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The adoption of virtualisation solutions in the Middle East might be slow, but resellers are playing an increasingly strategic role in ensuring this emerging technology area starts to fulfill its potential.

Tags: Citrix Systems DubaiFrost & Sullivan (www.frost.com)Fujitsu Technology Solutions - GermanySystems integrator
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By  Piers Ford Published  June 19, 2010

The adoption of virtualisation solutions in the Middle East might be slow, but resellers are playing an increasingly strategic role in ensuring this emerging technology area starts to fulfill its potential.

Virtualisation is one of the most talked-about technologies on the enterprise scene, but as is so often the case, discussion and hype are taking a while to materialise into substantial sales in the Middle East.

This could change quickly. Gartner says the global virtualisation software market alone is growing at 28% annually, and will be worth US$6.2 billion by 2013. And as multinational customers drive that momentum into the region, the Middle East channel has a great opportunity to capitalise on rising interest in the cost benefits of virtualised desktop and server environments, much of it driven by the explosion of open source software.

“Virtualisation is still in its nascent stages but this is not to say that the market is far behind that of other regions such as Europe or the US,” says Lindsey McDonald, consultant for the information and communication technologies practice at market analyst Frost & Sullivan Middle East and North Africa.

“There are probably many companies that are already using elements of virtualisation of which they are not aware, such as cloud computing applications like Gmail. The main driver of adoption in the market is the financial services industry, followed by the education and healthcare sectors.”

Client education is likely to be the vendors’ main push over the next 18 months, which means the channel — resellers and managed service providers — has an important role to play in actually making the virtualisation market. As customers continue to tighten their purse strings, McDonald says the economic attractions of virtualisation will also give channel players plenty of leverage.

Server and software vendors have been building up their channels’ resources in preparation for this anticipated upturn in demand. At Fujitsu, product manager Chandan Mehta says that most partners are already capable, or are in the process of upgrading their virtualisation technical and sales skills.

“In terms of technology, we are looking at enhancing these skills as an investment from the partner,” he explains. “Additionally, we are also encouraging partners to invest in some demo units to show proof of concept (POC) to customers in a real life scenario.”

Reseller Alpha Data, which works with VMWare, Microsoft and Red Hat in the region, has already noted an encouraging enthusiasm for virtualisation in the SMB sector. Enterprise Computing Systems business unit head Gigi George says that with this potential for growth, resellers must invest in the appropriate training for their engineers and sales personnel; clients will buy into virtualisation if they understand the TCO and ROI benefits.

“Partners need to have the necessary infrastructure to do POC for the customer,” says George. “We have already invested in these areas over the last five years and have a number of trained and well-experienced staff on board. “While virtualisation solutions are primarily aimed at the enterprise network, we are seeing an interest in the SMB sector too. As information on the advantages of virtualisation spreads within the area, this new technology is appealing to a region that is spread out and diverse in its needs. Virtualisation is particularly beneficial for remote branch offices or a sales force that is constantly on the move. It is also of interest to the service sector, allowing for immediate response and immediate access to resources.”

Server virtualisation sales cycles can be surprisingly short — as little as one month — once the customer is engaged, although desktop virtualisation sales cycles may take up to three months as resellers get up to speed with the benefits.

Regional events like Citrix’s Channel Summit, which toured around Jeddah, Dubai, Bahrain and Riyadh in May, will help to fast track their knowledge of the issues and skills involved — and the essential business benefits they will need to demonstrate to the customer.

“Although it is still a relatively new market, enterprises are fast realising the potential of implementing desktop virtualisation, whether it be simply streaming virtualised applications or introducing hosted virtual desktops to enhance organisational efficiency and drive down costs,” says Antoine Aguado, regional director at Citrix Middle East.

“This is against a backdrop where globalisation, outsourcing and increased mobility are decentralising business processes. Yet shrinking IT budgets and increasing IT accountability for information security and service-level agreements underscore the need for centralisation. It is clear that IT system complexity hinders business agility and resilience — critical success factors in today’s businesses. Thus the need for simplified management systems is a key driver for desktop virtualisation.”

At InterFRONTIERS, NEC’s business development unit for SEMEA, technical sales consultant Pantelis Verginadis notes an increase in customer questions about PC virtualisation. In these cases, he suggests, there is less need to identify a particular type of customer. Rather, the focus should be on PC usage and a good understanding of the client’s PC management strategy.

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