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The CIO Imperative

The CIO Imperative

The Multicloud Opportunity for Partners with Dell APEX

The Multicloud Opportunity for Partners with Dell APEX

By Kevin Rhone, Practice Director; and Scott Sinclair, Senior Analyst


Today’s IT is defined by multicloud, and accelerating this trend, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered businesses worldwide. While hopefully severe only in the short term, the expectation is that it will produce long-term change and opportunity, especially by focusing on the demands of the remote workforce.
At the same time, IT decision makers report that the combination of remote work, cyber threats, and ever-growing data needs has made the traditional IT market much more complex (see Figure 1). It is quickly morphing into what can be called the intelligent data management market. IT is now delivered and supported by multi-cloud ecosystems and as-a-service consumption models, two trends that have also been accelerated by the impact of COVID-19, starting in early 2020 and continuing to drive digital transformation today.
Figure 1. IT Complexity Continues to Be Driven by Multiple Factors

What do you believe are the biggest reasons your organization’s IT environment has become more complex? (Percent of respondents, N=329, five responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Dell Technologies is supporting this market shift by providing an innovative way to acquire its broad-based IT infrastructure solutions: Dell APEX. To support its partners that are not only supporting customer transitions to the cloud, but also transforming their companies to subscription-based, multicloud models, Dell Technologies has introduced significant changes and innovations designed to support customer success and profitable partner growth, under the banner of what they call “multicloud by design.”
This paper explores four themes that are being shaped by the changes in IT consumption and management. We will examine each in turn and touch on the factors and data behind these trends, how they intertwine and affect the others, and the impact on end-users and the partners that support them.

Overview and Opportunity

As a result of the generational change in digital transformation, businesses and the IT organizations that support them are investing in and using technology to improve operational flexibility in a post-COVID-19 world. Earlier ESG research on the effects of the pandemic showed that IT decision makers look to increase spending for long-term strategies that protect from future disruptions and enable their employees to effectively work remotely. Partners have been navigating the joint challenges of safely helping their customers react, adapt, and manage risk and costs in the short term, and with the help of key vendors, they are also advising and supporting their customers as they move forward to the new IT and tech world.
New Consumption Patterns Translate into Partner Opportunity
As OpEx models are increasingly being employed by customers, IT partners are adjusting their go-to-market plans and business models to capture this opportunity. ESG has seen the following trends move into the mainstream over the last two years:
• More complexity and increased demand for managing valuable data has created new service opportunities.
• Customers prefer to address their challenges with subscription-based, services-led offerings.
In this environment, channel leaders have been presented with a chance for sustainable differentiation. By ensuring a balance of end-user value and technological and process innovation, they can become trusted partners for BOTH their vendor partners and their mutual customers. Reflecting this opportunity, 86% of partners surveyed by ESG believed that cloud-based managed services represented a fundamental shift in their business models and were actively trying to get out ahead of the trend (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. IT Partners Are Aggressively Adopting As-a-service Business Models

Which statement best describes your organization’s current organizational philosophy toward cloud-based managed services? (Percent of respondents, N=346)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

With Opportunity Comes Some Challenges
Partners must overcome new challenges to stake their claim, however, and partners that the ESG team speaks with on an ongoing basis report that they must plan to deal with a range of organizational, operational, and financial challenges associated with the move to a subscription-based, managed services business. For example, as much as customers want to shift from "systems" to "as-a-service outcomes," there is a translation that must take place between what their customers used to purchase and implement and how they will need to implement and operate going forward.
Partners are racing to fill this gap and tell us that they have invested in specific training around cloud business practices, hired experienced technical staff, and adopted new marketing and sales methodologies and practices. Understanding and preparing for the budgetary impact on revenue and cash flow is an important step to begin each partner’s successful transformation. To seize this opportunity, partners must:
• Reimagine their relationships across the ecosystem, maintaining close relationships with key clients and inspiring them to transform IT delivery structures in the long term.
• Get even closer (virtually, if necessary) to their strategic vendor partners, gaining important mindshare and resources and evaluating financial incentives and programs that drive solution sales and their own long-term success.

