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Choose virtualization software that your customers can afford

How should a reseller or systems integrator assess a customer's virtualization requirements and choose the most beneficial virtualization software product?

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You should start with the IT budget. If the customer is an SMB with a relatively small budget, then you can probably rule out an enterprise-grade SAN with VMWare Infrastructure 3, VMotion, and High Availability. It is usually easier to work within the customer's existing constraints, than to try and convince them that they need to drastically alter their budget to accommodate virtualization technology. That does not mean that virtualization software, or virtualization technology cannot benefit an SMB with a smaller budget. You just have to be more creative with the solution. Take a look at the customer's pain points and low-hanging fruit first.

If the customer is having trouble with supporting different versions of applications or application deployment, then an inexpensive software virtualization solution like Altiris SVS might be a good fit. If the customer has many ancillary services that they would like to keep in a separate Operating System instance, you might be able to consolidate their existing physical servers using a free server virtualization product like VMware Server. If the customer is looking for more scalability and a streamlined disaster recovery plan, then VMware's Infrastructure 3 product suite might be the right solution if the budget permits.

In summary, you should not start off a virtualization conversation with a customer by asking them what they would like to virtualize. Find out the customer's pain points and then assess how virtualization technology might be able to ease or eliminate them. Always keep the customer's budget in mind. It would be nice if everyone could run a full-blown VMWare Virtual Infrastructure 3/SAN setup. However, some customers' budgets simply do not allow this. With creative thinking and infrastructure assessment, a channel professional can come up with a suitable virtualization solution for most budgets.

This was first published in June 2007

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