Virtual View

Although it's widely viewed as today's hottest technology, virtualization remains in its infancy.

That's why, although Redmond is coming to the game late, the company still has a chance to gain a strong foothold in the market-and that, in turn, translates to significant opportunity for channel partners who get in early on Microsoft's virtualization push.

On Sept. 8, Microsoft trotted out several new products as part of its global "Get Virtualized Now" campaign, including:

  • Hyper-V Server: This standalone version of Hyper-V, Microsoft's base enterprise hypervisor, is available as a free download from Microsoft. Unlike Hyper-V, it's not part of Windows Server 2008. While Hyper-V offers more features, Hyper-V Server can be used in non-Windows 2008 environments.
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM 2008): VMM 2008, which was scheduled for availability in October, is the management framework for Microsoft's virtualization infrastructure. It has the ability to manage both physical and virtual servers-even those running ESX, the hypervisor of chief virtualization competitor VMware Inc.

Exciting Potential
Dai Vu, Microsoft's director of virtualization products and solution marketing, describes partners as "very excited" about the technology's potential. "We're still in the very early days, with 10 percent to 12 percent of servers virtualized," Vu notes. "Our strategy is to make it as ubiquitous as possible."

That strategy starts with Windows Server 2008. Eventually, Vu notes, "there will be millions of copies of Windows Server 2008 deployed, each with Hyper-V." Ultimately, he sees more partner opportunity in providing virtualization services-for instance, server consolidation, disaster-recovery capability and branch-office deployment-than in selling virtualization products.

That's the approach taken by services and hardware giant (and Gold Certified Partner) Unisys. Mark Feverston, the company's general manager for Microsoft solution marketing, says the services and hardware company focuses on two paths for selling Microsoft virtualization: services consulting and solution implementations of Hyper-V.

For the first, Feverston says Unisys shows companies how to use virtualization in their data centers to more effectively use and manage their resources for better returns.

The second path-solution implementations -- is currently built around two growing areas: consolidating Exchange deployments and building out a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Hyper-V is the gateway into the entire opportunity, Feverston adds: "We can go right into a server infrastructure and consult with the client; we can discover assets and rationalize, virtualize and deploy Hyper-V. It's a big services play. We can use Hyper-V to solution sell Exchange and desktop consolidations."

Driving New Business
VMware has its own VDI strategy, newly re-christened VMware View. VMware's advantage is a huge installed base of users to sell to. So Microsoft-like the startup it is in this space-is using price to carve a slice of the pie. "We hear from customers that price is a big factor. For comparable deployments, Microsoft cost is about a third of VMware, says Microsoft's Vu. "It's a very compelling value proposition."

Microsoft also believes that its management case is strong. VMM 2008, even though a first-generation product, has been well-received. It's built on System Center, which gives it a stronger pedigree-and provides an additional opportunity for up-selling.

"Think about full lifecycle management," says Vu. "You need to patch and configure the operating system environment, but you also need real-time monitoring, backup and disaster recovery. There's an opportunity not only to sell VMM, but to attach System Center."

He recommends that other partners follow Unisys' lead, driving new business by virtualizing popular applications. "Move into the collaboration space, like Exchange and SharePoint," he says. "Through the Microsoft stack, you can up-sell virtualized Exchange and SharePoint."

Like Microsoft, Unisys understands that virtualization is more than a fad. Says Feverston: "We have one whole business unit called 'Systems and Technology' to provide consulting services, products and implementation to connect business to infrastructure, to provide ROI and [create data centers] agile enough to make changes on their own."

The key to making that happen is virtualization of servers, networks and other resources, says Feverston: "Virtualization is the cornerstone to providing the benefits of a real-time infrastructure."

And, for partners, it's the key to real-time profits as well.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.