Customers Making the Move See Real Benefits

While initial “as-a-service” consumption models meant leveraging public cloud providers on shared infrastructure, as-a-service models today are increasingly being used in dedicated infrastructure scenarios like company-owned data centers and in colocation facilities, as reflected in ESG research, showing the progression of how customers prefer to consume and pay for data center infrastructure (see Figure 3).
Figure 3. Companies Increasingly Prefer Pay-as-you-go Payment Models

Assuming the net-cost was the same, which of the following do you believe would be your organization’s preferred payment model for on-premises data center infrastructure? (Percent of respondents)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

What’s In It for Customer IT Teams?

Additional ESG research conducted in 2021 put a finer point on the benefits behind these trends and evaluated responses from IT decision makers based on the progress they made (or did not make) regarding 4 cloud operations considerations: buying outcomes versus hardware/specs, aaS procurement and costing, automated versus manual management, and on-demand scaling versus overprovisioning. This analysis resulted in placing respondents into one of four (4) progressive maturity levels (see Figure 4).
Figure 4. IT Partners Are Aggressively Adopting As-a-service Business Models

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Top findings pointed to clear, positive IT operational outcomes for organizations implementing cloud operations for dedicated infrastructure. They see improvements in their environments at higher rates across the board. Highlights include:
• Cost: Level 4 organizations have reduced infrastructure costs by 24% over the past 12 months, 71% more cost savings than Level 1.
• Efficient support: Level 4 organizations have reduced time to manage infrastructure by 33% over the past 12 months, 57% more time savings than Level 1.
• Agile management: Level 4 organizations have reduced time to respond to end-user requests (provisioning, trouble tickets, etc.) by 71% more than Level 1. In absolute terms, they provision IT services in half the time, on average.
• Development speed: 74% of Level 4 organizations have accelerated application development cycles by one week or more in the past 12 months, and Level 4 organizations are 2.2x more likely than Level 1 to indicate their IT Ops teams are extremely well-positioned to support DevOps.
• Public cloud security: Cloud operations for dedicated infrastructure is correlated to fewer public cloud security incidents (ESG believes progress on dedicated infrastructure is helping organizations manage public cloud risk more effectively).
• End-user satisfaction: Level 4 organizations’ end-user satisfaction with IT ops and service delivery is 6.6x higher than Level 1 organizations’ end-users.
In addition to these operational benefits, organizations implementing cloud operations for dedicated infrastructure also see positive business-level outcomes more often:
• IT as a differentiator: C-suite executives at Level 4 organizations are 3.5x more likely to view their IT teams as competitive differentiators.
• DX progress: Level 4 organizations are 2.9x more likely to have a mature DX practice compared to level 1 organizations.
• Innovation: Level 4 organizations are 2x more likely to be ahead of the competition on product/service launches, and Level 4 organizations are generating 50% more revenue from product/services launched in the past 2 years.
• Business outlook: Level 4 organizations are 2.7x more likely to exceed their revenue targets by more than 7%+ this fiscal year and are 2x more likely to say they are in a “very strong” position to succeed in their markets over the next few years
• 85% of organizations agree that aaS is critical to keep up with user demands.

How Do Progressive IT Organizations Move Up the Maturity Curve? (Hint: With Help from Dell Technologies, Intel, and their IT partners)

