SMBs Embrace Virtualization

Move by small and mid-sized businesses toward technologies that help them cut costs spells ‘opportunity’ for VARs.

While the worldwide market for virtual servers has been growing rapidly for the last few years, it has only been in the past year or two that virtualization has moved beyond the enterprise to SMBs and beyond servers to storage and network virtualization. All of this market expansion spells ‘opportunity’ for VARs.

Despite the soft economy, the SMB space is showing a stronger-than-average commitment to IT as a strategic investment. Market researcher IDC expects the overall IT market to grow by just 0.5 percent worldwide, while it expects the SMB packaged software market to grow by 6.7 percent.

One of the key investments for SMBs is virtualization.

SMBs are looking at technology that will benefit their bottom line by reducing operating costs, improving productivity, retaining customers and acquiring new ones, Ross Brown, Microsoft vice president for solution partners and ISVs, said in a recent article on IT Channel Planet.

“We see server consolidation and virtualization ranked as the top technologies for enabling growth in 2009,” said Brown. “Ultimately, smart SMBs are making IT investments during this downturn that will not only protect and strengthen their business but also prepare them for success when economic conditions improve.”

Many SMBs turn to VARs for advice and service.

“More and more customers are looking at server consolidation and choosing virtualization as the solution because ROI is fast and in some cases, immediate,” said Chris Ward, director of solutions architecture at Green Pages Technology Solutions, a national IT consulting and integration company.

“We are doing about four or five virtualization projects each month for SMBs,” said Robert Betzel, president and CEO of Macon, Ga.-based Infinity Network Solutions. “Besides the usual reasons -– cost-cutting and improved productivity -- SMBs are choosing virtualization because they want to maximize the real estate of their offices.

Big vendors crowd market

To whet the appetite of SMBs for virtualization, many vendors – including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and VMware -– have rolled out technologies and VAR programs, and announced strategic partnerships to tap into the seemingly endless stream of opportunities flowing around virtualization.

This spring, HP unveiled what it touted as the industry’s first integrated solution to enable SMBs to more easily and cost-effectively deploy virtualization – by transforming internal disk drives in the servers into highly available shared storage.

For many SMBs, the biggest barriers-to-entry for deploying virtualization are the complexity and costs involved, including those associated with setting up external shared storage to support the virtual machines. HP claims its solution has eliminated those barriers.

A few months ago, Microsoft also jumped into the space. It unveiled Services Ready, a program to provide its gold-certified partners with access to pre-tested, repeatable offerings and best practices for various technologies, including virtualization. The pay-to-play program cost a VAR $20,000 per service. Microsoft’s virtualization service is designed around its Hyper-V technology, which is gaining market traction.

A recent survey by Forrester Research confirms the health of the virtualization market.

Forrester’s survey of 2,600 technology decision-makers in the United States and Europe found that the majority of companies have adopted server virtualization.

Key findings of the survey are: 53 percent of SMBs have implemented x86 server virtualization or are doing so within the next 12 months; and SMBs have virtualized about 36 percent of their OS instances. SMB respondents said they expect to virtualize 61 percent of all OS instances within the next two years.

TAGS: Microsoft,virtualization,HP,SMBs,VARs

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