As 2006 draws to a close, it's time for businesses to start planning their 2007 technology investments, while VARs forecast which technologies will provide opportunity to expand product offerings, renew contracts and continue offering the best support possible for customers. SearchSystemsChannel.com's experts have identified at least two main questions that will continue to influence the market in the coming year: Will your customer go virtual and what influence will Microsoft have in the market?
Virtualization continues to be a buzz word for end users and VARs alike. The push for functionality and transparency in server consolidation continues to be a motivating force for companies looking to save money and space. VARs need to be up to speed on server virtualization technologies and techniques so they may present options and effectively address customers' consolidation needs. IBM's POWER5 is the engine driving Big Blue's virtualization technology and VMware is still the most popular virtualization option -- but even the best technology can be useless unless a VAR knows how to add value to it, said Ken Millberg, systems consultant.
The better prepared you are as a VAR, the easier it becomes to support a company, which could ultimately be the deciding factor in whether or not a contract gets renewed. VARs can expect to hear questions from their customers like, "what is microprocessing and what role does it play in consolidation?" And "is virtual I/O right for my company?" The best way to prepare to answer these questions is through training, explained Millberg.
"The goal of the VAR should be to design virtual applications that are easy for end users to work with," said Richard Ptak, analyst, Ptak and Noel Associates. "End users are interested in applications with easily accessed and transparent functionality. That is where the real value gets added."
The Microsoft factor
The biggest systems drop of the coming year is almost certainly going to be Vista. While the majority of large companies are unlikely to switch to the platform immediately, there is a good chance that small and midsized business will consider making the change.
Before helping small businesses make the move, VARs have to be familiar enough with the new platform that they can help the transition go smoothly, according to Jonathan Hassell, author of Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual. Additionally, by helping smaller business make the move, a VAR is getting valuable experience that can be reapplied when the first large companies shed their reluctance and begin to make the move.
But many companies are wary of switching from their current platform to the new -- which may allow competitors such as Apple and Linux to continue gaining a foothold in the market and grab VAR attention.
"Migration depends on how well Vista lives up to the promises that Microsoft has made about it," said Ptak. "If it is indeed the significant step forward in security, reliability and robustness, then it will prove to be an attractive platform that can pull more creative and cutting edge folks onto the platform."
However, recent Microsoft releases still loom large in the minds of some customers who may have gotten burned as early adopters. "If Vista continues in the historical pattern of Microsoft product introductions, it may have some bugs that need to be worked out," said Ptak. "If that happens Apple and Linux will continue to attract market share and innovative VAR solution providers."
The business of a VAR revolves around the support they offer and the trust and relationships they build with customers. Riding on the bleeding edge of technology may be the best way to build business, but being able to offer everything a customer needs, including training, support and advice, should be priority number one. Regardless of the path you choose to take -- Vista, virtualization or both -- being well informed and prepared are two things that all VARs should resolve to do in the New Year.