We have software as a service (Salesforce.com, et al.) and transportation as a service (Uber), so why not PCs as a service? Can businesses reduce costs and complexity using PCaaS?
Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc., likes the idea. “I think ‘everything as a service’ is the way it’s going. PCaaS is just an arrangement. You agree to pay a company a steady amount of money over time, and it will install them, keep them running, and swap them out when the time comes. It’s a model that fits today’s OpEx orientation.”
Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group also sees value in the arrangement. “It is similar to leasing in practice, with higher monthly costs but less risk, so it really works best when the future is anything but certain.”
That uncertainty can lead to issues for the provider, says Kay. “Hardware is inherently less flexible than something like AWS compute capacity, which can be dialed up and down at will. In theory, you could ask the vendor to come collect those extra 300 PCs you had in for the holidays and don’t need again until next year.” Truck roll avoidance, key to MSP cost containment, becomes difficult when you must uninstall and retrieve physical PCs from customers.
So why is PCaaS becoming a thing? “Lots of layoffs and the need to have costs that also adjust better with staffing changes. This model puts the hardware burden onto the vendor in a volatile market that could be extremely critical,” says Enderle. “The more stable the company the less this makes sense.”
Kay warns about another reason your customer may be reluctant to jump into PCaaS: Some customers say “a few dollars per user per month” starts to add up. “Once something becomes part of that monthly nut, it almost never goes away. That’s why vendors like this model so much.”
One major vendor, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP Inc., made headlines by starting its own program, HP devices as a service (DaaS), which includes PCs. The HP program focuses on taking the stress out of acquiring, deploying, and managing technology over multiple years. As announced, customers can’t increase or decrease their number of devices under contract.
Enderle sees problems for resellers if the HP model becomes popular. “This is typically a direct vendor relationship with the customer, so if it becomes standard many channel firms may have to find new industries.” On the other hand, “If the customer doesn’t run to the term of the contract the vendor could be left with devalued PCs and unrecovered costs, so account qualification is critical for the vendor.”
And some, like Kay, prefer to maintain control. “People like me, who are handy with PCs and want to save a bit, will still buy them outright.” That said, he still believes that “channel pros need to get with the new model and offer programs. Vendors are likely to help.”