Complexity of virtualization a boon to resellers

As companies buy virtualization software to reduce data centre costs, integrators and resellers have plenty of up-sell and service opportunities, according to speakers at a round table Monday.

When CMS Consulting Inc. works on virtualization projects, they start their discussion by talking about server consolidation, said the company’s president, Brian Bourne.

“There is a services opportunity around helping customers figure out what services exist on the servers, which ones are virtualization candidates, and then looking at capacity planning, looking at which workloads can go with which workloads,” Bourne said.

CMS Consulting is a Toronto-based Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) partner focused on infrastructure and security technologies, and Bourne made his remarks Monday during a round table hosted by Microsoft’s Canadian subsidiary, which announced three products.

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 is designed to let companies configure and install new virtual machines and managing their infrastructure. Application Virtualization version 4.5 is designed to let Windows Vista users stream applications to their desktop, while allowing managers to control them centrally. Microsoft also said Hyper V Server 2008 will be available for download within 30 days.

“With Virtual Machine Manager, there’s a great opportunity to help customers manage this virtual environment,” Bourne said. “Before, if you had a problem with a server, you would go to the data centre, look down the rack and there was a big label that said ‘server name.’ Now, good luck finding where that server even exists. So bringing in this single console is very exciting.”

One Hyper V beta tester who spoke at the round table was Vince Jordan, director of technology management services for Ontario’s Workplace Safety Insurance Board.

Officials at the board, which provides compensation to sick and injured workers, wanted to reduce its “footprint” in the data centre through server consolidation.

“We have just exploded in the amount of major projects that are happening,” Jordan said. “One of the bigger ones is…changing the way we do claims in Ontario, and that brings forth a requirement for a lot of hardware and software. We’re being called upon, it seems almost on a weekly basis, to add in servers to the data centre.”

He said virtualization lets them provision servers more quickly and respond more quickly to problems.

“We were looking at probably incurring $1million in expenses down in the data centre, and we were looking at how we could avoid that, and one of the things that came up was virtualization.”

Research from Toronto-based IDC Canada shows about 40 per cent of Canadian companies are “looking at” buying the technology “over the next year or so,” said Kevin Restivo, senior analyst for software at IDC’s Canadian security and software research practice.

“Virtualization, though it’s been in development for literally decades, is game-changing technology because companies can use it to cut operational costs,” Restivo said during the round table.

Not only does virtualization allow large companies to reduce the number of servers, but it also helps cut support and administration costs, Restivo added.

IDC research has shown a company can move from 20-30 servers for every administrator in the “physical world,” to anywhere from 60 to 100 servers in the virtual environment, he said, adding this refers only to staff who are actually handling the servers.

“For every dollar that’s spent on a server, it actually costs 50 cents to maintain that server and a big cost of that is people,” Restivo said. “When you can see the amount of physical servers and the cost of maintaining them, you can see why businesses are so interested in virtualization.”

Bourne said for small to mid-sized companies, virtualization has advantages other than server consolidation.

“When you’re in mid-market or smaller company, going from 50 servers down to 30, it’s not as if you’re going to save a whole lot of real estate,” he said. “So the opportunity becomes around the new things you can do because of virtualization. You can quickly respond and put a workload on a separate machine without getting new hardware.”

He added an opportunity for integrators and resellers is helping companies manage their virtual machines.

“The funny thing about server consolidation is, you may reduce the number of servers from a physical perspective, but 100 per cent of the time, guaranteed, you will end up with more machines to manage,” he said. “It’s not a terrible thing, because you can respond to the business and provide some isolation for that business application, but at the end of the day you now have more machines you started with, not less.”

Microsoft is focusing on making it easier for customers to install the technology and making it easier for resellers to train customers, said Bruce Cowper, chief security advisor at Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada Co.

“There is immense amount of opportunity in the marketplace for companies like Microsoft and their partners out there,” Cowper said. “Some of our competitors have had products on the market for considerably longer than Microsoft, we see that there’s an incredible opportunity both in terms of net new deployments, but also – making virtualization ubiquitous, becoming a lot more accessible.”

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