Q&A With Nexus' Keith Norbie1:43 PM EST Wed. Apr. 01, 2009
One of the most potent combinations of technologies to come to the channel over the past couple of years is that of server virtualization with storage. Solution providers large and small are using server virtualization as the base on which to build such services as remote replication, disaster recovery, high availability and, more recently, virtual desktop infrastructures. And storage is the base on which those services can be virtualized. Meet someone who has not only taken the server virtualization and storage combination to heart, but has also taken it to the bank: Keith Norbie, director of the storage division at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider. Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar got the lowdown from Norbie. Here are excerpts:
CRN: Any downsides to server virtualization from a channel perspective?
NORBIE: The downside is that the technology has gotten to the point where it's like Microsoft: Everyone is becoming a server virtualization player. God bless America, but we need to separate the wheat from the chaff.
CRN: What is the chaff of virtualization?
NORBIE: Not focusing on it. Not being core with the product. There's a lack of engineering focus among solution providers. It's like with an MCSE [Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer], when anyone can get it, getting something like a VCP [VMware Certified Professional] is less than optimal.
CRN: Then what's the wheat?
NORBIE: We work in a VMware channel program called Golden Spike. It's very specialized. It requires you to seriously commit to a solution or a specialization. We chose virtual desktops as our specialization. It's been a big home run in terms of a solution. Virtual desktops offer an opportunity about three to five times that of server virtualization. And the cool part is, we can offer it as a service, or as a solution. We package it with thin clients and a help desktop. And we have all the processes backed into the price when used as a solution, or separate as a cost per month for use as a service.
CRN: Have you gotten anyone signed up for virtual desktops yet?
NORBIE: Not yet. We have an opportunity with a university that is looking at working with us to use virtual desktops as a service for between 300 and 500 seats, and ... a casino looking at it as a solution in two locations. The biggest unknown is Microsoft licensing. VMware has a specific SKU, which is a bundled enterprise solution with ESX [server virtualization] and desktop virtualization. VMware has documentation about Microsoft licensing, but there's still a lot of mystery around it. The issue is, you buy a PC, the license is not transferrable. With desktop PCs, it's a dynamic, fluid solution.
CRN: What about virtual desktop solutions from other vendors?
NORBIE: We are an active Citrix and Microsoft reseller. We've been working with Citrix since WinFrame 1.5. Citrix is still a great story. But it still has classic legacy issues, such as on the back end, if one desktop hangs, they might all hang. With VMware, virtual desktops are more stable, and more scalable.
CRN: How does Nexus show its virtualization expertise?
NORBIE: We have three mobile POCs [proof of concepts] on wheels. We can wheel them in and out of our demo center. We can use them to show customers how dynamic virtualization works, and take our proof of concept to our clients. We call them VPods.
CRN: Any success stories?
NORBIE: We were able to virtualize an entire school district's server infrastructure on a VPod, and it ran better than their production environment ran.