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Changing virtualization services in wake of VMware Server ESX 3i

The server virtualization services market is about to change. VMware Server ESX 3i is an embedded solution that customers can configure on their own. Service providers need to take note and begin to change their server virtualization offerings.

Service provider takeaway: Embedded virtualization software, like VMware ESX Server 3i, is changing the dynamics of the virtualization marketplace. But there's still plenty of opportunity for service providers.

Well, it's official. VMware Server ESX 3i was released. Vendors like Dell, Fujitsu, Seimens, HP, IBM and NEC will start shipping servers with ESX 3i pre-installed very soon, making configuration easier and the need for virtualization software installation nonexistent. Service providers who want to stay competitive in the server virtualization services market will have to find ways to distinguish themselves. Toward that goal, there's fertile ground in virtualization security and business consulting.

VMware Server ESX 3i is about to shake things up for service providers. Embedded solutions, like ESX 3i, will be good for the virtualization market. Easier adoption means more market saturation and happier customers. While VMware is not the only company offering embedded virtualization, it is the current market leader in the server virtualization space. This means that VMware has the market clout to convince OEM server manufacturers to include ESX 3i as a standard feature on certain server lines. The appearance of embedded virtualization software means service providers will need to adjust their business offerings from virtualization-focused services to ancillary virtualization services.

Server virtualization services before and after ESX 3i

Traditionally, service providers who focused on virtualization projects had a good deal of work based on installing and configuring the VMware software, especially in a small and medium-sized business (SMB) environment. Finding the right server for the project, installing the software and configuring it properly used to be bread and butter for virtualization service providers. Offering training on how to properly patch a new ESX 3 server and how to perform administration via the VMware ESX service console was another server virtualization service that could be provided. Installation, configuration and education, when paired with identifying targets for virtualization, made for a decent package to offer customers.

But now, basic server virtualization technology functionality is moving out of the realm of specialists and into the capable hands of administrators. Service providers no longer need to help businesses install, configure and maintain VMware ESX Server. Server purchasing decisions are simplified because OEMs like Dell will be offering ESX 3i as a standard feature on purpose-built virtualization hosts. Installation is no longer necessary. To get started, admins just have to boot up and be greeted by the VMware Server ESX 3i screen.

New virtualization services worth exploring

As configuration and setup service opportunities become less frequent, turn to nontraditional server virtualization services like security. Many companies are aggressively pursuing virtualization projects and completely forgetting about the impact on security that virtualization can have. There are some questions that need to be answered when considering virtualization: How do I monitor a network that is virtualized on one physical server? What do I do about rogue virtual machines?

I have not seen many service providers that are tackling security. In fact, the only product I know of that provides any kind of virtualization security is Blue Lane Technologies' Virtual Shield. Virtual Shield provides threat remediation for virtual machines by proactively monitoring the virtual machines and their applications. If a threat is found before a patch is available from a vendor, Virtual Shield protects the virtual machines until an official patch can be installed. Service providers should get a jump start in the area of virtualization security and learn about these products as they're introduced to the market.

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But ancillary server virtualization services don't stop with security. Businesses considering virtualization projects may also need help on the business side. In the past, each department may have had its own physical servers. However, when services are consolidated using server virtualization technology, no one department "owns" the physical server any longer. They use, or "rent," processing power, bandwidth and storage. While this offers greater efficiency, IT accounting systems need to be adjusted accordingly. IT accounting systems may use "chargeback" accounting where each department is billed based on processor, storage and LAN use. Service providers can put together a business consulting team to help customers with a transition to virtualization. Software like VKernel for chargeback and utilization reporting is a virtual appliance that helps companies run reports on processor, network and storage utilization.

Customers may still need help with virtualization planning and implementation. However, as virtualization technology becomes easier to implement, there will be a greater need for ancillary services such as virtualization security and business process planning in a virtual world.

About the author
Harley Stagner has been an IT professional for almost eight years. He has a wide range of knowledge in many areas of the IT field, including network design and administration, scripting and troubleshooting.

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