10 things you need to know that'll help you virtualise more of your customer's business

Virtualisation has been present in businesses for quite some time now, but the sales opportunities are still endless if you know the right information to make a sale.

It’s unlikely that your customers will be strangers to virtualisation, but that doesn’t mean the sales opportunities have ended. As a partner, you should be equipping yourself with the right information, making it easier to qualify opportunities for initial sales, optimise existing servers and establish add-ons that can help your customers to get more from their current virtualisation processes.

1. Cost savings come in several ways

Customers can save costs in several ways by implementing server virtualisation. Because they require fewer physical servers, they will inevitably save money on hardware costs. They won’t need to pay for new physical servers which are far more expensive than setting up a virtual server environment. But there will also be savings in costs on power and cooling as they won’t need to run the same number of physical servers anymore.

2. Vendor lock-in

End users are increasingly wary of being locked into long-term contracts with vendors. Server virtualisation removes the physical hardware layer, replacing it with virtual hardware, freeing customers up to move virtual machines between different vendor servers. This gives data centre managers the opportunity to select whichever commodity hardware they believe will work best in their environment. In turn, they have more power to negotiate with hardware vendors when it comes to renewing or purchasing equipment. You can position yourself as your customer’s trusted advisor by helping them to source the best components for their business needs.

3. Resolving existing bottlenecks

Customers may be reluctant to move towards server virtualisation because they’ve heard of some of the bottlenecks that occur between the storage and networking teams.

As a partner, you should explore solutions to these issues with your customers. For example, software-defined networking and storage (SDN and SDS) can help customers to get applications up and running more efficiently by putting the networking and storage teams under one virtualisation team, eliminating the wait time for each side to approve different aspects of the application before it is ready to go live.

4. Doing more with less

With server provisioning, administrators can quickly provide business units with capacity when requested, removing the wait time and purchase cycle that existed before. This will help customers to drive a more efficient business, getting apps up and running more quickly and making better use of time and in-house resources.

A second feature of server virtualisation that allows customers to do more with less is improved server resource utilisation. With physical servers, customers would rarely, if ever, be using the full capacity of resources available. Virtualised servers have improved this significantly, meaning that customers need fewer virtual servers, enabling them to save costs in the long-term as they utilise the maximum potential of their virtualised servers.

5. A clean slate for legacy apps

Your customers are likely to have servers and apps that are outdated, slow paced, or not performing to their full capabilities. Perhaps they can’t run on a modern operating system or on new hardware, or the IT team doesn’t want to risk adjusting the app in case it stops working. With server virtualisation, there’s no need to throw out legacy apps or tread carefully around hardware. Virtualising servers ensures legacy apps can run on modern operating systems and hardware, increasing uptime and prolonging their lifecycle.

6. Managing a virtualised server will make it more effective

Customers are wary of implementing a new solution and then not being able to manage it or see how it is affecting their overall IT environment. But new management products that combine with the virtualised server platform can help to improve their visibility.

Importantly, management products can ensure that your customer’s virtual machines are not overloaded, leading to a risk of failure. This is a common occurrence on a server with heavily overcommitted memory or with excess CPU reservation that doesn’t provide the virtual machine with enough resources.

Critically, a management platform offers partners an opportunity to maximise their sales by delivering an add-on for their customers.

7. Considering containerisation

Partners should be aware of containerisation, which bids to eliminate all of the baggage of virtualisation by removing the need for the hypervisor and its virtual machines (VMs). Cloud providers are experts at automating the provisioning of VMs which run on physical servers.

Unlike virtualisation, containers have no need for embedded operating systems. Instead, operating system resources are called on demand using APIs. One of the key benefits of the technology is its potential to increase the economic advantage of microservices-based application architectures.

Bob Tarzey, principal analyst at Quocirca suggests that companies shouldn’t be questioning whether they need virtualisation anymore, but “whether they need it on its own or with containerisation and/or cloud built on top of it”.

Partners should understand their customers’ pain points and requirements and explain whether containerisation is likely to yield the best benefits, or whether the customer only requires virtualisation.

8. Building cloud on top of virtualisation

A virtualised IT environment puts enterprises one step ahead in moving to the cloud, and as many businesses want to make this leap, it’s important to let them know that virtualisation can help them on their way.

You can add value here by assessing the compatibility of the cloud with the customer’s existing IT environment. This will enable them to know which cloud vendors they can select in the future, which cloud stack they can use, and how to set up their virtualised environment.

This can also negate your customer’s concerns about the complexity of moving their servers. If they decide to utilise the cloud in their every day business, they will benefit from elasticity and efficiency.

9. It’s worth knowing about network virtualisation and network function virtualisation

Partners should know the ins and outs of network virtualisation, as alongside server virtualisation it forms the bedrock of a shift to the software-defined data centre (SDDC).

Network virtualisation can boost network agility, so that teams who are snowed under with configuration requests that normally take days or weeks can meet these demands in a matter of minutes. The aim is to enable network managers to move VMs independently from their existing infrastructure without the need to reconfigure the entire network. Network virtualisation allows this by creating logical, virtual networks that are decoupled from network hardware. This means the physical networking hardware will be used to forward packets, while the virtual network helps managers to deploy and manage network services and resources.

Network function virtualisation adds another layer of sophistication for enterprises’ networks, in an approach that complements software-defined networking (SDN). Network function virtualisation enables admins to turn up functions on selected tunnels in the network, so each VM has its own service profile.

This saves time on manual provisioning and training, and also reduces costs through overprovisioning. For example, a firewall for the whole network isn’t always necessary - instead the customer can tailor the firewall to a specific tunnel, network or virtual machines.

Virtualising the network is usually the next step for organisations after virtualising the server, and is required to achieve the full potential of SDDC. Having this knowledge in your armoury will help to sell server virtualisation, as you’re prepared for the next step.

10. Virtualisation is at the heart of a shift to software-defined data centre (SDDC)

Although the concept of a software-defined data centre (SDDC) has been around for a few years, the reality is that the vast majority of businesses are nowhere near being at a stage where they can say their data centre is completely software-defined.

In other words, an area where every part of its infrastructure – networking, storage, CPU and security – is virtualised and delivered as a service. But this is exactly where enterprises are striving to get to, and as a partner, it is important to let them know that virtualising their server is the first step of a shift to SDDC.

Other elements such as network virtualisation, network function virtualisation and SDN are other facets of this shift. SDDC brings together all of the software pieces and integrates storage, network and security in one easy-to-manage proposition. It is unlikely that any enterprise will go from having entirely physical IT infrastructure to SDDC. Partners should provide advice on what to virtualise first and how to go about it.

Conclusion

Although virtualisation has been around for quite some time, there are still more than enough opportunities for the channel to maximise virtualisation sales. Your customers may be looking to optimise their existing solutions, make better use of their existing resources or to improve the management of their systems. They will be looking at moving towards SDDC – so thorough knowledge of how to get there can be critical. Explore their business needs, equip yourself with the right knowledge and start selling more virtualisation solutions.

Takeaways

  • Before attempting to sell more server virtualisation solutions, ensure you understand how your customers have previously managed their servers, how they are currently managing them and what they are looking to achieve.
  • Remember that most customers may have virtualisation to a certain extent, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be using the maximum capability of their resources. Look at where you can help your customers to do more with less.
  • The SDDC is the ultimate goal for many enterprises, but server virtualisation can also help with a shift to cloud computing. Partners should be accustomed to terms such as containerisation and network virtualisation, helping their customers to make a complete move away from a traditional IT environment.

The Trusted Advisor Blueprint: A definitive guide to server virtualisation