Pitch virtualisation services successfully

There are many reasons why customers might want to embrace virtualisation. Amro Gebreel looks at how to sell it effectively

Selling virtualisation has always meant having a varied number of options in your kit bag and the current market is no different – the server, desktop and management options continue to be areas where resellers can make a pitch.

There are other reasons why a customer might want to make the move towards virtualisation with it not only being step one on the cloud journey but also a way of discovering efficiencies and savings. 

“Virtualisation is becoming central to many organisations’ IT initiatives due to the substantial cost savings, operational efficiency and flexibility it can bring,” says Mike Hemes, vice-president of EMEA at Silver Peak.

He suggests talking to the user about the impact going virtual will have on the network to ensure what is aimed for is delivered. “However, what many fail to realise is the debilitating effect this technology has on the underlying network. An unstable network can hinder the performance of virtual investments, resulting in organisations spending large amounts of money on solutions that will not provide the expected results. 

“As such, it is the reseller’s responsibility to ensure their customers have a fully equipped network to cope with the added pressure,” says Hemes.

Silver Peak specialises in WAN optimisation and, understandably, Hemes believes there is some mileage for resellers in pitching that technology to ensure the infrastructure supports a move to a virtual environment.

But WAN optimisation is just one potential angle that resellers can take when they are looking to build a solution sale around virtualisation technology and, as you might expect, there are plenty of other suggestions coming from the industry. One of the most obvious is to make sure the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) part of any pitch relates to the current needs in the market and can chime with some of the issues customers are affected by.

“Selling VDI is a major technology shift that presents the channel with a great opportunity as it can deliver a rich user experience – typically not achievable using traditional, server‑based computing methods. By sharing resources, VDI can also provide demonstrably significant operational cost savings of up to 69%. VDI will improve the data integrity of user information because all data can be maintained and backed up in the datacentre. 

“VDI can also assist in the migration of desktop services to Microsoft Windows 8 and with integration to application packaging tools, enabling organisations to continue running legacy services until they are ready to upgrade them,” says Jon Leary, consultant at IT services company CSA Waverley.

Virtualisation and BYOD

Kevin Bland, director of channel and alliances for Northern Europe at Citrix, says resellers need to develop an understanding of the changes taking effect in the modern workplace if they are to pitch virtualisation products successfully. “Employers are being challenged by employees bringing mobile devices into the workplace, with the quick fix being to try and manage each device”, he says. “However, the real problem lies in trying to give employees access to the applications and often sensitive corporate data they need, from their chosen devices. Employers need solutions that maintain the security and integrity of their data by keeping it where it can be monitored, ideally within the datacentre and not on employee devices. This process has been further complicated by the fact that there is now a plethora of devices available to consumers across a range of different operating systems.” 

Nick Lowe, senior vice president of sales for EMEA at AppSense, also mentions bring your own device (BYOD) and the need for that to be recognised in a virtualisation pitch: “Elements of virtualisation are entering the mobile space as a way for businesses to accommodate BYOD and the consumerisation of IT. But to focus purely on mobile to take advantage of this trend may be shortsighted. Resellers should not be driven by serving one type of device or one kind of usage scenario, but rather find a way to offer a virtualised solution that gives each user what they need to do their job.”

Green initiatives

But there are other topical issues virtualisation can help with. Leary believes VDI can deliver on some of the environmental ambitions customers might have: “With organisations under pressure to adopt green IT in all its forms, buyers want to choose genuinely green technology. VDI lends itself well to this consideration as it delivers a major reduction in space and power (typically just 11W at full power), so energy cost reduction and emissions can be achieved.” 

Leary also points out the security benefits of using centrally controlled thin clients that don’t have disk drives and reduce the prospect of data being distributed outside of an enterprise, and with reduced components there are also good things to mention on the support front. 

“VDI really excels in its computer management capability, and using thin clients instead of desktop PCs is a major factor. This is because thin clients are a solid state, which significantly reduces the chance of hardware failure, unlike the moving parts and openings visible with desktop PCs. In the unlikely event that a thin client experiences some sort of internal failure, an employee can simply move to another monitor, log on and have their desktop in front of them ready for work,” he says.

