Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and CIT Group, a business and technology financing company, have inked a partnership that may shake up the hardware as a service (HaaS) market. The deal allows customers to rent Google Chromebooks (cloud-based notebooks) for $30 per month with no long-term commitment. Here's the background and potential implications for managed services providers (MSPs).

According to CIT, the Chromebook rental program includes:
  • Chrome hardware with 3-year limited warranty, management console & support;
  • the ability to centrally control users, devices and apps via the web-based management console;
  • 36-month rental with a decrease in monthly payments every year;
  • No long-term commitment - cancel any time during the rental term without penalty.
Look at that bullet list again. It essentially blends cloud services, managed services and HaaS. Chromebooks tied to Google Apps and Google's management software represents an end-to-end solution. MSPs would be wise to study each piece of the solution -- and CIT's financing model -- to see how the HaaS market may evolve.

HaaS Specialists of Note

Some MSPs have already mastered HaaS, allowing customers to pay a monthly fee for their ongoing hardware use and related product refreshes every few years.
  • masterIT, a top MSP, has navigated HaaS successfully for several years.
  • CharTec, a HaaS and BDR specialist, has offered financing guidance and related training to MSPs for several years.
  • Great America Leasing, a well-known financing company, often assists MSPs with business dealings -- some of which involve HaaS.

Mixed History

Still, the HaaS market has also stumbled from time to time. N-able Technologies filed suit against MSP on Demand, a HaaS specialist, back in 2010. The case alleged MSP on Demand was engaged in fraudulent business practices. I don't know if the legal case ever reached a resolution.

Also of note: Google Chromebooks, introduced in mid-2011, haven't exactly set the world on fire. But some channel partners are definitely profiting from the devices. One example involves Cloud Sherpas, a top 100 cloud services provider that sells and support Chromebooks.