Results from Gabriel Consulting Group's 2008 x86 server vendor-preference survey point to some interesting x86 server purchasing trends, including a definite move toward customers purchasing servers with larger configurations. The survey was conducted in mid- to late 2008 and asked data center managers from 187 organizations what their opinions were on a wide range of technical and vendor support issues. Gabriel also asked questions about the respondents' purchasing plans and how they are dealing with various data center challenges.
The survey results identified three distinct and overarching trends that should be of particular interest to resellers and integrators:
- Customers are looking to purchase larger x86 operating systems: Single-socket servers are essentially a dead market, with only 8% of respondents saying that they plan to buy higher volumes in the coming year. This is in contrast to dual-socket servers, the current market sweet spot, where almost 40% of respondents say they plan to purchase "more" or "many more" systems in the coming year. We have also seen increasing interest in quad-socket and x86 servers -- 33% and 23% respectively. Survey participants say they intend to purchase these systems in greater volumes.
- x86 operating systems are moving up the data center food chain at an increasingly quick pace: Virtually all survey respondents (99%) said they are running mission-critical workloads on their x86-based systems. Almost half said that 50% of their most important applications are hosted on Intel- or AMD-based systems running Windows or Linux operating systems. This swing is gaining speed; almost 40% of data center respondents said they expect to deploy a greater number of critical workloads on x86 systems in the coming year. We believe that this trend at least partially explains why customers are moving toward purchasing larger x86 systems.
- The move toward virtualization is continuing unabated: A large majority of customers told us that virtualized x86 operating systems achieve higher system utilization rates, are easier to manage and make it easier for them to hit their service-level requirements. More important, a sizeable majority of customers -- more than 60% -- said that x86 virtualization is saving them money. Twenty-eight percent are still undecided, leaving only 12% unconvinced. The move to virtualization should also continue well into the future. The survey revealed that almost 60% of respondents believe that virtualized x86 will become the standard computing usage model in their organization.
Those three trends present resellers with a great opportunity to sell ancillary products and services; VARs should plan to move toward richer server configurations. With customers looking at x86 operating systems to host more of their most important applications, resellers should ensure that the servers and storage are configured for maximum performance and availability and should help customers verify that they have the proper high-availability mechanisms in place. This would guarantee that the important systems are protected where appropriate. Integrators should also confirm that these systems have an effective disaster recovery solution.
The move toward virtualization is also a great opening for service providers to introduce additional high-margin work. The cost-reduction angle inherent in the virtualization value proposition is a powerful inducement for customers in these economic times. However, many customers find it hard to accurately measure and quantify the costs that arise from virtualization (with larger systems, for example) and the financial benefits.
Resellers can perform assessment services by examining the existing infrastructure and associated costs and comparing them to post-virtualization scenarios. These assessments need to be more comprehensive than a simple, vendor-provided spreadsheet, so the better and more credible the analysis, the more likely the customer will go ahead with the project or projects.
Another key to winning IT projects in bad economic times is to present a staged approach that can be tailored to fit existing and future budgets. In the project plan and proposal, it's important to set it up in stages so that each phase shows as much detail as possible about the customer's return on investment. This makes it easier for clients to understand how each step contributes to the IT project. It also makes it easier for them to justify the funds needed to upper management.
Companies today are keeping a closer eye on their cash disbursements.
However, this will change as more organizations get a better feel for how they will fare in the next year. Savvy resellers will examine market trends and put offerings in place that will catch the lion's share of the business.