cases make half the eco-system unnecessary.

Impact on Businesses/Adoption

Financial Services

Some of the well-known brands and financial institutions have adopted the technology to various extents. Major brands like Microsoft, Dell, and Expedia have started accepting bitcoin for purchases over their e-commerce platforms.

Payment solution providers, such as Square and Stripe, are also offering solutions that accept bitcoins either directly or by partnering with third-party providers such as CryptoPay.

MoneyGram has recently announced the use of “Ripple” another emerging cryptocurrency for international transfers.

Entertainment

Blockchain is expected to disrupt the music industry in a way that is sending music labels and global distribution firms into a frenzy.

Imogen Heap, a Grammy-winning artist started “Mycelia”, that develops songs with smart contracts built in. Smart contracts enable the automatic distribution of payments to all involved in making the song including the artist, musicians, recording studios or anyone else as soon as a purchase is made by a user. There are no licensing terms, contracts, exchange of money from user to distributer to artist. Everything happens instantaneously and everyone gets paid without any delay.

The use of blockchain technology to create and distribute songs will not only ease payment and copyright issues but could eliminate piracy as well.

Transportation & Logistics

IBM’s “Blockchain for Supply Chain” has already shown the advantages of using blockchain technology. The platform provides companies with greater transparency, visibility and efficiency across the entire supply chain.

One truth across the supply chain network

Traceability and transparency are some of the most important foundations of logistics. IBM Blockchain optimizes business transactions and trading relationships with robustly secure business networks on blockchain—both at scale and globally.

Blockchain offers a shared ledger that is updated and validated in real time with each network participant. It enables equal visibility of activities and reveals where an asset is at any point in time, who owns it and what condition it’s in.” – IBM

Walmart’s “Food Safety Solution” is a clear example of how this technology is here to stay and transform the business world.

Collaboration/Sharing Economy

Blockchain technology has penetrated areas that are quite niche as well and probably un-heard of. One such example is the “Brooklyn Microgrid”. The company aims to create a peer to peer energy trading be system built on block chain. The platform enables solar energy producers, be they home-based or industrial scale, to sell excess-electricity thereby minimizing the loss of energy and providing energy at low costs in the neighboring areas.

The Future

Blockchain technology still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream. The adoption levels are quite low despite some big names in the ecosystem. As companies continue to develop and test new applications, confidence in the technology increases and further drives adoption.

Businesses will soon start to look beyond cryptocurrencies and focus on the underlying technology, the “Blockchain”. Irrespective of how we look at it today, the blockchain powered platforms will take over and the traditional systems will fade away. It’s only a matter of “How Soon”.

Food for thought: In the age of digital transformation where cloud presence, big data, and robotics are the buzz words and the focus of every business is on “Cloud Transformation”, blockchain might take over behind the scenes and re-write the digital landscape completely.

~ Karthik Pannala, Associate

Managed Security Market Gaining Strength by the Day

Many companies have been the victim of cyberattacks including Malware, Denial-of-Service(DoS) and Ransomware. A recent example being Equifax, where hackers were able to get personal and confidential details of approximately 143 million people. SMBs are more vulnerable to these attacks due to a lack of expertise and budget. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are leveling the field for SMBs and LBs by providing these specialized security services. The Managed Security market is growing exponentially with the rise in cybercrimes and security threats. Business factors such as meeting the needs of compliance and data protection laws, budget constraints, lack of in-house expertise and increased adoption of cloud services are shaping the future of the Managed Security market.

According to AMI’s Global Model, SMBs around the world are spending approximately $11 Billion on Remotely Managed Security, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14% by 2021. The increasing demand from SMBs is the key driver for this growth. As the services offered by SMBs increase, the need for high-level security for sensitive and confidential information is also expected to increase. AMI’s MSP study shows that 22% of an MSP’s total revenue is generated by providing Managed Security Services to clients and it will continue to grow. This is a great opportunity for MSPs to expand their security offerings.

