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2. Get More From What They've Got: Cost-cutting is key, but coaxing better performance out of the technology customers have already deployed and have already invested in should also be a critical piece of today's data center solutions.
Customers' No. 2 objective as they roll out new data center solutions is increasing server and network availability, which in many cases means optimizing the technology they've already got for better performance, solution providers said.
"Our customers are interested in doing more with what they have," Olwig said. "In reality, customers have budgets that are flat. And the dollars that they do spend, they spend those dollars to get more out of their current infrastructure."
WWT helps customers understand their data centers in order to "optimize what they have" through assessment and consultation services, Olwig said. He recalled one federal customer who said the data center was running at such a high capacity that he couldn't plug in a hair dryer because there was no power available. In cases like that, consolidation and virtualization of servers and storage can make a great impact, while still taking advantage of solutions already deployed.
"They have to understand what they have and understand the environment in their data center," he said. "We try to come in and understand all of the different aspects of the data center and identify areas for better management."
3. Server Virtualization: Build On It, Don't Just Sell It: Server virtualization has quickly become one of the key pillars of the modern data center. Success, however, comes not from selling virtualization, but instead from the services built on a virtualized infrastructure.
The momentum behind server virtualization is only getting stronger. Over one-third of solution providers said they now sell virtualization technologies, and the majority of surveyed solution providers (nearly 60 percent) said it's getting easier to sell.
Data center virtualization is the technology expected to show the most growth over the next 12 months, and an overwhelming majority of partners said server virtualization, in particular, is the virtualization technology that offers the best profit opportunity.
Customers already have been talked to death about VMware, Citrix Systems or Microsoft hypervisors, said Zeki Yasar, enterprise consultant at ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider.
With all that built-in buzz, solution providers need to change the conversation in order to be heard above the din.
"Virtualization is now a commodity," Yasar said. "Now the conversation has shifted to what customers can do with it, and what services they need."
A virtualized environment is the foundation on which to build services that help customers meet new challenges, said Solutions-II's Stone.
Regardless of how bad the economy is, customers are being forced to spend more on data replication, secured backups and compliance for government regulations, all of which can be done easier after their data centers are virtualized to some degree, Stone said.
"We have been helping customers find ways to save money for years," he said. "This is important when customers say they absolutely have to find a way to secure backups. The first step is virtualization. They have to simplify their environment. Their complex environments are the reason they haven't done this yet."
NEXT: Security Is Central To Data Center Solutions