SMBs receiving attention from 800-pound gorillas

Microsoft is forecasting growth in server sales in the SMB sector. Google, HP, and Dell are also working to gain more market share with SMBs.

Microsoft seems to think the economy is turning around and is forecasting growth in server sales in the SMB sector (Microsoft Sees Server Growth In Small, Medium-Sized Businesses,, subscription required to read the article). The company saw sluggish server sales in 2009, which ended the year in a virtual tie with 2006 on that measure. Microsoft believes that SMB customers will choose its products when virtualization is called for, as these customers typically don't have the money to train their employees on many different platforms, which becomes necessary if products from VMware or other vendors are brought into the environment. Microsoft also believes it has compelling offerings in the cloud computing space, but it remains to be seen how many customers will actually implement apps on Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform.

Microsoft isn't the only vendor trying to gain market share in the SMB market; Google announced this week that due to the completion of its integration with DoubleClick, the company would begin offering SMB customers a version of its ad serving technology, which has traditionally only been available for large publishers. The product has two versions: one for large online publishers and a "simple, free version designed for growing online publishers." Customers using Google Ad Manager, the product previously used for smaller publishers, will be migrated to DFP Small Business, which is the free version of its DoubleClick for Publishers technology.

HP and Dell has also been pushing out offerings to SMB customers, concentrating on helping these customers to "go green" in their server rooms. In a 2009 article, Erik Dithmer, vice president and general manager of SMB, Dell Americas said, "Going green is not only good for the environment, but it is fundamental for small businesses in today's tough economy." The benefits being touted are mostly related to cutting costs, and one customer was reportedly able to reduce their energy bill by 51% by implementing some of Dell's suggestions. HP's "green" push is aimed at helping businesses that don't have the large data centers to streamline infrastructure, reduce power consumption, and make the most of the limited footprint. The services HP is offering include analysis of capacity, infrastructure, and energy efficiency, all under the Small Footprint Assessment name.

Small businesses have a place very close to my heart. I worked for smaller businesses throughout most of my professional career, sometimes as a consultant and sometimes as an employee. I saw firsthand how much impact a large power upgrade for the server room in a community college can have on the budget. I have also seen that SMB customers have many of the same technology needs that the enterprise does, but never the deep pockets to take advantage of the most efficient technologies. Traditionally, the large vendors have not had strong SMB offerings, but that may be changing as Microsoft, Google, HP, and Dell begin to work to gain more market share in this customer segment.

What technologies do you think will have the greatest impact on the SMB market? Share your thoughts in the discussion.