The key pitfalls of server virtualisation and how to avoid them.

Server virtualisation already exists in the majority of businesses, but some of your customers may be struggling to optimise it, or just aren’t getting the best out of their virtual machines. Here’s how partners can avoid the issues.

Customers are feeling the burden of the digital era; industries have been heavily disrupted by new innovative players, making it even more important for existing businesses to maximise their resources, keep their legacy applications running and avoid business downtime.

Server virtualisation, the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers to help maximise server resources, is a step in the right direction to do just that, but there are a number of pitfalls that partners should avoid when implementing server virtualisation for their customers. These pitfalls should also be considered if your customer expresses an interest in moving towards a completely software-defined data centre.

1. Not having the right technical skills

Your customers often have a small number of technical people within their own teams, and it is harder for those people to keep up to date with every single solution and update. To do so, they need to be hands-on all of the time. As they focus on wider strategic goals for their business, this isn’t always possible and can cause issues when it comes to implementation.

As a partner, it is your duty to keep ahead of certifications and skills so you can help your customers to get the best from their virtualised servers and move towards a software-defined data centre (SDDC). To do this, your team needs to have the right technical skills at every level to help educate your customers. Investment in these skills is critical; customers want to know they can rely on you in areas where they don’t have the capacity or resources to train or hire staff.

2. Analysing and configuring

The first way of proving your expertise is by analysing the customer’s physical servers. If you fail to do this before implementing a server virtualisation platform you’re likely to cause your customers major issues with performance in the long-run. An analysis will enable you to define:

  • What kind of resources are needed for your customer’s virtual machines (VMs).
  • What kind of server power and capacity the virtualised servers would need to maintain the same level of performance – if not better – than the physical servers.

You should right-size your customer’s VM from a power and memory perspective. Insufficient or over-committed resources could cause the machine to fail immediately and cause huge disruption for your customer’s business, their end users and their customers too.

Customers that have existing server virtualisation solutions may already be suffering from some of these issues. As a result, they may be reluctant to move fully towards a SDDC. In this case, it would be up to you to show the benefits of a fully software-defined environment and how it can prevent business downtime as a result of VM failure.

3. Licensing

Customers will want to know the specific terms and conditions when it comes to licensing. Server virtualisation platforms all vary in how they license and charge for the software. Customers can often overlook the impact this has, and if they fail to purchase the right licences they could be handed hefty fines.

But licensing in virtualisation is complicated; organisations have to purchase numerous license types to remain compliant – and all of these have a different set of requirements. This includes hypervisor licence, management server licences, guest operating system server licences and application licences.

Knowing the ins and outs of the licensing costs, the length of the licensing agreement and any issues when it comes to both the auditing and renewal processes for each licence can help to ensure that your customer is protected as they move towards a SDDC.

4. Not knowing your customer

One of the biggest pitfalls is not having given enough thought to the customer’s long-term goals. Partners should have a clear idea of where the customer actually wants to go. This can help to determine what vendor product is the best fit for the organisation.

Some customers will want the pros and cons of each vendor explained to them explicitly, while others will give you their requirements up front and expect you to know which vendor is best placed to meet their requirements. In either case, it’s critical to get an understanding of whether the customer wants to move towards a software-defined data centre, or if they’re merely looking to solve a problem with their existing environment.

Meet your customer’s expectations and put them at ease in any of these situations by getting to know your customers and communicating effectively with them about their future plans and whether they involve a move to software-defined data centre.

5. Thinking that virtualisation is a silver bullet

Approaching your customer with server virtualisation as a silver bullet will deter them from working with you. It has many benefits, but it also has drawbacks, often experienced by customers who have only virtualised their environment in parts.

You need to take their virtualisation a step further, explaining to them how software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined storage (SDS) can help them to solve several bottlenecks that exist with server virtualisation.

For example, server virtualisation can lead to a time-consuming process to implement new networks and firewalls. SDN and SDS addresses this bottleneck as the administrator defines the virtualisation, its requirements and the perimeters - enabling applications to be up and running more efficiently.

Understanding that virtualisation solves some problems but has some of its own issues is critical. This can help you to upsell further solutions down the line, bring your customer across to a SDDC and position yourself as a trusted advisor.

6. Not understanding every aspect of SDDC

The software-defined data centre is the ultimate goal for many enterprises. As a partner, you have to take the time to understand how each facet of SDDC fits together. The reality is that while SDDC would peak a customer’s interest – they aren’t likely to be anywhere near a ‘software-defined’ IT environment as it stands.

A huge pitfall that partners need to avoid is dismissing the potential for the customer to move towards the SDDC. Instead, this should be pitched to them accordingly.

To get to a SDDC state, customers will need SDS and SDN, while other technologies such as Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) can also play a part. Server virtualisation is only the first stage of getting to SDDC, and it is up to the partner to push for and advise customers on the next steps, ensuring that their data centres are always available.

Conclusion

By avoiding these pitfalls, and bearing in mind that there are a number of other technologies and tools that can help with some of the bottlenecks of server virtualisation — such as software-defined networking and storage — they will be able to implement the solution successfully.

In the long-term, this could yield significant benefits as you earn your customer’s trust. Build a strategic relationship and become their trusted advisor.

Takeaways:

  • Your customers will already be aware of some of the benefits of server virtualisation, but it’s important to educate them about the right sizing, costs and licensing agreements for their business before they look to go any further down the virtualisation route.
  • Your customers will rely on you for technical skills that they simply don’t have in-house. That means you need to stay ahead of certifications, skills, and even vendor roadmaps for server virtualisation products.
  • Work closely with your customers so you can understand their business goals in-depth, helping them to embed server virtualisation into their business is the most appropriate way. Remember to think long-term. Server virtualisation is no short-term fix.

The Trusted Advisor Blueprint: A definitive guide to server virtualisation