Microsoft’s new virtualisation skills paying off for service providers

Until now, virtualisation technology has been used mainly to cut costs in data centres, where it allows companies to run their IT infrastructure with fewer machines, using less energy and floor space.

But for managed services providers like Inobits and Space Age Technologies (SAT), the beauty of virtualisation is that it allows small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to “sweat” their IT assets by doing more with existing infrastructure, and provide disaster recovery capabilities previously reserved for large enterprises.

“Virtualisation is becoming a key part of our clients business strategy,” said Chris Welham, an executive director at SAT. “Sure, it’s about cutting costs. But it’s also about providing unprecedented reliability, flexibility and agility to companies for whom technology is the very lifeblood of their business.”

SAT and Inobits are among the first South African service providers to attain Microsoft’s new Virtualisation Competency, which gives partners a proven, scaleable framework for mitigating risks and managing projects.

Microsoft’s Desmond Nair believes the virtualisation market is still relatively immature – which means significant growth opportunities for Microsoft and its partners. Analysts estimate only 15 percent of servers have been virtualised, and with that percentage likely to at least double over the next five years, there is still plenty of opportunity in the market. A recent report by Gartner projected that Microsoft’s share of installed virtual machine software would increase to 29 percent by the end of 2012, from 8 percent at the end of last year.

“People are increasingly using virtualisation to deliver lower costs and reduced risks – it’s moved from being a tactical technology towards a key transformation strategy, and helps companies respond more rapidly to the volatile market conditions we have today,” said Inobits director Hud Krause.

One early virtualisation success story has been Reutech Radar Systems, which provides radar systems to both ground and naval environments – and for whom failsafe technology systems are non-negotiable.

Earlier this year, Reutech was due for a server refresh, and wanted to reduce its number of servers to minimize management work, costs, and the time required to deliver new services. The company also wanted to implement state of the art disaster recovery capabilities to minimise downtime of its critical IT systems.

Without virtualisation, Reutech would have had to buy 17 servers. Thanks to SAT’s judicious use of the Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation technology, the company ended up buying six physical servers – an estimated capital expenditure saving of more than R550 000. Over and above that, says SAT’s Welham, Reutech is saving more than R60 000 per year in running costs and power usage, and has been able to greatly streamline and strengthen its DR plan.

“The sheer flexibility enabled by virtualisation is transforming how companies do IT,” said Welham. “Provisioning a virtual machine takes 10 to 15 minutes, as opposed to the two to six weeks needed to order and provision a physical server. Consequently, Reutech’s IT staff is far more efficient and can concentrate on higher-value projects.”

Inobits’ Krause says partners are finding the Virtualisation Competency is accelerating time to market, increasing operational efficiencies and improving the quality of their delivery to customers by providing pre-sales and delivery tools, templates and best practices.

“Simply put, this Competency is allowing partners to provide greater expertise and efficiency to our customers,” said Krause.

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Microsoft’s new virtualisation skills paying off for service providers