Virtualisation rides a new wave

“We are heading into a virtualisation explosion or, more importantly, what we call the software-defined enterprise"

The next virtualisation boom is in the mail as we move to a world of ubiquitous availability of information. That’s according to some experts in the channel who are predicting a “virtualisation explosion” as companies look to virtualise network and storage, managing every piece of physical equipment in the datacentre through a virtual software layer.

This next wave of virtualisation follows IBM’s virtualisation of the mainframe in 1972 and, of course, VMware’s rapid rise following its virtualisation of the x86 architecture.

VMware sees a $US50 billion opportunity and hopes to take its annual revenues to upwards of $10 billion in the next 10 years after posting revenues of $US5.21 billion in 2013.

The channel will be central to giving the network virtualisation revolution scale. It also has the potential to disrupt the storage landscape with converged infrastructure.

However, this new complex environment requires resellers, system integrators and independent software vendors to understand the full complement of the virtualisation stack, while taking a services and solutions focused approach.

EMC director of technology A/NZ, Matt Zwolenski, said server virtualisation was just the beginning of the software-defined era and this same concept was now being extended as far as the router and the disk drive.

“We are heading into a virtualisation explosion or, more importantly, what we call the software-defined enterprise, where every piece of physical equipment in the datacentre, from the server to the network to storage, is managed and controlled by a virtual software layer,” he said.

“As a system integrator there is the opportunity to help customers architect a new software-defined strategy. As we saw with the advent of the ‘VMware administrator’, the next wave of IT roles will come in the form of the ‘software-defined datacentre administrator’.”

Zwolenski said integrators were starting to think about how they could consult customers on building the virtual network and virtual storage layers as part of a holistic strategy for the enterprise. “For everyone playing in the software-defined space, there is a great opportunity to educate customers about the benefits of creating an end-to-end datacentre solution,” he said.

Anittel CTO, Rob Pickering, said network virtualisation meant businesses would not need to be concerned with what the underlying infrastructure was, but more about the business requirements to be fulfilled. “The promise of this abstraction from hardware is that VARs can offer services that can fulfil business requirements more quickly and with less effort than before, which presents both challenges and opportunities,” he said.

“The main challenge is the moving of business models to support this consumption-based, business-driven approach that organisations require now and away from the moving of ‘tin’ and one-off services. This will see a decrease in one-off service revenue for VARs and SIs, but if positioned correctly should support a move to a recurring based revenue or ‘as-a-service’ type offerings.”

However, he said the opportunities were endless for VARs wanting to be seen as a true business partner delivering services that add value and flexibility with a minimal accretive outlay.

“With these new virtualisation technologies the ability for businesses and users to ‘self serve’ their own IT outcomes building the platforms to support this agility is where opportunity lies.”

Oracle senior principal product director, infrastructure software, Doan Nguyen, said as more workloads were virtualised, the demand to connect those VMs to a range of networks and storage systems also increased.

“The consolidation of servers and workloads - to improve the overall utilisation of server resources - is a growing trend that is pushing us toward the next virtualisation boom,” he said.

“The result can be systems with a spaghetti mess of cables and interfaces on the back panel and networking configurations can remain tied to the physical network and storage, which can limit the resource sharing of the virtual systems. This is where IO virtualisation comes in, and whether it’s software-defined networking [SDN] or storage virtualisation, each can help customers unlock the next wave of virtual environments.”

Capitalise on trend

Nguyen said the shift in virtualisation from compute would open up new opportunities for resellers. “Resellers can capitalise on this trend by focusing on the impact that the virtual networking and storage will have on the operational lifecycle of the datacentre,” he said.

“Products and services helping to address network and storage capacity sizing, including deployment services of virtual storage and networking, are opportunities for further monetisation.”

Microsoft modern datacentre product manager, Wendy Smith, said storage virtualisation provided huge opportunity for cost reduction as organisations could use commodity hardware for low cost storage. “Simultaneously, network virtualisation is effectively the key to Cloud computing, connecting across datacentres and Clouds. Previously, the pendulum of storage had swung far towards centralised storage [NASs and SANs].

“Today, it’s starting to come back closer to the centre, with more credible options for customers to take advantage of, such as Cloud storage, and commodity hardware,“ she said. “However, the reality is that storage is growing at such a monumental rate that there is plenty of opportunity for everybody.” Smith said the place where partners were to make their money had shifted. “The opportunity for the partner is moving to a more consultative approach, adding more value to the offering rather than just delivering a product,” she said.

Wave of opportunity

Avnet vice-president and general manager A/NZ, Darren Adams, said network virtualisation would decouple traditional networking and storage from hardware.

Read more: Rival AirWatch pushed Citrix to chase Cloud capabilities in enterprise mobility

“There will be much less focus on the underlying technology with more emphasis on solutions that manage the environment using software,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we are heading towards the next “virtualisation boom” but rather another wave of opportunity for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure [VDI].”

Adams said resellers who could support hybrid environments would be the most successful. “Resellers that offer solutions which cater for either on premise or hosted only are using a one size fits all approach that customers just are not ready for.

“Resellers must be agile and have the ability to cater for the changing demands of customers. The current business environment is evolving at a rapid rate, meaning not only resellers, but distributors and vendors need to be aware of increasingly complex customer requirements and respond quickly.”

VMware managing director A/NZ, Duncan Bennet, said the opportunities for the channel would be quite massive and would “dwarf” the opportunities of the last 10 years.

“The network virtualisation opportunity is like the server virtualisation opportunity was seven years ago,” he said. “Success going forward will be predicated on the success going back. No play finishes after just one act.”

Boom? Perhaps not: IDC

IDC analyst, Glen Duncan, was reticent to declare a boom was on the way. “There is certainly increased interest in the market from both vendors and technology buyers in the area of network and storage virtualisation,” he said.

“If there is a future boom, it may well be driven by Cloud service providers responding to increased technology buyer demand for Cloud services through investments in high density computing [involving converged/integrated infrastructure].”

Duncan said resellers had the opportunity to sell converged/integrated infrastructure to Cloud service providers and large enterprises.

“Converged/integrated infrastructure is typically high density so the efficiencies of these technologies can erode volumes and margins,” he said. “With the increased focus on the software layer, resellers have the opportunity to become more services and solutions focused.”

However, that’s not the complete story, according to Duncan.

“If all hardware infrastructure truly moves to a software-defined datacentre then a modular infrastructure framework will be necessary,” he said. “The underlying hardware should be all commodity and modular. So if you want to upgrade a storage system, you could upgrade a controller or some disk without upgrading anything else.”

Read more: Offshoring of Australian jobs leads to oversupply of ICT professionals: Clarius

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