Virtualization For The Little Guy

IBM  today kicked off a plan to entice more small- and medium-sized business customers to the allure of virtualization technologies.

The IBM Virtualization Test Drive is designed to help IBM business partners become more proficient at selling IBM’s Virtualization Engine portfolio, a suite of software tools designed to produce efficiencies in servers.

Some of the tools allow users to run multiple operating systems on one physical machine; others virtualize storage arrays, allowing customers to access multiple pools of storage through one array.

While medium-to-large companies have been tacking on virtualization approaches in some form or another, SMBs are traditionally slower to adopt emerging technologies because of limited resources and IT budgets.

IBM, which said that more than 65 percent of its virtualization sales are driven by IBM partners targeting SMBs, is trying to break that trend and start a new one.

Kevin Leahy, director of marketing virtualization solutions at IBM, said no one needs virtualization more than the SMB space, where companies often lack the IT staff and resources to manage infrastructure.

He said that while IBM zSeries and iSeries customers have long used virtualization technologies, IBM’s goal is to bring them down to the Intel and Unix box level, where companies have sprawling environments with multiple boxes.

For Test Drive, IBM will allow its partners and their clients to sample the Virtualization Engine in more than 40 IBM Business Partner Innovation Centers.

Leahy said the program includes education, sales, technology and support to make it easier for IBM partners to help their customers build software tools around Virtualization Engine.

Partners can trigger simulated scenarios and test applications to show customers how they might migrate data, reduce or eliminate system outages, and lower the costs for disaster recovery sites.

“What we’ve done here is create a two-day workshop so clients can come in, try the technology and see how to use it and deploy it,” Leahy said.

Leahy said IBM is expanding Test Drive to Europe and plans to roll out the Test Drive partner program worldwide later this year.

Virtualization is as hot a technology as there is in the data center, and is expected to top billions of dollars in the next few years.

Big Blue created virtualization technologies decades ago in its mainframe systems, but has spent the last five years or so adapting the software parts to servers, allowing them to run Linux and Unix on the same box.

IBM’s SAN Volume Controller and SAN File System are popular pieces of software to help customers manage millions of files.

Microsoft  sparked some chatter when it announced at Tech Ed last week that it would ad operating system virtualization to its platform by 2010.

VMware continues to lead the market, while SWSoft, Virtual Iron and open source efforts like Xen continue to create a buzz.

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