“This capacity for instant desktop provisioning and near zero downtime also increases the efficiency of the business. The centralised nature of VDI, with desktop image-management capabilities, will provide lower cost of deploying new applications and longer refresh cycles for client desktop infrastructure. VDI may not be for everyone yet, but it does cut desktop carbon footprint and reduces the management burden of thousands of PCs on the network,” concludes Leary.

Richard Roberts, head of partner organisation UK&I at Cisco, says virtualisation products will help resellers deliver a high-quality computing experience across the network, any time, anywhere. They will improve availability and business continuity, and allow for the deployment of new applications and IT business initiatives and will reduce energy consumption.

Making use of virtualisation products will also help users respond faster to business challenges and reduce their IT power consumption requirements while lowering carbon footprint. It’s not sustainable to deploy additional server resources to support the increasing number of applications used in business – moreover, existing servers are typically under-utilised. With virtualisation, resellers can reduce demand for datacentre resources, consolidate IT assets, deploy new servers faster, and enjoy cost savings. 

Virtualising servers 

There is still life in the virtualised server market, where things all started, and resellers should not forget to include solutions for that side of the technology in any pitch they put towards customers who have put their toes in the virtualisation waters.

Greg Howett, CEO of jetNEXUS, told MicroScope that customers looking to make the move to virtualisation need to keep in mind that virtualising their servers typically leads to an increased number of (virtual) servers in any given deployment and therefore increases the need for sophisticated traffic management between them.

“Along with any virtualisation pitch, resellers should be looking to pitch advanced load balancing products that can help intelligently spread the flow of traffic. Without proper load balancing, virtual servers can become over worked, or traffic can be directed to application servers that are not responding correctly.

“There is also an opportunity for resellers to help customers who have already virtualised but not load balanced to further streamline their IT environments. Indeed, there can be a harmonious relationship here – virtualisation tends to result in increased load balancing requirements, and those requirements are typically best met by virtual appliance load balancers rather than traditional hardware appliances,” he says. 

Choosing a product to pitch

According to Randal Asay, CTO at Catbird, understanding which product is best to support your virtual infrastructure can be determined with a few simple questions:

  • Am I a shop, and is Hyper-V the right solution?
  • Do I have the right developers on staff or can I hire the right team to support an OpenStack implementation? 
  • Do I want all the bells and whistles that come with the VMware solution, and can I afford it?

Answering some of those questions should narrow down the options and the starting point for customers.

Selling the extras 

Other options that resellers might want to put into a virtualisation pitch include management tools, backup and desktop support features that the technology can exploit. One of the lessons that customers have had to learn the hard way over the last couple of years is that using physical tools for a virtual environment has left them with major problems. Those selling the technology need to educate users about the benefits of using a complete virtual solution.

Ian Wells, regional director, Northern Europe at Veeam, says guaranteeing virtual infrastructures can be protected and recoverable is a huge opportunity for the channel. 

“Offering backup and recovery capabilities that take advantage of virtualisation to offer  increasingly short backup or recovery windows and reduced time between backups is one obvious way forward. Yet the channel can still do more to differentiate itself. For example, such capabilities should be offered in tandem with other virtualisation offerings, such as management tools and hypervisors themselves, as well  as consultancy to ensure the channel is providing the best possible service to, and maximum margins from, its customers,” says Wells.

“The channel should also explore the more advanced techniques that virtualisation allows. Replication, or creating a duplicate environment that can be switched to in the event of failure, is much simpler when that environment can be virtual. 

“Testing backups to ensure they recover can be done in a virtual environment. And high-speed communications, coupled with the ease of creating virtual infrastructure, means off-site or dispersed backup, which prevents all a customer’s eggs being in one basket, is now within almost anyone’s reach. This improved protection will, in turn, breed security and confidence: helping customers feel they can keep investing in virtualisation in the future,” he adds.

There is also a need to make it easy and Randal Asay, CTO at Catbird, says some of the management benefits of virtualisation, across a VDI estate, make the sale an easy one for customers to sign off on.

“Virtualisation takes the challenges of demand management, distributed computing and central command, and makes it achievable and manageable. The ability to repurpose hundreds of machines with just a few clicks and have accurate asset management should be enough to sell the concept of virtualisation.”

There are plenty of benefits and several angles that resellers can take but, to make the sale sing, the reseller will have to get a full understanding of the technology and ensure they have all of the plus points ready to mention when they sit down in front of a potential buyer.

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