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Selling Red Hat virtualization to SMBs

Red Hat virtualization can be a great tool to get small and medium-sized businesses into virtualization and can win VARs customer trust.

Red Hat virtualization provides a new market opportunity for VARs selling server virtualization. Promoting Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) to small and medium-sized businesses that could take advantage of virtualization but haven't adopted VMware on their servers because of cost and complexity can position VARs as trusted advisers with new customers.

For many customers, virtualization equals VMware Inc., but VMware can also be expensive. In particular, the more advanced features often require a major initial investment, and that makes many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) hesitant.

Looking at the current state of the market, VMware is pervasive in most large organizations. But there are still SMBs that just have a few servers and haven't yet begun a virtualization initiative. These companies remain an untapped market for the channel.   

Some less expensive virtualization alternatives exist, but for different reasons they aren't very successful. Some of these products have no support ecosystem behind them (think of open source virtualization in general). Others appear to be "light" versions of a real virtualization solution. And for still other products, no real benefit is seen over using VMware.

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Selling server virtualization: What's right for your customer?

Addressing many of these problems in the virtualization market is Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. Red Hat has a worldwide support ecosystem in place, which can make the prospect of using an open source product less scary.

Red Hat has developed RHEV on top of the Linux-based KVM hypervisor, but administrators don't need to know Linux to manage it because all management occurs from a browser interface running in Internet Explorer. As Red Hat develops RHEV, it continues to take on more of the enterprise-class capabilities of VMware, making it more attractive to wary customers that want to virtualize but don't want to pay VMware's prices.

Obviously, the most interesting part of RHEV is its price: Red Hat offers a cheaper solution than VMware. The claim is that cost savings can go as high as 40%, but that depends on what kind of specific hardware and software features a customer wants to use. Especially appealing is that RHEV includes many features companies want without having to purchase additional licenses. These include high-demand features like high availability.

Solution providers considering offering this product might hesitate because the margin off of a cheaper product is less. But because RHEV has an appealing price, it can help attract new customers that may not have previously done business with a VAR and that have not implemented virtualization. Providing customer satisfaction through a significantly cheaper option can help VARs establish themselves with SMBs as a trusted IT adviser that can package more services and support into a customer's other IT needs.

About the author:
Sander van Vugt is an author and independent technical trainer, specializing in Linux since 1994. Van Vugt is also a technical consultant for high-availability (HA) clustering and performance optimization, as well as an expert on SLED 10 administration.

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