 Region wise, North America is expected to remain the largest market for Managed Security Services as most managed security service providers and technology vendors are based in the US. The U.S. is expected to account for 92% of the market by 2021 for Remotely Managed Security Services.

Challenges:

Data is the new currency in this era and that is the biggest challenge for Managed Security Providers. As the data increases, MSPs find it difficult to provide scalability due to the lack of integration between various security platforms and tools. There are no pre-packaged technologies that fit all the security needs of various types of businesses. These security needs are business specific and require considerable time, effort and monetary investment.

From a SMB’s perspective, there is always a risk involved with the handling of critical information through a third-party security provider, including the risk of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. So, establishing trust with these businesses is a big challenge for MSPs. Additionally, according to the MSP study over 60% of Managed Security Service Providers find it challenging to maintain close relationship with vendors.

Expectations from Vendors:

MSP’s share in overall revenue for the vendor is growing quickly as SMBs shift their focus to core business offerings and outsource all other IT services required to run the business. Certainly, MSPs are expecting competitive prices and premium customer service from vendors. Additional selection criteria include:

  • Delivering technologically superior platforms and tools compared to other competitors in the market
  • Highly scalable and customizable technology solutions according to the customer’s needs
  • In addition to technology, vendors are expected to carry all the relevant certification and audit credentials to be compliant with the data privacy and security laws especially in regulated verticals such as Healthcare, Banking, etc.

These are a few of the many challenges and selection criteria uncovered in AMI’s MSP study. This research demonstrates that expansion of managed security offerings such as Endpoint Security and Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) could be a major contributing factor in the growth of the managed security market. MSPs should pay attention to several growth factors such as flexibility for changing requirements, high level of automation, regular security testing, quick customer support and the ability to provide end-to-end security solutions. Taking steps in these directions will help MSPs to stay on top in this competitive market.

~Ankit Mehta, Associate

Got MSP?

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are upping the stakes in the current cloud land grab. By rapidly expanding their portfolio of service offerings they expect to capture larger share of wallet. Their customers are aligned with this approach as they seek out full-service providers able to meet all their technology needs.

A Growing Market

By 2021 MSPs will deliver close to 25% of all technology products and services globally, up from 18% today. This is an impressive business transformation story – thousands of IT resellers and systems integrators (most of them small companies with less than $10M in revenues) have displayed a clear vision and competent leadership in enhancing their organizations’ capabilities and infrastructure to keep revenues growing in this challenging business climate.

The number of MSPs worldwide will grow from 50,000 to 75,000 between 2016-2021, with the total IT products/services they deliver growing from $500 billion to over $1 trillion during the same time.

Their services portfolios, which initially included pure infrastructure services such as storage, security essentials, compute power, web hosting, and application hosting, have now grown to include value add and higher margin services such as disaster recover/business continuity, e-discovery, vulnerability assessment, compliance management, application management, SaaS, and mobile device management among others.

Business Challenges

Despite being in a high growth business, MSPs face tough challenges which require constant attention and fine tuning of their business models. Some of the top challenges are:

  • Differentiating their services from those of other MSPs is a top priority to counter margin erosion and hyper-competition.
  • Absorbing newer technologies, tools, and solutions, packaging them for client consumption, and providing follow up services requires a constant learning and training.
  • Investing in datacenters is yet another critical challenge, which is often detrimental to smaller MSPs.

How Technology Vendors Can Help

Technology solution vendors that are supplying to MSPs can often play a big role in helping MSPs address these challenges. By fully understanding the nature of MSPs operational and business needs, vendors can design their products and programs to enable their MSP customers to win in the market-place.

