A survey conducted recently by Techaisle projects that by the end of 2015 SMBs will virtualize a whopping 70 percent of their servers. This eager embrace of hypervisor technology — for business-critical workloads in particular — makes virtualization enablement services an important growth area for managed service providers.
So, what enablement services should you offer? Depending on your company’s strengths, there are a variety of ways you can help customers with virtualization. I find it helpful to think of SMB adoption of virtualization in terms of three stages:
- Server consolidation
- Full virtualization
- Internal cloud
Each stage has its own set of drivers, concerns, and service implications.
Nearly all companies initially adopt virtualization to break free of the old server-per-application IT resource model. At this stage, success is measured by the ability to run multiple applications per physical server without sacrificing performance or availability.
Drivers: IT decision makers in this stage need virtualization to deliver greater efficiency and the increased agility they get from porting live workloads from one machine to another.
Concerns: SMBs worry that virtualization might bring unexpected complexity and cost. To minimize risk, SMBs usually target less critical, Tier 2 applications for initial virtualization.
- Offer services in small, measured chunks when courting businesses in this stage: feasibility studies, migration planning, and pilot program management, for example.
- Incorporate business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) measures to protect data before and after physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration.
- Resist the urge to package these services as phases of a larger project. Your prospects may well get cold feet.
- Demonstrate your methodical, systematic approach to this work, including detailed documentation of goals, costs, and contingencies.
SMBs in Stage 2 of virtualization adoption have set the goal to virtualize every (or nearly every) application across the company. Here, a systematic approach will be vital for your success, and Stage 2 clients will expect, and may actually prefer, contracts with larger scope and longer duration.
Drivers: SMBs in this stage have already benefited from the efficiencies of server virtualization and feel ready to extend hypervisor technologies across their environment.
Concerns: At this stage, the risks that plague SMBs include performance bottlenecks and unforeseen workload vulnerabilities, not to mention the wrath of managers ready to blame a virtualization initiative for a crash or a performance hit.
- Needs Assessments – Analyze and document the unique requirements (VM resources, server resources, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) requirements, etc.) of each of your clients’ Tier 1 applications.
- Design Services – Specify a virtual environment that meets the performance, availability, and BCDR needs of these applications.
Having virtualized their application environments, SMBs in the third stage of virtualization adoption feel ready to delegate control of processor power, storage, and other virtualized resources directly to the departments that use them, using policy-based automation and Web interfaces.
Drivers: The goal here is to deploy a self-service infrastructure that radically decouples real-world business operations from the underlying IT systems in order to accelerate innovation and drive new levels of growth. At a high level, this means that departments and process owners can spin up VM-enabled resources — from on-demand sandboxes and test environments for developers to amped-up processor power to deal with sales spikes or year-end closings — with little to no involvement from IT. To achieve this, IT departments need the ability to track resources, such as processor power, bandwidth, storage capacity, and even cloud-based resources, in real time.
Concerns: IT’s role in Stage 3 is demanding, with responsibility for designing clear and intuitive user interfaces on the front end as well as delivering ROI data on the back end. The issues that keep SMBs up at night include poor end-user adoption and ineffectual reporting.
- Interface Design services – Build an in-depth understanding of your clients’ missions and goals and put your Web design expertise to work.
- Prototyping and Piloting services – This is an excellent way to leverage your project management mastery.
- User Training services – Another project management opportunity; it’s often easier and more effective for companies to bring in outsiders to effect internal behavioral change.
A roadmap for SMB virtualization services
This model is intended to help you spot opportunities with your customers and prospects as they harness virtualization to meet their unique goals. The adoption paths of individual SMBs will be as distinct as the enablement strategies of individual MSPs.
If you’re an Intronis Partner, we invite you to join us for an upcoming Webinar, VM Protection Simplified, where my product owner Jake Madson and I will show how you can simplify VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machine (VM) protection with the Intronis ECHOplatform.