Whats it all about?
Virtualisation does what is says on the tin; its the creation of a virtual version of something, such as an operating system.
To date, there are three areas of IT where virtualisation is making progress, server virtualisation, storage virtualisation and network virtualisation:
- Server virtualisation is the masking of server resources (including the number and identity of individual physical servers, processors, and operating systems) from server users. Put simply, it is migrating an infrastructure consisting of multiple servers 10 or 20 for example and consolidating them onto fewer larger servers. Virtualisation software from vendors such as VMware or Zen is then used to provide additional virtual server capacity. Not only does this have implications on hardware costs, but it makes it much easier for the IT manager to manage their estate, whilst at the same time increasing resource sharing and utilisation and maintaining the capacity to expand later
- Storage virtualisation is the pooling of physical storage from multiple network storage devices into what appears to be a single storage device that is managed from a central console
- Network virtualisation is a method of combining the available resources in a network by splitting up the available bandwidth into channels, each of which is independent from the others, and each of which can be assigned (or reassigned) to a particular server or device in real time
Where are we today?
A rapidly growing market, IDC's 2008 European Server Virtualisation Survey found the rate of new servers being virtualised by existing virtualisation users will increase from 35 per cent in 2007 to 52 per cent by 2009. In addition, 54 per cent of companies surveyed who are not using virtualisation today; plan to do so in the next 12 months.
Research commissioned in the US and Europe by storage firm ONstor shows a significant 27 per cent of European respondents are actually implementing storage virtualisation today (although that is slightly down compared with 35 per cent in the US).
It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that every single data centre in the UK is looking at, trialing or implementing some form of virtualisation.
In the UK alone, there are upwards of 20-30 resellers that have built their entire business model on selling virtualisation, and they are typically very profitable and growing rapidly.
Further evidence of virtualisations potential is the backing it receives from the Worlds largest IT vendors. IBM for example, via Interface and under the umbrella of its IBM PowerNet program is offering resellers up to 10 per cent rebate on IBM hardware for any virtualisation installation.
Whats driving growth?
The business case for virtualisation is simple: it reduces costs, reduces energy use, reduces carbon emissions and significantly reduces IT management resource.
There is no single industry vertical or sector that is responsible for driving this growth. SMB organisations with an infrastructure up to 20-30 servers or less all the way up to the largest corporations with 500 servers are looking to benefit from a virtualised technology environment.
However, by way of demonstrating the benefits of virtualisation in a small-medium organisation, let me share a recent project undertaken by Interface and our reseller partner Insight:
Withernsea High School, using a combination of six IBM blade servers (with VMware virtualisation software operating on four blades to virtually boost its server count by 20 virtual servers) has been able to cut its existing 27 power hungry Dell servers to just three, consolidate two server rooms into one, switch off all costly and high energy server room air conditioning and reduce overall server room power consumption by 65-70 per cent.
In addition, under the new Blade architecture with VMWare software, the High Schools cost of the electricity bill for running servers has reduced to just 1,173 per year - a 79 per cent cost reduction.
What are the opportunities for resellers?
Virtualisation in itself is a huge opportunity for resellers, but in addition, as computing becomes more ubiquitous, more powerful and more portable an organisations ability to manage that environment becomes significantly more complex and costly. A more complex IT environment should be music to resellers ears.
For IT departments, growing complexity leads to a whole host of issues: access versus security, performance versus cost, flexibility versus control. There is a significant value-add opportunity for resellers in virtualisation. It is not just about selling the software, but also the server, storage and networking hardware exactly what the IBM PowerNet program that I referenced earlier is successfully promoting via Interface.
Virtualisation is not a silo-sale; it is a cross department pan-organisational implementation and because of this resellers get the opportunity to speak to the entire organisation, creating the right environment for future up-selling.