Key features can be built into products and programs to make them a nuts-to-bolts solution, or packaged to work with other third-party solutions typically used by MSPs. Examples of the types of features that MSPs would like vendors to include in their solutions are:

  • Automation of overall solutions architecture.
  • Automation of customer on-boarding and migration processes.
  • Dynamic and predictive throughput/capability scaling.
  • Performance monitoring and predictive dashboards and controls.
  • Vertical industry-specific sales, marketing, and technical know how.
  • Vertical industry-specific compliance and reporting features.
  • Online university – modular online training videos and certification.

These are some of the insights we have uncovered in our tracking of the worldwide MSP segment. For additional insights and a detailed description of our MSP tracking service and various deliverables click here.

Alternatively, please email John Rezac (jrezac@ami-partners.com) for more details or to schedule a webinar that will walk you through our MSP coverage and insights.

~Deepinder Sahni, SVP

5 SMB Pros and Cons for the Cloud

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life. The feeling of nostalgia for that staple of 1980s television The Facts of Life notwithstanding, the good and the bad can be applied to that ever-expanding network we call the Cloud. At an event hosted by Rackspace, your intrepid blogger was brought up to speed on recent developments and how the company is working toward its corporate goal of being “The preeminent IT services company in the world”.  The cloud is the primary focus of Rackspace and numerous competing companies all over the world. There are challenges to face but also opportunities to seize. Let’s look at the challenges that Rackspace identified with the cloud and then put an SMB focused lens on reasons for subscribing or not subscribing to cloud solutions.

All data equal?
SMBs are putting data on the cloud

Top Challenges

The topics on analyst day covered all facets of the Rackspace portfolio and numerous employees shared their subject matter expertise. Additionally, several customers shared stories about their transformation with Rackspace and how their business has changed over the years. The cloud presents both an opportunity to customers as well a challenge and we’ll see that difference in position can be a matter of perspective. Continue reading “5 SMB Pros and Cons for the Cloud”

MSPs to capture $1.0T in ICT spending by 2021

Large numbers have a certain aura to them. We almost disrespect these figures by using abbreviations. One trillion dollars written out looks like $1,000,000,000,000 and for those wondering, such a sum would weigh approximately 10,000 tons (9,071.85 short tons) when carried around in the largest denomination US currency currently in circulation, the ever popular $100 bill. To have such transportation and storage problems… For the sake of preserving the “0” key, we’ll stick to the $1.0T abbreviation for the rest of this piece, but there is no shortening the drive of MSPs to capture an increasing share of global information and communication technology (ICT) spending across the SMB and Large Enterprise space.

MSP spending capture growth
$1.0T in spending capture… that’s a spicy meatball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How are MSPs winning?

There are a host of factors contributing to the rise in MSP spending capture toward the $1.0T plateau. As with any business, Continue reading “MSPs to capture $1.0T in ICT spending by 2021”

Storage in the Cyber Attack Era

Ransomware has returned to the front page in the form of the WannaCry threat sweeping the globe. AMI-Partners has written about cybersecurity before and it is a well known fact that being proactive is the best approach to security. In this blog, AMI will take a look at how a robust storage solution can help a company in the SMB space rebound from an attack.

Pay the butcher’s bill?

The WannaCry ransomware has arrived in 150 or so countries. Blame is still being assigned and solutions are being sought. Experts agree that paying a ransom isn’t the best course of action. There is no guarantee your files will be decrypted. The sting of having been on the receiving end of the malicious attack will be compounded by the fruitlessly spent funds filling the coffers of criminals. However, each firm must respond as they see fit. If the rightful owners and users are locked out of files, retrieving duplicate information from storage can get a business up and running again. Of course, when ransoms aren’t paid, Continue reading “Storage in the Cyber Attack Era”

IBM PartnerWorld 2017

Last week, AMI-Partners attended IBM’s PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino. The trio AMI dispatched to the desert came back with new insights and information on how IBM is working with business partners to deliver solutions to customers of all sizes. On a less technical yet allegorical front, we also heard stories ranging from catching a cow to hitting an olive tree with a stick. Keep reading to the end for those accounts, but for now, a brief recap from our trip with highlights from a few breakout sessions.

