VMworld and Virtualization: Seven Considerations for MSPs

I just got a call from Autotask's Mark Crall, live from the VMworld conference in San Francisco. Crall and dozens of other MSP industry executives are checking out the massive conference to see how the worlds of virtualization and managed services will collide. I certainly have a few thoughts on the subject (surprised?). Here are seven random observations.

First, the background. Crall was checking to see if I was at the conference. I'm not, but somehow The VAR Guy (MSPmentor's sister site) is reporting live from VMworld... And we're offering reports from afar.

Generally speaking, cloud computing generates most of the IT industry hype these days. But if you listen closely, you'll hear far more MSPs talking about their virtualization strategies. Why? Because MSPs can get their arms around virtualization. There are real products (VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Systems, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) and even Oracle), real customer case studies and real ROI metrics.

Sure, cloud is real. But it's difficult to separate the real players (Amazon.com, Rackspace, Google, etc.) from all the noise.

Virtualization for MSPs: Seven Random Observations

Back to the blog at hand: How is the managed services industry converging with the virtualization industry? A reminder: Virtualization is not cloud computing, as ZDnet points out. Still, they are close cousins.

Seven examples for MSPs:

1. Check out the book Virtualization: Defined, A Primer for the SMB Consultant, by Dave Sobel, a well-known MSP. Track Sobel online, and you can see how he connects the dots between SMB solutions providers, virtualization and cloud computing.

2. Keep an eye on Durable Data Corp. (DDC), a managed service provider that's building out virtual server and virtual desktop services for its customers. At VMworld, DDC disclosed a closer working relationship with VMware and Wanova. DDC claims it can now manage customers’ desktop environments whether they are centralized or distributed, physical or virtual, or a combination of all of these.

3. Check in With Established MSP Industry Software Providers:
  • In recent months, you may have noticed Zenith Infotech hitting the road to discuss its SmartStyle private cloud solution for virtual desktops, servers and network infrastructure. Yes, SmartStyle was delayed numerous times. Now, I'm curious to see if it's gaining traction with early adopter MSPs...
  • Also, keep an eye on the upcoming ConnectWise IT Nation conference (November 4-6, Orlando). During the 2009 event, CEO Arnie Bellini described how the world needs a channel-centric cloud where VARs and MSPs can manage virtualized resources, without facing competitive threats from major IT companies. I wonder: Will Bellini offer an update on that vision?
4. Scour the Market for Emerging Partners: Seems like numerous IT upstarts want to promote cloud and virtualization services to VARs and MSPs. Two prime examples are ChannelCloud and Doyenz ShadowCloud. I'm not in a position to endorse anyone because I don't actually "use" their services. But ChannelCloud is intriguing because it's backed by a team of MSP veterans. And Doyenz has our attention because Eric Webster, a channel-friendly, cloud-minded executive, recently joined the company.

5. Talk To Your Peers: Pick up the phone and dial another regional MSPs. According to the email I've received, a healthy number of MSPmentor 100 companies plan to launch virtualization-centric services in Q4 2010 or Q1 2011. I wonder: Are you prepared to compete with those virtualization service providers?

6. Keep an Eye on Open Source: I'm hearing from more and more VARs that are evaluating KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), an open source alternative to VMware. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) leverages KVM, and Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst predicts RHEV will eventually leapfrog VMware. And Red Hat has expanded its partner program with a RHEV specialization.

7. Where's the ROI?: I've heard from a number of partners that now leverage Microsoft's Integrated Virtualization ROI Tool. I know: ROI tools are often shallow, lame attempts to show customers hypothetical (or perhaps even fictional...) ROI scenarios. But Microsoft is quick to note that roughly 25 percent of the virtualization market has shifted toward Microsoft's Hyper-V offering over the past two years. So, apparently, Microsoft really is delivering some ROI to partners and their end-customers.

Bottom line: Hundreds of MSPs spend ample time at managed services conferences. But I suspect the best of those MSPs also found time to focus on this week's VMworld. The buzz from the show certainly can't get much louder. And the market is real.

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