Companies who decide to evaluate server virtualization will want a few key questions answered before beginning any project:
- Which of my servers are good targets for virtualization?
- What kind of infrastructure changes do I need to make in order to accommodate virtualization and still provide highly available servers?
A VAR should be an integral part of the customer design process in order for a virtualization project to work. Taking a holistic approach to a solution allows a VAR to inject the most value into a project. With virtualization, there are too many design choices for some businesses to make on their own. As an example a virtualization offering from a VAR might go as follows.
In order to figure out which servers are good targets for virtualization, the VAR could do a site survey that includes several hours or days of server processor, memory and storage utilization statistics. Once the targets are identified, decisions about what storage, networking and server infrastructure is needed to achieve efficiency and high availability can be made. In a virtual environment, server uptime is even more important since so many virtual machines will be on one physical server.
Many VARs offer the infrastructure design or the virtual server implementation. However, I believe that an opportunity exists for a VAR to differentiate itself by offering a holistic virtualization offering, including infrastructure (storage, networking, capacity planning), server virtualization (physical-to-virtual conversion) and virtual machine management. It is also important that the VAR's involvement with the customer does not end with a consolidation project.
Consolidation was one of the first uses for server virtualization technology. It is up to the VAR to educate the customer about how different virtualization technologies can work together to provide a complete virtual infrastructure. Gaining a solid understanding of a customer's workflow could provide some insight on which virtualization products can improve the customer's efficiency.
In a virtual infrastructure, it is also much easier for a VAR to support the customer. Since virtual machines are merely files, it would be relatively easy for a VAR to host offsite backups of the virtual machines. At the same time a VAR can provide the customer with the latest snapshot of a virtual machine if anything should happen to the original. A VAR could even host the production virtual machines at an offsite location if the customer did not want to maintain ownership of its own physical servers.
Virtualization technology positions savvy VARs to be the one-stop shop for evaluation, design, implementation, hosting, and support for a virtual infrastructure. This would be a tremendous boon to many businesses, especially SMBs. VARs who offer a holistic virtualization solution with some advice on all of the benefits that virtualization technology can bring will position themselves favorably in the competitive virtualization market.
This was first published in November 2006