Supporting these positive outcomes, Dell Technologies’ APEX portfolio of as-a-Service offerings simplify digital transformation while increasing IT agility and control. APEX is a comprehensive set of simple and consistent cloud experiences delivered as-a-service that can provision quickly, scale on demand, and allow for pay-as-you-go OpEx benefits across entire multicloud, multi-edge, and multi-data center environments. APEX compute and storage solutions are built with Intel innovation—the culmination of a multi-decade partnership—giving customers the dynamic ability to scale cloud solutions based on Dell’s best-of-breed infrastructure platforms and trusted Intel capability.
APEX allows IT decision makers to focus on critical priorities and outcomes to yield better business outcomes by:
• Taking advantage of as-a-service everywhere: APEX removes unwanted complexity, related inefficiencies, and costs and provides streamlined IT operations.
• Reacting quickly to capture new opportunities: APEX flexibility accelerates digital transformation to respond to changing business dynamics.
• Minimizing risk and maximizing performance: APEX provides more control of critical data—from where it is located; to who can access it; to how it is protected to maximize its availability, improve overall governance, and safeguard it from a growing number of concerns.
IT leaders search for a cloud experience with the combined benefits of public and private cloud, with choices for how to consume it and where to deploy it: either on-premises in a local data center, out to edge environments, in colocation facilities adjacent to cloud providers, or natively in a public cloud. Wherever APEX goes, organizations get a more consistent cloud experience across their enterprises—throughout their multicloud, multi-edge, and multi-data center IT landscape—giving them more flexibility and choice to achieve strategic objectives.
But they can’t go it alone. Increasingly, organizations are finding IT partners essential in helping them move up the maturity curve. Let’s explore four themes in more depth that are driving change in the industry and providing opportunities for suppliers, partners, and their joint customers.

Theme #1 – The CIO Imperative of as-a-Service Transformation

CIOs today have many challenges as the result of their digital transformation initiatives. They must deal with constantly changing line-of-business needs and a rapidly changing technology landscape, compounded by skill shortages in key areas of that changing landscape. Fundamentally, time and degree of difficulty produce delays and are inefficient today.
• Legacy workflows take too long: Legacy infrastructure planning, procurement, and deployment are estimated to take up to 37 weeks for new workloads.
• Legacy workflows aren’t resource-efficient: Legacy workload planning leads to overprovisioned infrastructure ~53% of the time.
• Tool consistency versus fragmentation: 98% of organizations want management tool consistency across environments but 60% use 10+ different tools across all environments.
With organizations looking to become more efficient, while delivering a unique customer experience that allows users to easily interact and collaborate, it’s not surprising that a significant percentage of CIOs view adapting to an as-a-service model as a must-have to deal with the constant and accelerating rate of change and user demands (see Figures 5 and 6 ).
Figure 5. Most Important Digital Transformation Objectives

What are your organization’s most important objectives for its digital transformation initiatives? (Percent of respondents, N=694, three responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Figure 6. Transitioning to aaS is Fundamental

Agree or Disagree: Delivering dedicated infrastructure “as-a-Service” is critical to our IT operations to keep up with user demands. (Percent of respondents, N=1,000)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

To further support the trends, ESG research showed that more than two-thirds of companies had implemented or were implementing digital transformation initiatives, and IT transformation led the way in terms of active projects (see Figure 7). In many companies, it is often difficult to identify where one starts and the other ends, particularly when recent ESG research shows that 51% of IT leaders in those companies plan to deploy net new applications in public cloud infrastructure, and 38% plan to deploy them as a third-party SaaS application.
Figure 7. Organizations’ Digital Transformation Initiatives

Which of the following best describes your organization’s digital transformation initiatives? (Percent of respondents, N=372)

In which of the following areas does your organization have an active digital transformation project? (Percent of respondents, N=270, multiple responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

It is not surprising, then, that data center modernization investments have become cloud-like and now focus on a balance of on-premises and public cloud connectivity and interoperability. Two factors underlying this trend also stand out: (1) As the number of data centers increases so, too, does the investment in a cloud-like experience (see Figure 8), and (2) on-premises hyperscale solutions are key for nearly half (48%) of organizations to create a cloud experience on-premises.
Figure 8. Data Center Strategy Is Becoming More Cloud-like

Which of the following is or likely will be part of your organization’s strategy for on-premises data center environments over next three years? (Percent of respondents, N=372, multiple responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Why Do Customers Rely on Dell Technologies’ Partners?

