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Enterprise Technology Trickle Down

When I first heard about Cisco UCS, I thought it was a great idea. A complete infrastructure in a box -- compute, networking, storage, all pre-configured and ready to go -- what could be simpler? In fact, a few months afterward I was speaking with a rep for a large computer vendor that was getting ready to release its own 42u converged infrastructure. I was confused why they weren't delivering something smaller and asked why converged infrastructure seemed to be something only large enterprises could afford. 

Fast forward a few years, and it now seems everyone is talking hyperconverged. It's become a technology that almost any IT department, from SMB to large enterprise, can purchase and deploy with ease.

Adoption of hyperconverged solutions has shown they can start in the large enterprise space, those organizations with big budgets, and move down into the SMB market where smaller budgets are the norm. However, can the same be said for enterprise software? How difficult is it to take software designed for the enterprise and move it down market?

I've been asking myself this question a lot as I see software typically targeted at large enterprises re-packaged for the small-to-midmarket. Without a doubt, large enterprises have different needs than small companies that only have one or two IT staff members. So how does a vendor know what features an SMB needs in a "stripped down" version?

At the other end of the spectrum, there is software that was originally designed specifically for small-to-midmarket companies, which were largely ignored by the "enterprise vendors." This approach allows smaller businesses to add features over time and grow their solution into something that might be suited for larger enterprises. The key here, of course, is that these vendors don't forget about the smaller customers who helped them get a start -- it's a delicate balancing act. If executed successfully, smaller customers can enjoy the benefits of new features aimed at their larger cousins, assuming the software doesn't get bogged down in complexity.

Somewhere in the middle is software that has two versions; one for the large enterprise and another for the SMB market. This approach can be effective, especially since each market has different needs, but it can be difficult for a customer to decide which solution they need. If a customer starts off with the "SMB solution" can they easily move to the "enterprise solution" if they become successful and grow? From the vendor perspective, it can also be difficult to maintain two different code bases and most likely two different sales and marketing teams.

It's a simple fact; customers are looking for software that is easy to install and configure and doesn't require a team of experts to manage on a constant basis. We all want to work smarter and not harder. For software vendors, sometimes trying to change the perception the market has of you can be hard, even if you have software that meets the needs of multiple segments. And sometimes even the most appealing products take time to make their way to the masses. However, by continuing to build upon a technology that uniquely answers a demand -- and adapting and remaining financially viable -- market dynamics evolve, and the vendor with the best product, and the masses, usually win out.