Compete for a project with an alternative approach
The best way to enter the server virtualization market is to compete directly for a virtualization project by using an alternative approach or solution. In this particular technology sector, where there is continued growth, there simply are not enough server virtualization resellers to go around -- especially good ones.
In the technology industry, being the "second mover" has its advantages. A second mover is a vendor that appears after the original market leader has established a foothold. The second mover can learn from the mistakes of other vendors. The same reasons that give Citrix XenServer, Virtual Iron and Microsoft Hyper-V a fighting chance give you a reasonable shot at server virtualization integration fame because you're entering an already established market with more cost effective, easier to use solutions that can be more efficiently installed.
For example, as the initial server virtualization projects come into production, we see customers paying a lot of attention to reliability and little attention to maximizing resource utilization. Also, limited upfront documentation of projects is making ROI analyses harder to do. This presents a challenge for both the customer and the reseller as they try to get approval for the next phase of the project.
As a new entrant to the market, you are not tied to the old way of doing things or using old tools. In fact, because of your lack of experience, you will typically be more willing to use some of the automated planning tools like those from Tek-Tools Software and VKernel.
Finally, entering an already established market is viable because there is extensive training available online, in books and through classroom certifications.
Use existing server virtualization products to your advantage
While VMware continues to hold the dominant position in the server virtualization market, many server virtualization providers, including the ones already mentioned, have viable products that should be considered.
You probably already have several resellers in your area that are known as the "VMware guys." As a result, getting attention from customers and from vendors presents a challenge. Consider committing to one of the lesser known server virtualization product offerings. By understanding its unique position in the marketplace, you can position yourself as the new expert. Typically, you will find suppliers of lesser known products to be attentive and patient as you bring your skill set up to par.
Existing products allow you to pick a technology tailored to other areas of expertise that you may have. For example, if you are strong in a particular operating system or market segment, some of those server virtualization products may be the perfect match.
Since lesser known vendors are trying to earn their stripes in the market, they are more willing to invest upfront in a potential reseller. Technical expertise may be harder to acquire, however, so be prepared to take the initiative with product training.
Put your expertise to work
Putting your existing skills to use is essential for claiming a place in the server virtualization market. For example, a storage reseller could optimize and enhance deploying server virtualization on a SAN for clients, and they might also have a better understanding of how to devise and manage storage policies for the virtual infrastructure. In many cases, a customer may have been led down a storage path that is not ideal for them, and your initial role may be to move them to a different storage platform or protocol. If, for instance, a customer is struggling with an I/O performance issue, show them NPIV or Brocade Communications Systems' Intelligent QoS capabilities.
A networking specialist may be able to do the same on a network for a virtualized infrastructure. For example, many customers deploy multiple 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) cards in their virtualization hosts and are now considering 10 GbE to reduce card count and improve performance. But they need help in optimizing that investment. In fact, many virtualization customers have invested in 10 GbE and are not seeing the performance they expected. It could be because their original reseller did not know about VMware's NetQueue feature or cards from Intel and Neterion.
A backup and recovery expert can develop expertise around VMware data protection and help customers with these particular issues. A backup expert should learn the specific tools that virtualization vendors sell and find out how to best integrate those tools into backup software and hardware. Providers should also understand what third-party protection tools could help with that process, like those from Vizioncore or Syncsort's Backup Express.
In each of these scenarios, solutions providers can use what they are already good at and apply those things to a virtual environment. In many cases, I have seen resellers brought in to specifically address one of those areas of concern. They build a reputation as a trusted advisor and then take over the rest of the project.
If you have been on the sidelines of server virtualization opportunities, wait no more. There are plenty of ways for you to leverage your expertise and become an engaged player in this market.
I'm already a server virtualization expert
If your company is already a go-to VAR for server virtualization in your area, the lesson here is to keep building your knowledge base and stay abreast of emerging technologies. First, you should develop an awareness and understanding of the other virtualization products in the market. Is there one that you could add for a segment of customers that you are currently missing? Second, you need to broaden your skill set beyond server virtualization to storage, networking and data protection.
Veterans must do well with their current project load, but in a high-growth market, the focus has to be on market share, not just on growth. You have to continually hone your skill set and expand your offerings through partnerships, acquisition or internal development.
About the author George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.
This was first published in May 2009