This emphasis on delivering a cloud-like experience everywhere has created a significant opportunity for partners, and Dell Technologies has made APEX an integral part of its partner program, giving participants a strategic advantage in the as-a-Service space. Together, Dell and its partners provide end-customers with key elements to accelerate their digital and IT transformation success. Partners contribute in many ways to simplify and unify disparate solutions to bring multicloud solutions to life on the customers’ terms, Including:
• Skills, knowledge, and expertise across multiple providers and ecosystem touchpoints.
• Scale and experience to complement customer IT organizations.
• Flexibility of how to engage in the way customers want to consume.
• Support for the organizational issues and needed cultural change, along with IT transformation efforts.
Working closely with Dell Technologies provides partners the solutions to deliver cloud experiences that are simple and consistent based on identifying customers’ evolving needs. It’s all about enabling them to simplify IT and become “cloud smart,” selecting the right combination of on-premises, cloud adjacent, and public cloud resources.

Theme #2 – Navigating Multicloud Complexity

With people continuing to work from just about everywhere, the pressure on IT workloads has increased. Organizations need to find ways to improve efficiency and control of remote IT operations. The opportunity for partners to support their customers is all about how to reduce multicloud complexity.
The ones who are doing it most effectively are more flexible, but delivering a simple, easy-to-deploy cloud experience is a challenge. Multicloud is more than multiple public cloud providers; it is IT and application environments that span multiple cloud providers and multiple data center environments. Additional data points from ESG research that amplify the challenges customers face and how partners can support them include:
Multicloud is meaningful, with applications hosted in multiple locations:
of organizations leverage more than one public cloud provider, and 45% rely on either 3 or 4 different CSPs.
of respondents often use multiple IaaS or PaaS CSPs with applications hosted in more than one.
of respondents describe that their usage of multiple CSPs for Iaas or PaaS is done in a meaningful way.

Why Do Customers Rely on Dell Technologies’ Partners?

Companies look to partners to help them with the top challenges they face when leveraging multiple CSPs, with flexibility, scale, and agility among the top cloud selection criteria organizations look at when prioritizing and selecting specific public cloud providers (see Figure 9).
Figure 9. Cloud Selection Criteria

What are your organization’s biggest drivers for choosing a public cloud service for production workloads? (Percent of respondents, N=363, multiple responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

When it comes to addressing the top two challenges organizations face as a result of using multiple CSPs identified in ESG research (ensuring coordination across teams and addressing security across multiple cloud environments) (see Figure 10), the best partners are invaluable in adding expertise. Leading partners deliver services for the care and feeding of apps and data, moving workloads between data centers and CSPs, ensuring availability and performance.
Consideration should be given to Dell APEX as part of the strategy to increase consistency and control across the entire multicloud environment. Partners who succeed will find customers come to rely on them to provide both technology capabilities and operational assistance, in addition to guidance, in managing the organizational and cultural shifts that accompany IT transformation.
Figure 10. Challenges When Leveraging Multiple CSPs

What are the greatest challenges your organization faces as a result of using multiple CSPs? (Percent of respondents, N=279, multiple responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Theme #3 – Innovating with Data

As stated earlier in this paper, not only have the demands for IT delivery gotten much more complex, but the concept of IT being also driven by providing intelligent data management is now pervasive, as is the idea of that management being delivered and supported by multicloud ecosystems and as-a-service consumption models. To support data management delivery, ESG research found that IT leaders anticipate operating an increasing number of data centers. 34% of respondents to a recent survey said they will operate between 6 to 10 data centers 5 years from now, and 29% of respondents said that they will operate more than 10 by that time, a significant jump from the 8 centers they report operating today (see Figure 11).
Figure 11. Growth in Data Centers Predicted

How many data centers did your organization operate 5 years go? How many data centers does your organization operate today? How many data centers do you expect your organization will have in five years? (Percent of respondents, N=372)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Innovating with data as-a-service relies on storage but is broader than STaaS. Implementing cyber recovery/resiliency and delivering solutions that span on-premises, hosted, and even SaaS models are the future. The opportunity for partners to provide data as-a-service, inclusive of data storage and data protection (backup services and cyber recovery), continues to grow. Infrastructure modernization has been shown to be a top 5 priority for 43% and the top overall IT priority for 22% of our respondents (see Figure 12). Our research suggests that this topic is clearly important and front of mind for almost all IT decision makers today.
Figure 12. The Importance of Infrastructure Modernization

How much of an investment priority is your organization’s application infrastructure modernization strategy relative to other aspects of IT over the next 18-24 months? (Percent of respondents, N=372)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Why Do Customers Rely on Dell Technologies Partners?

