The road to virtualisation

One of the questions resellers often ask is where some of the account managers and sales directors that they enjoyed dealing with in distribution have moved to.

One of the questions resellers often ask is where some of the account managers and sales directors that they enjoyed dealing with in distribution have moved to.

Some move onwards and upwards in their respective companies and land positions on the board, while others opt to leave distribution and enter the vendor world, using their knowledge of the channel to ensure they help build their new employers a solid route to market.

That has been the direction that Russell Blackburn, UK country manager at virtualisation and automation specialist Parallels, has taken, with a couple of spells at Computer 2000 one of the key stages in a career that has also involved a period at Apple.

Blackburn's knowledge of both distribution and Apple have proved to be very useful for him as he took the job at Parallels with the initial brief of establishing the UK channel operation.

When Blackburn started, Parallels was known as an Apple specialist, enabling those keen to work in mixed PC and Mac environments to do both on a single platform.

But now, as country manager, the scope of his job has widened. So too has the ambition as Parallels moves from its Mac background to a much more serious alternative to VMware operating in the server virtualisation market, PC desktop arena and with ambitions to grow its presence in the corporate arena.

An attractive technology
Right now, despite the global gloom, the virtualisation market is benefiting as the technology enables server consolidation and improved business agility, which are both attractive and crucial in a downturn.

"The main benefits of server-based consolidation are that you can utilise all the hardware you have already and there can be big savings from improved manageability that will start changing the way the business operates," says Blackburn.

He adds that most customers understand virtualisation now and when sold by resellers able to pitch with the right balance of technical and business know-how, there is a great opportunity within the enterprise and SME market

Virtual desktop infrastructure
In the past few months a lot of attention has been focused around the desktop and Blackburn is naturally keen to push Parallels into the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) arena, grabbing market share at a stage when no vendor has emerged to dominate the space.

"With VDI you can manage all desktops from the datacentre. This allows you to realise incredible savings versus managing fat clients. In addition, and importantly, VDI provides the user with the same environment they have always had when using a fat client. While margins are as thin as ever on desktops, VDI provides a credible alternative to managing the desktop estate and a great opportunity to provide professional services.

"With the market as it is, this is a great time for channel partners to offer their customers an intelligent solution," he says.

Mind you, as Blackburn also points out, there is still a requirement to continue the focus on server consolidations.

"The immediate focus is on VDI but there is a huge way still to go to get servers virtualised as only around 10% have been virtualised," he adds.
In the short term the other area that is going to have an impact on the demand for virtualisation is software as a service. Blackburn is aware of the overlap, particularly with VDI, and is supporting cloud computing.

In terms of the channel there has been activity in both tiers. Bell Micro was appointed last year with the remit of building up the reseller base and Computacenter was unveiled as the vendor's first gold partner, with another five soon to be announced and a number of silver partners up and running.
The Computacenter announcement indicated the direction that Parallels is now heading in, with plans to build up its corporate business.

However, increasingly the resellers that are able to build solutions involving virtualisation with other areas including mobility and security are the types of partners that Blackburn has noticed strongly emerging in the channel. Those sorts of partners will probably share Blackburn's confidence about the future because they are already delivering solutions.

"We are very confident as people will still need a refresh and to update hardware, and virtualisation can make this far more cost effective. The trick for resellers is to show businesses how this does that for you and how customers can do business going forward," he says.

When it comes to selling in a tough market it is going to help having someone with the background and experience in the channel offered by Blackburn.
"I have got to the point where all of those experiences have come to the fore," he says.

In terms of finding bright spots in the next few months, virtualisation - both server and desktop - appears to be one of the areas that will appeal to customers battening down the hatches.

CV: Russell Blackburn

Russell Blackburn has been in the industry since 1995. He started out
running the Apple sales team at Frontline, which later became Computer 2000.
His activity in the Mac market gained him the attention of the vendor and he took up a role running the channel for the UK, including retailers and mail order.

A second spell at C2000 saw Blackburn running the corporate sales team where he developed relationships with the likes of Computacenter, SCH and Fujitsu Services.

A spell at Hewlett-Packard coincided with the merger with Compaq and then he returned to distribution at Steljes.

When the offer of a job at Parallels came up, Blackburn knew the company from his Apple days and grabbed the chance to take another slightly different role working with the channel.

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