Dynamic Quest Leverages Virtualization To Kickstart Cloud Adoption

Dynamic Quest, a former solution provider turned managed data center provider, is turning virtualized customer environments into cloud computing opportunities.

Dynamic Quest has been building a cloud business for about four years, focused on helping customers take advantage of their virtualized environments to move part or all of their IT infrastructure, including their storage, to the company's managed data center, said Javier Gomez, president of the Greensboro, N.C.-based company.

"Cloud computing" can be a very fuzzy term to a lot of people, even to Gomez himself, Gomez said. "Cloud computing is a virtual environment," he said. "Most customers don't think about bringing in cloud computing. They know they're on virtualized platforms. And in the end, this is just a virtualized platform. How you use it defines cloud computing."

A typical customer may have just a few servers hidden in a small room, and the first thing Dynamic Quest does is take those servers to its data center, migrate the applications to virtual servers, and return the hardware back to the customer for use as PCs or workstations, Gomez said.

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Dynamic Quest works primarily with customers who have adopted Citrix Xen as their virtualization platform, although the company is also certified for VMware as well, Gomez said.

"Our engineers tell customers, we don't care which one they use," he said. "We have people certified for both. But we've gotten better performance with Citrix Xen. A lot of customers also already use Citrix XenApp. Also, Citrix is less expensive. VMware is more feature-rich, but a lot of customers don't use those extra features."

Thanks to virtualization, Dynamic Quest has moved from having about 100 physical servers four years ago to having a total of between 500 and 600 servers today with fewer physical servers than before, Gomez said. During that time, power consumption at the data center has risen only about 10 percent, helping keep air conditioning and UPS costs under control, he said.

As customers move their IT infrastructure to Dynamic Quest's managed data center, they are exposed to more cloud services, including desktop, networking, and software application virtualization as well as cloud-based storage, Gomez said.

Next: Adding Storage To The Cloud

Dynamic Quest for years deployed SANs for customers based on storage products from such vendors as LeftHand (acquired by HP in 2008), EMC, NetApp, and EqualLogic (bought by Dell in 2008), Gomez said.

However, in the last couple of years, Dynamic Quest has focused on developing a cloud-based storage offering based on products from Coraid, a Redwood City, Calif.-based vendor, Gomez said.

Dynamic Quest currently has about 23 Coraid appliances with about 400 TBs of capacity allocated, and keeps an extra 30 TBs to 40 TBs of capacity in place for customers who need the space, he said.

"Some of that capacity is dedicated to specific customers, and some is segmented and shared in line with the cloud computing mentality," he said. "About 80 percent is shared."

Gomez said that customers have not yet been asking about his cloud services versus those of companies like Amazon, but it is a question he has been getting ready for.

"Our big advantage is management," he said. "If a customer wants to move part of its IT to the cloud, and has someone savvy enough to help manage it, it will work."

A lot of customers are shifting from being "doers," who configure their own storage and servers, to being IT analysts, Gomez said.

"They are moving their IT offsite, and analyzing how to utilize IT for their own opportunities," he said. "If they can cut two or three people, it justifies the move. But those are not lost jobs. Those are people who can be shifted elsewhere."