COMDEXvirtual: Virtualization Management Is The Next Frontier

Solution providers will become indispensable to their customers as virtualization technology spreads beyond servers into other parts of IT infrastrstructure.

That's the word from a panel of analysts who discussed trends and best practices for virtualizing servers, desktops, storage and the cloud at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.

Panelists included Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, and Marcia Kaufman, partner and COO of Hurwitz & Associates. The panel was moderated by Barb Goldworm, founder, president, and chief analyst at Focus.

Increasing customer adoption of virtualization technology should be a wake-up call to solution providers to become experts in the management of virtualized environments, Kaufman said.

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"Many companies may have started with server virtualization, but when you need to bring together server virtualization, desktop virtualization, consider the storage, consider the application virtualization, there is a need to manage this environment," she said.

Enderle said that such virtualization technologies will become prevalent in the future, but that not every company will implement every technology. Those technologies that get implemented depend on what solution providers can accomplish, when they can accomplish it, and what they and their customers expect in terms of results.

"Do realize a lot of IT organizations are just coming up to speed on this technology," he said. "They know the buzz words. They don't know yet what they can do with it. Where a VAR can add the most value is educating the customer on what's possible. Use your experience from other engagements and translate them into the customer environment."

Solution providers who virtualize customers' servers also need to make sure they are able to take advantage of those customers' sudden increase demand for new storage technologies that can be optimized for virtualized server environments, Enderle said.

"It turns out that it's becoming very difficult to do one and not the other," he said. "And so the two seem to become closely interlinked."

As customers move beyond virtualized environments to adopt outsourced services and cloud computing, solution providers can provide a valuable service by helping them understand the risk, Enderle said.

IT managers need to be cautious during the crossover to a services or cloud environment, because if they cross over too much, their users may start to look at them as just another service provider instead of someone that that is integrated and intimate with the business process, he said.

Next: Protecting Customers From Themselves

A good solution provider is key to helping a customer's IT department, as it does the VAR no good to isolate a potential customer. "Because if the organization outsources, they're not generally going to outsource the VAR. They're going to outsource something more remote. The VAR needs to step in, keep IT well-connected to the user organization, and in the process not make themselves redundant."

As IT departments virtualize and move into services, they run the risk of concentrating on or getting embedded in the services to the point where they lose track of the organization they are servicing, Enderle said.

"That's almost always suicidal, and leads to a reverse trend of where they're either outsourced or the user groups take more control of the infrastructure, in which case (IT becomes) redundant," he said. "So this is a case where the VAR can really help by using the experience they have in other accounts to keep the IT organization well-centered, focused on their user groups, and (focused on) the satisfaction of those user groups."

Moving beyond services to the cloud requires addressing security and governance concerns inside a company, Kaufman said. Security, she said, is actually holding back the adoption of public cloud computing, with companies today more likely to consider private clouds and then adopting a hybrid public-private cloud some day.

Corporate governance is also an important consideration, and solution providers can help customers better adopt new types of IT infrastructures if they understand those customers' rules and security requirements, Kaufman said.

"It's really important that each decision made is made within the right framework of the organization," she said.

Register now to attend COMDEXvirtual or to access on-demand sessions.