Virtualizing The Network For Fun And Profit


Forget software and hardware upgrades, the hassle of provisioning new users and the pain of taking endpoints off line for patches and system management. Security specialist Asierus plans to run its customers' entire IT environment from its own redundant data centers via virtualization tools from VMware and Citrix, security appliances from Fortinet and IBM System x 3755 servers.

The South Jordan, Utah-based solution provider is currently converting 85 percent of its SMB customer base to its virtualized "Carefree Technology" service, said CEO Jeremy Simmons. Asierus, Simmons said, will be able to offer customers a 25 to 30 percent savings on the $3,500-per-seat typical small businesses spend annually on desktop costs, according to Gartner.

"It's a huge cost savings. In the SMB market, customers can't afford enterprise-class hardware and software, or support. They can't afford real data centers. So now they no longer have to worry about licensing, budget constraints and support issues. They can have a pre-paid service model that provides them with everything," he said.

Asierus, a long-standing Fortinet partner, will continue to run all of its security through the vendor's appliances. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based builder of unified threat management (UTM) solutions announced Monday that it had been awarded five new U.S. patents for network virtualization inventions. Those inventions, part of intellectual property Fortinet acquired from CoSine Communications in 2006, will be used to enhance the virtualization capabilities in the security vendor's FortiGate UTM appliances, said Fortinet CMO Richard Stiennon.

Managed security service providers like Asierus are leveraging virtualization to build more robust recurring revenue models in an exploding SMB market, Stiennon said

"What the channel really loves is that 50 percent of every sale [of a Fortinet appliance] derives from the subscription service for the anti-virus and anti-spam signatures. That's the difference between a classic firewall vendor and someone who's got a subscription service. It's that stickiness. We have daily touch with every single device we've sold " 256,000 total," Stiennon said.

For Asierus, the model makes sense and is perfectly scalable to the size of business the MSSP services.

"The economies of scale are pretty compelling at 300 users or so. For companies that are bigger than that, virtualization is not as cost-effective for us, or for them, because they can do it themselves," said Asierus CTO Jeff Goodey.

Beyond just cost-savings, though, Asierus customers are finding there are pure tech benefits to going virtual as well, said Simmons.

"We can reboot an XP machine in five seconds under a virtualized infrastructure. Do you want more memory on your system? We can reboot in five seconds and you have it. What a time savings," he said.

Other immediate benefits Asierus customers will discover is the ability to provision new users "at the touch of a button" and automatic hardware upgrades every three years at no extra cost

"All of our customers get a new server environment, because we're refreshing with IBM every three years. All of their patches, firewalls and everything else, all of it gets upgraded without the user feeling any pain," Simmons said.