SMB virtualisation: The SMB technology toolbag

How far has virtualisation come in the SMB market? ARN's SMB virtualisation roundtable endeavoured to find out

Vendors, the channel and the media have spent plenty of time dwelling on the acceptance and deployment of virtualisation in the enterprise sector, but just how far has this technology come at the smaller end of town?

ARN set out to gauge the popularity of virtualisation, and its penetration of the Australian SMB market, during our latest roundtable event on March 10. The discussion, which involved a collection of vendors and resellers, focused on challenges and opportunities when selling and implementing this technology in the SMB sector.

What was interesting to hear was how integrators dealing with SMB-sized customers were utilising virtualisation. For many, it was a way to move applications across servers faster and more easily, as well as replicate and generate dedicated servers with less fuss. Disaster recovery and backup were other great examples of how virtualisation could benefit organisations.

In terms of adoption, the low-hanging fruit appears to be discussing virtualisation at server refresh time, and when it’s time to upgrade infrastructure. And with server spending expected to start rising again this year, there should be plenty of opportunity to bring virtualisation to the table in the next 12-18 months.

But our attendees were less convinced of broader virtualisation, such as desktop or storage virtualisation, having as quick an adoption rate in the broader SMB space. Until the cost of desktop virtualisation drops to the point where it is on par or cheaper than physical machines, the case remained shaky.

Similarly, storage virtualisation has proved a harder sell with smaller organisations achieving the same ends with a network-attached storage appliance. These issues were clear despite the fact that every virtualisation strategy ultimately came down to the individual businesses’ needs.

The broader message our attendees were keen to convey was that virtualisation was their term, not the customer’s. For some, virtualisation was a way to provide cost-effective and efficient managed and hosted infrastructure services to their customers. For others, virtualisation was simply the means to providing their SMB client with a solution to a business pain point.

It’s clear virtualisation is a powerful tool in the reseller’s arsenal, but it doesn’t mean SMB customers need to be bothered with the technical terms and conditions. Whatever the technology, resellers need to continue to take a trusted advisor approach and focus on making life easier for their clients.

Nadia Cameron Editor, ARN

This supplement was sponsored by Dell.