Spiralling out of control

The hype around virtualisation continues to build, but is it really as successful in the Middle East as vendors claim? Imthishan Giado looks at the state of the market.

Tags: Alpha DataExtreme Networks IncorporationProCurveUnited Arab Emirates
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Spiralling out of control About 60% of regional enterprises are evaluating and considering virtualisation, says Extreme’s Ala’Ali.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  July 14, 2010 Network Middle East Logo

The hype around virtualisation continues to build, but is it really as successful in the Middle East as vendors claim? Imthishan Giado looks at the state of the market.

Of all the technology buzzwords in the enterprise space, few are as pervasive as virtualisation. In a few scant years, it has rapidly progressed from ambitious idea, to successful pilot projects, to seemingly stalwart staple of the enterprise datacentre – an impressive achievement for any system, let alone one as complex to implement as virtualisation. These figures however, tend to be global, rather than specific to this region.

“Worldwide, 43% of enterprises have gone to virtualisation and we’re expecting 39% to follow over the next two years,” says Aziz Ala’ali, regional director for the Middle East and Africa at Extreme Networks. “In the Middle East, we have a much lesser embrace rate but a lot of promises. I would put it as 18%-19% of the Middle East market that have adopted virtualisation. About 60% is evaluating and considering it. 25% or 26% of that figure are actually in the testing phase.”

Analysts however, are much less enthusiastic about the speed of adoption of virtualisation. Margaret Adams, research director for IT services for the Middle East Turkey and Africa at IDC expresses a belief that adoption levels – which she pegs at about 60% – are still underwhelming.

“When you compare it to global averages, that’s quite low. This is an emerging market that’s starting to mature. There’s also been massive datacentre buildout over the last decade so we’re not sitting with underutilised large datacentres. A lot of it is very new and very current. ,” she states.

“The second side is skills – both at a company level as well with a provider level. People are a bit reluctant because they don’t know if they have the technical skills to support that,” continues Adams.

In fact, the skills situation is rapidly shaping up to be the major obstacle towards widespread regional adoption of virtualisation. In many cases, vendors are required to provide the training to use and implement these systems directly to the end-users, because the new paradigm of virtual implementation means that there are no longer physical switches and physical readouts for administrators to observe and manipulate – a leap forward which Extreme’s Ala’ali says many in the end-user community are still struggling to comprehend.

“In the Middle East especially, there isn’t enough education done on virtualisation. We’re hosting seminars to educate our partners to make them aware of what virtualisation means to the end user and to the enterprise. The second challenge is getting the skillset in place that can go out and implement this. Everybody knows how to configure a traditional switch but if you ask a consultant to design a virtual environment, people start sweating. It helps to ask the vendors to create that atmosphere, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he confirms.

Ala’a Al Shimy, GM for networking vendor HP ProCurve, says that often skills simply aren’t available. As a result, vendors have to bolster their support levels if they are to ensure maximum effectiveness from these applications.

“To be very frank, I don’t think today that there are enough resources in the market capable of planning, designing and managing virtualised networks,” he opines. “It is still far from being mature or enough. What we are doing at HP is training our customers and partners – we are putting the investment and plans to do that. When a customer is buying a virtualised system from us and they have a training or skill development need, we make sure they have it. We also have our TS organisation and the enterprise service division so at the end of the day if the customer needs to get support, the management is ready to provide it.”

But not all are in agreement that end-users are hapless at installing virtualised networks. The UAE’s RTA has dipped its toes in the virtualisation pool with strong results so far (see boxout) and as Indranil Guha, manager for IT infrastructure management firmly states, his team doesn’t need to be educated.

“We know what we want. I wouldn’t say that we were ignorant in terms of virtualisation, we have very qualified architects in our team. Our whole bidding process is very mature in terms of architecture compliance and all that. If any vendor has a suggestion about doing things in a better way, we were always open to learning,” he says.

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