Channel Watch

Get Primed to Virtualize SMBs

First Look: Book by Gold Certified Partner provides a good starting point for building a virtualization practice.

Long the realm of enterprise-class organizations with their multi-employee, specialized IT departments, virtualization's complexity and the subtlety of its benefits have made it less appealing to smaller customers.

As everyone's purse strings tighten, partners serving SMB customers are beginning to think there's an opportunity to make virtualization sales to smaller shops now. A recent Microsoft study, the "2009 Microsoft SMB Insight Report," found that the Microsoft Small Business Specialists surveyed are taking a hard look at virtualization. Virtualization tied for first as a potential cost-saving technology and took first outright on a question about the best technical investment for business growth.

Virtualization: Defined; A Primer for the SMB Consultant
Author: Dave Sobel
Released: 2009
Length: 161 pages
Price: $79; also available with a four-disc DVD/CD set for $149
Available from: smbvirtualization.net

SMB-focused Microsoft partners thinking those kinds of thoughts and looking for a place to start with virtualization could do worse than Dave Sobel's new book, "Virtualization: Defined; A Primer for the SMB Consultant."

Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Gold Certified Partner in Fairfax, Va., has written a clear, well-organized guide that's aimed squarely at the rank beginner in virtualization. Sobel provides an introduction to the technologies, the products and the consulting business considerations.

This short book gives one of the clearest and most straightforward breakdowns I've seen of the different types of Microsoft virtualization technologies and what each is used for. It's also got a good overview of what VMware Inc. brings to the market from the perspective of small business customers, and draws distinctions between the two. A good chunk of the book is a screenshot-by-screenshot walkthrough of setting up a virtualization environment.

Sobel is an enthusiast of virtualization for SMB customers, writing: "I'm advocating that every server solution that is deployed be delivered virtualized unless there is a business case against it." That includes Windows Small Business Server 2008, with Sobel's main argument for virtualizing SBS being that the move separates the software and hardware refresh cycles, which generally don't align. He devotes a nice section to gaming out hardware considerations specific to virtualizing SBS 2008.

One of his most valuable contributions comes in his sales advice for virtualization. The major channel business model around virtualization historically is server consolidation, but that's a non-starter amid SMBs, which don't have much-if anything-to save from that approach.

Instead, his main recommendations for selling SMB virtualization are for server virtualization to ease hardware-software refresh cycles, for disaster recovery and for customers who want to hold onto old operating systems. Sobel provides helpful conversation scripts for each of the three selling scenarios. None of Sobel's pitches uses the word virtualization. "This is a business conversation rather than a technical one, and thus needs to be justified by business goals, direction and intention," he writes.

If you haven't started researching virtualization yet, you'll find some wisdom in this little book that should help you avoid a few beginners' mistakes and get you started virtualizing your customers' infrastructures-for their benefit and yours.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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