Viva Las Vegas!

As we entered the opening general session, the lighting rigs were shining bright, the music (Elvis of course) was deafening, and the stage was set for speakers to address the crowd comprised of IBM business partners (more than 1,300 from 78 countries), IBM-ers from various units, the press, and analysts – some of whom very closely follow the SMB ICT space. IBM Chair, President, and CEO Ginni Rometty shared her vision for the future of cognitive business and how Watson will touch some 1 billion people by the end of this year. General Manager for Global Business Partners Marc Dupaquier shared highlights of the partner network and IBM announced several new initiatives to help promote success across all partners in what it dubs “The Cognitive Era”. Without the efforts of business partners, IBM is limited in getting its solutions to end users. The need to work with, nurture, and educate partners is critical to success, not only for Continue reading “IBM PartnerWorld 2017”

DRaaS for SMBs?

A disaster may be unavoidable. Predicting misfortune isn’t an exact science. However, recovering from such an event can and should be planned well in advance. With the sizable amount of valuable data generated daily, the risk of losing this information becomes a going concern for businesses of all size. Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is becoming a viable option for the SMB space. Should it be?

What is DRaaS and is it contagious

DRaaS is a cloud based solution that allows for the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a 3rd party to provide data recovery in the event of a man-made or natural catastrophe. This enables failover of virtual machines to secure cloud locations. The modern business climate is more likely to be disrupted by a human generated event than a natural one. Malicious attacks, honest user error, upgrade issues and a bad line of code can do just as much damage as a storm. As with most services accessed via the cloud, DRaaS is a pay as you need solution and is configured to operate in the background as it automatically performs backups of critical systems and data.  If your business needs ‘n’ TB of storage, you only need to pay for ‘n’ TB of storage. This flexibility allows SMBs to scale accordingly to match evolving business needs.

Solutions such asbut not limited to Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, Quorum onQ Hybrid Cloud Solution, Zetta Backup and Recovery, and Carbonite Server Backup all offer DRaaS to the SMB market. A careful evaluation of business Continue reading “DRaaS for SMBs?”

2017: An SMB Odyssey

Happy New Year! The start of a new year often brings reflections on the past and forecasts for the future. Resolutions and changes abound but are often discarded before the calendar turns to February. Hopefully you’ve noticed the new layout for our blog and AMI-Partners assures you it will not change back come Groundhog Day.

Keep on Writin’…

Moving forward, we will do our best to post regular updates, to keep the writing style as informal and conversational as the subject matter permits, and to offer more in the way of knowledge sharing as we strive to enhance our reputation as a leader in the SMB ICT space. Our work helps leading organizations to better understand the small and medium business landscape. We believe this Continue reading “2017: An SMB Odyssey”

Layered Security Solutions

Earlier this week, AMI-Partners joined a call hosted by Trend Micro Inc. that discussed the firm’s collective capabilities in security, covered in three categories titled Hybrid Cloud Security, Network Defense, and User Protection. With security threats becoming more sophisticated, targeted, and frequent, having a layered security solution can prove beneficial in the SMB space. Yearly subscription prices per user range from $38 – $62 for this layered approach to security, which does not put it out of reach for the SMB market. These security solutions (Standard and Advanced packages) are available for both on-premise and hosted delivery.

Competition & Worldwide Spending

Trend Micro, a global security software company that develops products for servers and the cloud computing environment for consumers, governments, and the SMB market, competes in a crowded field with such well know names like McAfee, Microsoft, and Symantec. With an eye toward increased market share and profitability, the company is working to provide business customers with multiple solutions for cybersecurity. The firm is ranked as the top worldwide content security provider for small business (4 years running) by Canalys and claims to block 250M threats each day.

According to AMI’s Global Forecast Model, total worldwide SMB security spending Continue reading “Layered Security Solutions”