Fundamentally, IT leaders are changing how they buy and consume data center technology. They increasingly want to employ a pay-per-use model to deploy more assets sooner, free up their own personnel to work on other tasks, and importantly, accelerate the new capabilities that new infrastructure can now deliver.
These factors are driving change that favors forward-looking partners because only 22% of respondents to the ESG survey prefer to procure, manage, and maintain hardware themselves moving forward and will also work with third-party partners to augment their resources. The balance of responses received was evenly split between procuring infrastructure as a managed service from either a third party (30%) or hardware OEMS (22%) or from a hyperscaler/CSP provider (23%). What was clear from the study was that IT decision makers have a plan to move to this model in the short term, and they will look to third-party partners to deliver solutions to accelerate the rate of transformation.
Figure 13. Preferences for On-premises Application Infrastructure

What is your organization’s preference for an on-premises application infrastructure? (Percent of respondents, N=372)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

APEX facilitates this shift in management to the partner and Dell, which frees up customer time for data innovation. The APEX portfolio has customers' infrastructure needs fully covered. Customers can select Storage, Server, Converged and Hyperconverged Infrastructure, and Data Protection, with outcome-based services including APEX Data Storage Services, APEX Cloud Services with VMware Cloud, APEX Hybrid Cloud, APEX Private Cloud, APEX Backup Services, and APEX Cyber Recovery Services, plus fully custom solutions including APEX Flex on Demand and APEX Data Center Utility.
The value that Dell and its partners can bring to the table goes beyond industry-leading technology. Effecting organizational and operational change for end-customers as they navigate their modernization path is as important as the underlying infrastructure itself. Many partners we have spoken with tell us that for them to guide their customers, they must become skilled in leading organizational/cultural change in addition to learning the aaS technologies. Fortunately, Dell Technologies has committed to providing comprehensive training and enablement for partners to help them successfully market and sell APEX offerings. These enablement programs go a long way to prepare Dell partners to strengthen their own organizations, operations, and, through that, their profitability.

Theme #4 – Meeting the Needs of End-users and IT Alike in The ‘Work From Anywhere’ World

As hybrid and remote work have become standards for how business operates, organizations need a digital workspace that doesn’t just support end-user computing (EUC) but enhances it, and cloud-delivered desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offer what they need. Today’s cloud-based solutions can be employed to provide better usability and productivity without sacrificing the security and control IT leaders are responsible for ensuring is in place.
The move to hybrid and remote work has made endpoints, and the workers that rely on them, the focus for IT teams and business management. A combination of trends beyond hybrid work, including the rise of more virulent cybersecurity threats, the need to enhance the employee experience, and the explosion of data and apps, have put new stress on legacy approaches to delivering and managing endpoints. These demands have made deploying desktop-as-a-service, or DaaS, a compelling strategic approach for meeting these challenges.
Recent ESG research shows just how important DaaS is. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) such as DaaS delivers a solution to the two most important pain points that IT teams currently deal with: improving operational efficiency and deploying an enhanced security posture (see Figure 14).
Figure 14. Top Five Benefits Organizations Realized from VDI/DaaS

Which of the following benefits has the IT organization realized as a result of its use of VDI/ DaaS? (Percent of respondents, N=338, multiple responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

The same study highlights the alignment between DaaS and the strategic drivers for investing in end-user computing (EUC). The same two issues, security and operational efficiency, are the top two strategic issues reported by organizations as the most important considerations for investing in EUC technology solutions, and DaaS platforms deliver on both. Many user-specific benefits were chosen by respondents as important for EUC investments and are also part of leading DaaS solutions, delivered in a manner that provides for the security and control that IT leaders need to check off their “must-have” boxes.
Figure 15. Top Five Factors for Investment in EUC Technology Solutions

What are the most important factors for your organization when considering investments in EUC technology solutions? (Percent of respondents, N=378, three responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Why Do Customers Rely on Dell Technologies Partners?

