Pushing consolidation for partners

In a bid to drive growth for Hewlett-Packard solution providers, Avnet Partner Solutions has embarked on a multi-city tour across Canada focusing on the benefits of virtualization and consolidating to a blade server and storage area network environment.

During its Toronto stop, the value-added distributor brought close to 150 resellers and customers together to discuss the issues and opportunities in IT consolidation.

“Avnet has a responsibility to bring core pieces of distribution like logistics, sales, marketing, finance and technical services, but as a Fortune 200 company, we have to raise that bar,” said Brian Aebig, director of sales, HP Business unit for Avnet Partner Solutions in Canada. “We have to bring operational excellence to the table, often in the form of automation and tools usage in incremental supplier relationships, and in vertical market programs like these seminars.”

Bringing the right partners together to add value and support is vital, added Aebig, and in the case of virtualization, server and storage consolidation, those partners include Hewlett-Packard, VMware Inc. and Brocade.

Last year HP made a move designed to simplify the management of storage area network (SAN) connectivity with the addition of a 16-port Brocade Silkworm 4Gbit/s SAN switch to its BladeSystem racks.

And in September, HP augmented its virtual server offering by adding VMware technology to its Intel-based ProLiant servers. Upgraded management and planning tools have also been included like Vmotion, which enables users to move live, running virtual machines from one host to another while maintaining continuous service availability.

Virtualization allows an enterprise to operate multiple machines, with heterogeneous operating systems running in isolation, side-by-side on the same physical machine. Each computer has its own set of virtual hardware, like RAM, CPU and NIC, on which an OS and applications are loaded.

According to John Loether, an industry consultant and a speaker at the event, there are a number of benefits for an enterprise to become virtualized. Servers can be consolidated into virtual machines on either a scale-up or scale-out architecture, he explained.

Second, the computers are isolated from the host and other virtual machines, so if one crashes, all others are not affected, added Loether. Also, the complete virtual machine environment is saved as a single file, he said, making it easy to back up, move and copy.

For HP’s reseller partners, the business opportunities in this market space has been encouraging. Curtis Brown, president of Mississauga-based Strategic Concepts Group, said 30 percent of the company’s business comes from IT consolidation.

“We’ve been offering consolidation solutions for five years,” he said, and since then, to attract customers, Strategic Concepts has conducted seminars, sent mailers and invested in a demo centre in its facility, so “we can demonstrate what we preach.” The company is completing more of its own consolidation using VMware and HP blade servers, which Brown admitted is a good way to recommend the technologies to customers.

Nextide, a consulting and systems integration company based in Mississauga, has been in the consolidation business for three years. According to Joe Aucoin, director of sales, seminars like the one in Toronto are an ideal way to get customer and partner attention on an issue like consolidation.

“When you take six servers down to one, it’s a huge savings,” he said. “We go in as a reseller and say we’re going to refresh and consolidate, than every IT manager and CFO says, ‘Fantastic, I really need to cut my IT costs.’”

Nextide started as a hardware and infrastructure reseller, but as profit margins in both areas declined, the company moved more into services, said Aucoin. “You have to look for ways to work with clients where you provide a service and add on value — that’s why we’re called value added resellers,” he said.

Aucoin added that in consolidation services, solutions are priced out separately. “The margin on people tends to be much higher than the margin on a piece of hardware. The value is the person’s knowledge, not the fact that you have a box that does something.”

Other stops this week for the Avnet sessions are in Ottawa and Montreal.

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