How to sell beyond server virtualisation

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This article appeared in the January February 2020 issue of CRN magazine.

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How to sell beyond server virtualisation

VMware pioneered the software-defined data centre and products like hyperconverged infrastructure that make it easier to implement and operate. But are buyers ready to bite? CRN convened a roundtable of Melbourne VMware partners to assess the state of the market.

Are buyers interested in virtual storage and hyperconverged infrastructure?

Cathy Gu, Digicor: We used to be the exclusive distributor for a software-defined storage startup. It was very affordable and lots of organisations used it for non-mission-critical storage. We found it generated a lot of services because when something broke down, customer service and support sometimes had to be done by people in the USA.

We were doing quite well with that. Then vSAN became available and people suddenly said “This is a much more reliable solution, and also affordable, and easily deployable.”

So now we are slowly switching to vSAN. Our vendors like Intel all certify vSAN and it’s very easy to source and deploy and support. That solution’s become quite acceptable in recent years.

I’m not a technical person, but I’ve seen the trends going quite well towards that direction.

Brad Armstrong, Ingram Micro: From a distribution standpoint, we’re definitely getting more requests for quotes for presales work on the VxRail and vSAN. We see a buzz within our business around hyper-converged infrastructure.

Julianne Bean, Murdoch Webster: Most of our work with VMware is around SD-WAN. We do a lot of work with independent schools and their capacity to take up a private,  hybrid or public cloud scenario is very limited. So they are very much on-site. That’s where we see a lot of our VxRail deployments. This idea of hyperconverged is interesting to us. It means they get a stack that they can run on-premises but also gives them scalability so they can scale out there [to public cloud].  With our work on the WAN, that’s an important differentiation for us.

Neels du Ploy, VMware: That’s a really important point, because ultimately, what customers want is the characteristics of cloud, they want that on premises. They want that ease of saying to IT, “Hey, I want a virtual server, virtual machine, can you just make it available?” They don’t want to wait. 

The other thing is it’s not just about the boxes, but all the other services that sit around hardware and that can help me provide a better service to my customers. I’d want to make sure that I’m leading as a school with how I provide my services to both my students and to my customers.

Do you see clients using VSAN just for storage? Or using it in a hyperconverged context and running applications too?

Terry Underwood, Globalnet: We have done a few VxRail deployments. We’ve seen it more there, traditionally.

Is Kubernetes becoming relevant to the channel and to your VMware-using customers? Especially now that VMware has signalled Kubernetes will be a first-class citizen in vSphere, alongside VMs?

Michael Zuppa, BlueAPACHE: Generally, where we have seen Kubernetes used is among developers, for public-facing application, mostly web applications.

Having that natively brought into the vSphere stack is going to interesting for devops teams, but not for the traditional VMware customer base.

But I see DevOps being in cloud environments where cost control is hard. This [vSphere] gives you an easily-consumed cloud-like model that can be extended to any other platform that offers a Kubernetes environment.

Julia Bean: It’s interesting to me that in very regulated industries or very regimented firms, I see Kubernetes being deployed as a means to keep the right developers in the business. In terms of their policies around IaaS or whatever, it is very strict and very, very regulated. So it is interesting that they take on Kubernetes to get the right skillset and see how that will then start to expand into development of the apps that they’re doing and then how that will feature into these very regulated industries.


Michael Zuppa: We got to this equilibrium where we didn’t have to push virtualisation, it was just natural. People accepted it and now everything’s virtual. That’s great. 

Now they want that higher stack … and this is exactly where we’re heading to the Kubernetes stack.

Everything is changing. The pace of everything right now is much faster. There’s that big question around the cloud and how do we consume it and that’s where we come in.

So we don’t talk about virtualisation, it’s a given. But we talk about how are we going to adapt given where we are. Some of it is just moving the existing workloads from one place to another. But we’ve got to open this conversation up more to just moving your workload to the cloud.

Because you can’t react faster if you’re using IaaS. 

You’ve got to go to a Kubernetes model so then you can plug that into your engine. We’ve had customers do that themselves, but the mid-tier? They’re not going to be able to do that.

So the conversation is changing. It really comes down to business. Where to invest to make sure that assets of businesses are as agile, as flexible as possible, but with not huge overhead of managing and maintaining. 

The key thing is we don’t talk about virtualising the server anymore. 

That’s in the past and that’s happened. We talk about how IT is going to support your ever-changing business flexibly without grinding the business into a halt.  


VMware’s portfolio has expanded well beyond data centre software and delegates at the roundtable shared thoughts on those products and the issues they address, including:

Security: Xara Tran shared a story about a business of her acquaintance that recently fell victim to ransomware and paid the ransom. “Virus protection doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “It’s on top of our agenda.” Tran and other delegates felt that VMware’s approach to security – allow workloads in known good states to operate, mistrust all others – represents thinking worth considering as they work to improve their own and clients’ security. “Our traditional view of security changes very, very dramatically when we change that piece of it,” said VMware’s Neels du Ploy.

Device management and the IoT: Onel Consulting’s Raymond Ng shared a story about VMware AirWatch, originally marketed as a mobile device management tool, being used to detect inventory levels in vending machines. “How do we make sure that we take people on that journey as well to understand the outcome and the possibilities?” he asked, to agreement around the table. Other delegates suggested technologies like AirWatch will contribute to the Internet of Things and Smart Cities by making it easier to deploy and manage large numbers of devices.

SD-WAN: Delegates agreed that customers are ready for a new take on networking. While vendors that offer cloud-based management of on-premises networking hardware were rated highly, delegates were enthusiastic about the potential of software-defined WANs to make business connections to the internet, the cloud and other resources more flexible and cost-effective.

Hybrid value for MSPs: Delegates overwhelmingly suggested that hyperconverged infrastructure creates opportunities for MSPs. Cloud-like on-prem environments delight customers, it was felt, by improving agility. Infrastructure with hybrid cloud capabilities was felt to create great services opportunities as customers stretch into the cloud, or use hyperconverged products on the edge or in branches and therefore see value in SD-WAN. Hybrid cloud was also seen as opening customers’ eyes to the need for consistent security policies, a need VMware can address with NSX network virtualisation.

Training: Hong Huynh suggested that as more and more channel players become managed services providers, vendors need to change the kind of training they offer to ensure snackable material is available on a just-in-time basis. 


DELEGATES

Raymond Ng,
Principal consultant, Onel Consulting

Simon Sztajer,
Sales director, Linktech

Michael Zuppa,
GM technology, BlueAPACHE

Hong Huynh,
Managing director, Advance Vision Technology

Cathy Gu,
Chief operating officer, Digicor

Roham Hossein,
Marketing co-ordinator, Digicor

Terry Underwood,
General manager, Globalnet

Naz Sibaei,
Managing director, Globalnet

Julianne Bean,
Client manager, Murdoch Webster

Xara Tran,
Chairman and CEO, Champions of Change

Sing Ling,
Account manager,
5G Networks

Sponsors

Brad Armstrong,
Director of advanced solutions, Ingram Micro

Neels du Plooy,
Head of channels, VMware

Kate Raco,
BDM, technology solutions, Ingram Micro

Moderator

Simon Sharwood, CRN

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