In our discussions with IT partners, one trend has emerged in the past few years, which was accelerated by COVID-19. This trend is the desire by customers for their trusted partners to take responsibility not only for the data center, but also for the extended IT footprint to include endpoint computing. This means partners must be prepared to take ownership for delivering real workforce transformation results, outcomes that enable people to be productive, and that address customer priorities around operational efficiency, employee experience, and TCO impact.
With the guidance of partners, it is also essential for organizations to pick the best-in-class solution for efficiency, employee experience, and optimized IT operations and for IT to make optimal technology and cloud service choices. The ability to provide files and applications to users at scale within a secure, efficient, and cost-effective environment are key strengths of VDI and DaaS environments. Dell Technologies APEX Cloud Services affords partners a best-in-class VDI solution that puts user experience first, by:
• Rapidly deploying virtual workspaces in a cloud environment, while delivering a strong VDI user experience.
• Accommodating seasonal demand spikes and employee fluctuations.
• Supporting graphic-intensive applications that require GPU resources and achieving low application latencies.
By using APEX Cloud Services to solve for VDI and DaaS, partners can provide positive outcomes for the challenges faced by their customers, including the complexity of data growth and the costs of procurement and operations, while adapting to a cloud model. Customers increasingly look to partners to secure their entire network, creating an opportunity to touch/cover all groups within the enterprise. This, in turn, can lead to a deeper relationship for partners that create long-term customer value as a comprehensive trusted advisor for the entire network.

The Bigger Truth

The fundamental nature of work has changed dramatically in just a few short years. The pandemic was a catalyst for a complete rethinking of what the office will be, as workers have gone remote and will continue to stay remote. In addition, IT is changing how customers buy, implement, and consume data center technology, as they now prefer multicloud by design, selecting the locations and delivery models that best suit their objectives.
What’s in it for Dell Technologies’ partners?
With this level of business impact, it is, therefore, critical for partners to leverage a broad product and services ecosystem and adopt capabilities to evolve and transform their own businesses. Partners need to rely on vendors that provide mutual benefits. Dell Technologies APEX strategy, product offerings, and engagement options are ready for broad market adoption while permitting the partners to differentiate with their own value-added services.
What Dell Technologies calls the “APEX Advantage” is about creating partner differentiation, beyond the recurring revenue generated by IT infrastructure. With APEX, Dell Technologies supplies the IT infrastructure and core integrated services but not the data centers, networking, and deployment and managed services for hosting cloud-adjacent or edge architectures. Partners can build their own value-added specialty services around the APEX solutions they deliver for customers in a distributed cloud model. APEX provides essential tools to support organizations as they become “cloud smart,” helping customers accelerate their business transformation, modernize their infrastructure, and, ultimately, achieve successful digital transformations.
ESG has reviewed the key elements of the value proposition for partners to go “all-in” with APEX and found them to be substantial, including the flexibility of how to engage customers. The partner can choose to resell, host, or simply refer an opportunity. Selling and delivering the way customers want to consume, based on their (and their partner’s) specific business needs, Dell APEX:

• Allows partners to respond to changing customer consumption models and support long-term customer value.

• Supports partner business model transformation in their organizations.

• Syncs partner programs, support, and rewards for their evolving GTM strategies:

     o Consistent partner program benefits regardless of selling motion.

     o Consistent rewards for both CapEx and OpEx purchase, supporting customer purchase options.

• Creates a pathway to partner profitability—a “bridge” to sustainable partner value through:

     o Customer engagement at a strategic level (IT + LOB).

     o Renewal and expansion business, supported by high-value ongoing services.

In the current environment of business upheaval, forward-thinking partners will challenge and inspire their teams to do things they didn’t think they could do. They will integrate new solutions, sales and marketing activities, and services delivery. Coming out the other end, they will have transformed their own businesses, making them partners that both vendors and their client IT decision makers can rely on. ESG recommends that partners take a close look at how Dell APEX offers can be a part of their customers’ (and their own) digital and business transformation.

This ESG White Paper was commissioned by Dell Technologies and is distributed under license from TechTarget, Inc.

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