Magazine Article | October 18, 2012

Don't Miss The Next Wave In Virtualization

By Jay McCall, Business Solutions Magazine

If you’ve held off thus far from selling virtualization solutions, now is a good time to get educated on this huge opportunity — and avoid missing the upcoming opportunities.

Just about every trade show or conference I’ve attended this year has listed virtualization as a key technology VARs and MSPs (managed services providers) should be selling. While many of you may already be offering virtualization on some level — e.g. as a restore option on your BDR (backup and disaster recovery) offering — there are still a vast majority that haven’t yet explored the next level of virtualization and all that it offers your customers and you. I spoke with five industry experts to get their take on the biggest opportunities happening with this technology as well as the pitfalls you’ll need to watch out for.

What are the biggest opportunities in virtualization?
Mike Fouts, senior director of Americas channels and field operations, Citrix: For MSPs, we see the largest opportunities in the small to midsize market, particularly in markets serving customers with fewer than 500 employees. This segment has been an early adopter in the managed services arena, and virtualization solutions are a natural fit for delivering applications and services.

Server virtualization has become a de facto standard in the market segments mentioned earlier. This has created a baseline of understanding and visibility that is driving the expansion of virtualization solutions. VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) continues to be the hot topic customers want to talk about — the solutions center delivering applications and services to consumer devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. As a result of customers having the need to support any application on any device, we’re seeing significant opportunities in virtualizing desktops, applications, and entire desktop computing environments.

David Vella, CEO, Altaro: Windows Server 2012 is an important component to virtualization opportunities for VARs and MSPs. The new Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V will be driving up virtualization adoption within the SMB space. This is mostly due to the increased functionality in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, ease of use, simplified pricing, and the fact that because it is based on familiar Microsoft technology, it is an easier transition for IT administrators to gain knowledge on how to configure and manage Hyper-V.

Bill Botti, North American VP of sales, Veeam: The initial wave of virtualization is largely over. Enterprise IT and SMBs have virtualized the easy applications, which brought them to 30% to 50% virtualization in the data center, helping them achieve a more nimble approach to application deployment and consolidate their server farms. In search of even greater benefits, a second wave is now under way in which organizations are pushing virtualization further, aiming to virtualize 70%, 80%, even 100% of the data center and putting more mission-critical applications into the virtual environment.

VARs can perform a tremendous service to their customers by helping them understand the necessity for virtualization-specific management and data protection solutions. These products not only perform to expectations, but also can deliver new functionality that was previously not affordable or, in many cases, not even possible in a traditional environment.

What are the biggest pitfalls that VARs and MSPs need to avoid?
Frank Rauch, VP of North America partners, VMware: If all you are selling is a product and a means to use it, you’ve only delivered part of a solution. Virtualization is not a solution in and of itself; it addresses many real concerns of the C-level team:

  • reducing power consumption, real estate costs, and management costs
  • rationalizing hardware costs
  • allowing for scalability in private and public clouds, and a host of other things that allow organizations to create value in their IT investments. With a software-defined data center, virtualizing the entire environment opens up many options for customers in areas such as data center architecture, disaster recovery/business continuity, application isolation, and security. Our top partners understand this, and they don’t look at us wholly as a virtualization company, but as a company that leverages virtualization to deliver ROI, while preparing their customers to meet future demands.

Fouts: The primary mistakes we see VARs and MSPs make are understanding exactly what the business problem is that needs to be solved and overcomplicating the solutions.

Vella: Too many resellers get locked in to selling popular pre-configured packages without much regard for what problems an individual customer is actually facing. They rarely consider emerging and competitive technologies that might provide a superior solution.

Botti: Sometimes, we see VARs and MSPs sell a client on virtualization, but fail to provide them with best-of-breed virtualization-specific management and data protection tools. These tools are often very affordable, and some of our best partners have had success adding the management and protection tools onto the initial virtualization order. Their role as their customers’ trusted advisor is reinforced, the customer is happier with their newly virtualized environment, and the reseller makes additional margin in the process.

The biggest problem with using traditional management tools to manage a virtual environment is that you lose visibility into your clients’ virtual machines as well as how these machines interact with the underlying physical infrastructure. A physical management system, for example, doesn’t tell you anything about:

  • host capacity
  • how different virtual machines bring value to different constituencies
  • how to efficiently allocate resources among VMs
  • how to bring VM sprawl under control.

Essentially, with a traditional management tool, the entire virtual environment is simply a black box. If there are problems, IT is left with no insight into the cause.

What are the biggest objections VARs and MSPs should expect to face, and how can they overcome these objections?
Vella: Most businesses are risk-averse when it comes to investing in technology, especially technologies like virtualization, which don’t directly contribute to a business’s income. Because of this, VARs/MSPs will face strong resistance to change, especially if the business leaders feel like everything is working. To address these objections, VARs/MSPs will need to be able to demonstrate how virtualization can control costs in licensing, hardware, and business continuity.

Fouts: The biggest objection continues to be a customer choosing to do nothing and maintaining its traditional computing model. Virtualization is a shift in delivering computing solutions, and it’s also a shift in vision and thought leadership. In many cases, partners have traditionally sold to the IT organization. Virtualization spans multiple lines of business within a customer, and we recommend that partners sell across an organization. Twenty years ago IT drove innovation and need. Today, consumerization and the end user drive innovation, which means business unit leaders, CFOs, marketing executives, and a host of new decision makers and buyers have emerged who are critical to the sales process.

Rauch: The objections our partners typically face are around performance of specific applications that their customers use. Customers want examples and benchmarks so they know they can take advantage of virtualization and not negatively impact their performance. They understand the benefits of virtualization, they understand the benefits of the software-defined data center, but what they really want to know is will it work in their real-world situations. They want to make sure that the proposed environments are going to deliver everything as discussed.