Virtualization At The Forefront Of IT Growth
Take the time to fully understand virtualization solutions — server, storage, even security-oriented — and you’ll benefit from strong growth in the virtualization space.
Business Solutions, July 2009
Before we go much further, let’s start with a quick definition: In the case of server virtualization, software “creates” virtual servers that use the underutilized capacity of existing physical servers, allowing customers to leverage more out of existing servers, consume less energy, and see reduced costs as fewer servers are necessary, even as storage needs grow. In many cases, virtualizing the servers in a business’ data center allows for those extra machines to be moved over for use in a backup location. Ideally, once servers are virtualized, the process can extend throughout a customer’s network, right down to the desktops and laptops used by employees.
Virtualization seemed to peak in popularity the last few months for several reasons. According to Todd Palmer, VP of Americas channel sales for NetApp, a data center solutions vendor, the availability of more technology choices and increasing virtual capabilities has helped fuel the mounting number of deployments. “Those options allow customers to take full advantage of virtualization,” he says. “Customers that have already done some virtualization are now doing significantly more, while customers that had not gone down this path are now doing so in vast numbers.” Fueling that market growth are products such as Microsoft offering Hyper-V, which allows Windows customers virtualization capabilities at near zero cost; the fact that Citrix now offers an entire application delivery system ranging across all types of client virtualization (and has made its XenServer product free); and VMware’s new capabilities, such as disaster recovery, which allow for much broader applications of virtualization into the data center.
More Than New Technology Behind Popularity
Adding to the impact of evolving technology is the flagging economy, says Anthony James, VP of products for Fortinet, a security vendor with a strong presence in the virtualization space. “Good economy of scale is one reason for the growing popularity of virtualization, since many customers are faced with the challenge of space and power constraints in the data center while trying to deliver more applications and resources to end users,” says James. “The challenge is delivering the breadth of resources that end users need and balancing that from an application per server basis with limited space, power, and cooling capabilities.” In addition to lowering those utility and space costs, virtual environments provide increased network availability and a quick reset in the case of a disaster. “VARs like virtualization because it enables data and application availability through its ability to quickly remedy a downtime situation,” says Zorian Rotenberg, CEO of StarWind Software, which offers storage virtualization and open iSCSI SAN (Internet small computer systems interface storage area network) solutions. “Think about how long it takes to fix a physical server compared to having a copy of the server on a VMware disk or in a virtual hard drive file. A few clicks is all you need to be back online.”
Because of the mix of reasons behind virtualization growth, all these vendors expect opportunity around the technology to continue. “Server virtualization is still going strong, and we don’t expect that to stop. Plus, desktop virtualization is now moving from pilot deployments into production deployments, and we expect the market for those solutions to get significantly bigger very soon,” says Palmer. Rotenberg and James agree. “We believe virtualization technologies overall will continue to grow due to the savings they offer,” says James, who adds that it is a prime time for security VARs to become involved with the market. “We believe there will be strong growth in security virtualization especially for managed security services providers [MSSPs]. VARs can evolve from resellers to adding true value by offering a cloud-based security service. This presents new revenue opportunity through a subscription business model with a renewable source of revenue and high margins.”
James touches on cloud computing (hosting services such as archiving, backup, security, and applications online), which, along with Software as a Service (SaaS), seems to be benefiting from the increased popularity of virtualization. “Virtualization is at the heart of enabling cloud providers to offer IT as a service in a dynamic, self-provisioned, and economical way,” states Palmer. “Additionally, it is virtualization that supports internal clouds — when customers build their own IT services as a dynamic and self-provisioned infrastructure that is shared across the company.”
Virtual Environments Ripe For Services
There is clearly market opportunity for everyone from those VARs that specialize in storage infrastructure, to solutions providers that build virtual environments, to managed services providers (MSPs) and MSSPs that monitor, manage, and secure those infrastructures. Regardless of the road you as a VAR take to your virtualization sales, all the vendors agree that the key value propositions are ROI and performance, and offering a full-scale virtualization solution is imperative to success. “Often customers are surprised at the cost savings and efficiencies they can achieve with virtualization,” says James, quickly adding that a customer must be educated about those benefits.
That means VARs pitching virtualization must be ready to provide performance metrics, implementation, and migration plans and explain any related costs, such as adjacent security and storage needs. “VARs also must have a value proposition that highlights how virtualization can improve the way a customer does business, plus a strategic plan that shows how this investment will play out over time,” adds James. “They must understand the customer’s growth plans and business strategy to properly implement the solution. A VAR should recommend a scalable solution and add layered security.”
Once you as a VAR have a solid understanding of the virtual solutions, the market opportunity is certainly there. “There isn’t a deal today when we don’t speak about a virtualization solution of some sort. And I only see this as a growing market as we move into a services-oriented marketplace: IT as a service, apps as a service, storage as a service, etc.,” says Palmer. But all vendors agree, to be successful a VAR must offer a full virtualization solution and understand how to pitch the strong ROI advantage of a virtual network in clear terms to customers.