A step-by-step guide to maximising the performance of your customer's data centre with virtualisation.

We outline, step by step, how you can help your customers to get the maximum output from their resources so their businesses can achieve more with less.

IT departments are challenged with supporting the overarching digital strategy for their organisations. This moves beyond simple IT requirements and towards an emphasis on customer experience and using data as a core valuable asset. But with the number of applications and servers increasing all of the time, data centres have been placed under great strain.

Server virtualisation is helping to ease the burden on these data centres. One of the biggest strengths of server virtualisation is an increase in resource utilisation and performance. This subsequently leads to savings on operational costs and increased efficiencies.

The following is a guide for partners to optimise their customer’s server virtualisation solution, taking them further towards and deliver greater capacity, uptime and run-time for legacy applications.

Step one: analysis

Server virtualisation has to provide a solution to a customer’s problem, or provide them with a platform to improve their existing capabilities. A customer who does not have a server virtualisation solution installed needs its existing workloads on physical servers analysed.

This will enable you, as a partner, to know what kind of resources are needed, what kind of server power and how much storage you would need to virtualise those servers.

Step two: right-sizing

One of the biggest issues for your customers is their inability to accurately right-size the virtual machine from a power and memory perspective, while maintaining performance on existing applications. Insufficient or over-committed resources may cause virtual machines (VM) to fail immediately. The result can be business downtime for your customers, leading to financial loss, reputational damage and even difficult recovery.

As a partner, you can counter this lack of in-house capability and specify the right virtualised systems for your customers and their business. It would up to you to take an in-depth look at how the VMs are being used and then align the servers and the virtualisation resources in accordance. It may also be worth performing a capacity planning exercise immediately to ensure that the amount of computer power and the size of the storage are both correct.

Step three: getting bandwidth up to date

The right environment can also be extended to the network. For server virtualisation to be a success, your customers need to have adequate network bandwidth. The intention of virtualising servers is to help your customers to do more, with less and without their performance being compromised.

Partners aim to improve efficiency by moving their customers to server virtualisation, however there is still only a finite amount of network traffic that the physical box can handle. Partners need to overcome these bandwidth limitations if they are to maximise server resources for their customers.

Step four: staff training

To get the most out of server virtualisation and to avoid many of the pitfalls, it is critical that you and your team are trained, particularly when it comes to deployment. You will need to work closely with your customers to share this information, helping to educate them so they can virtualise more of their servers on demand when their business requires it.

Customers are often looking for external expertise in areas in which they do not have the resources to hire or train staff, and it is critical that you can show that you have the right certifications and can be relied upon by the end user.

So make sure your team is fully trained and can share their knowledge with your customer’s in-house team, particularly when it comes to the core virtualisation platform, as well as issues such as security, capacity management and maximising resources.

Step five: undergoing an optimisation assessment

It’s important not to be complacent. Once a customer is up and running with server virtualisation, your job as a partner is not done. To think your job as being complete would mean missing out on potential upsell and cross-sell opportunities that come off the back of server virtualisation.

It is crucial to keep engaging with your customer, and to ensure that they’re making the most of their new setup. You can assess your customer’s environment, look at their capacity and memory and report back to them how much they have left. This way you know where the next opportunities are to sell to your customers.

Step six: management

Customers may be more interested in managing their solution themselves, rather than having a partner come in to undertake an optimisation assessment.

This is because it can be a big stumbling block for customers to understand what is happening ‘underneath the bonnet’ of the solution, and this means they aren’t able to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Virtualisation management tools can help the customer to understand how much capacity they have left, see which virtual machines are idle, search for machines that aren’t using resources and even predict into the future how much resources the customer will need. It is your job to know whether the customer is seeking this capability, and if so, helping them to pick a new management solution that can deal with their needs.

Step seven: Speaking to your customers about software-defined data centres

Virtualisation can only go so far, unless your customers are ready to take the next step with their data centre. If they are, the opportunities to increase and maximise their performance become numerous. After all, virtualisation is the very building block of software-defined data centres, enabling your customers to grow and improve their environments bit by bit.

If your customers aren’t ready to talk about SDDC yet, it is the responsibility of you, the partner, to emphasise the benefits that they’re missing out on. Begin with software-defined networking (SDN)...

Step eight: Using SDN to provision network services

SDN is an architecture that alters how a network is designed, managed and operated – making it more practical and reliable. The key differentiator between SDN and traditional networking is the centralised controller that offers a complete end-to-end view of the entire network and everything encompassed within it (including device capabilities, and network paths).

Software-defined networking (SDN) is an important part of the overarching software-defined data centre (SDDC) proposition. It can help customers who are struggling with large data centre networks that don’t easily support the requirements of server virtualisation.

Network managers currently have to manually provision network and security resources to new or migrated virtual machines, which can be painstaking and time-consuming. SDN can solve this issue as it enables the swift provisioning of network services to virtual machines in a data centre environment.

This maximises performance as a virtualised network helps your customers to remain up and running, and to quickly resolve any issues that could cause business disruptions. They can also move their virtual machines between data centres, giving them flexibility and agility in their day-to-day processes.

Conclusion

It’s likely that your customers are already aware of the initial benefits of server virtualisation, but they’re still not getting the maximum resource from their servers. As their trusted advisor, there are a number of steps you should follow to help your customers understand their current capacity, how to improve it and how they can do a lot more throughout their business with a lot less.

By maximising their server resources, you will be helping your customers to become more efficient, cut operational costs, achieve independence and scale on-demand, according to the needs of the business.

Many of the stumbling blocks that customers have been faced with have new solutions; partners should be able to identify the customer’s requirements and suggest a solution that meet or exceed their expectations. For example, software-defined networking (SDN) can be used to provision network services and also act as the next step to moving towards a software-defined data centre.

Takeaways

  • Build a picture of your customer’s current server capabilities - what is the capacity, how much room do they have left, how are they currently performing? Once this has been determined, you will be able to define what your customer needs to do to maximise their server resources with virtualisation.
  • Specifying the right size for your customer’s servers is a crucial step, helping them to get the right power and memory the first time round. When considering sizing, you need to think about their current needs, but more crucially, their future needs and requirements.
  • Complete staff training sessions for your customer’s virtualisation team, as well as your own team of partners. Successful deployment is one thing, but if your customers don’t know how to use their server resources to their best availability, then virtualisation can be rendered ineffective.
  • Equip your customers with the right management tools. They need to understand what’s happening underneath the bonnet of their solutions in order to push the boundaries further. As a partner, you can also increase your revenue by selling this critically important add-on.
  • SDN enables the swift provisioning of network services to virtual machines in a data centre - a stumbling block for enterprises with existing virtualised servers. This can help them with the next step towards a SDDC

The Trusted Advisor Blueprint: A definitive guide to server virtualisation