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Virtualization hasn’t always been kind to solution providers.

On the one hand, it’s an important element of any server consolidation effort, which usually leads to additional IT services opportunities and the sale of a few larger servers to replace a whole host of under-utilized smaller servers.

But the flip side of the virtualization coin is that more often than not customers are deploying virtualization software on their servers as part of a tactical strategy aimed at increasing the utilization rate of their existing servers. In that all too common scenario the goal of the customer, much to the chagrin of a reseller, is to postpone a server upgrade altogether.

But as virtualization gains momentum, we’re starting to see more potential value on the client side. New desktops and notebooks today come with dual-core, and even quad-core, processor architectures. This creates an interesting opportunity to run not just one instance of Windows Vista, for example, but to also run, say, Windows XP or even a distribution of Linux alongside Windows Vista on the same machine.

In such a scenario, one instance of Windows Vista might be dedicated to running productivity applications while the Linux distribution could be used to run custom applications built for a specific vertical application. Even more likely, one instance of Windows Vista could be locked down for corporate applications, while another could be used to allow end users to interact with any number of personal applications, such as Facebook or their favorite gaming software.

We all know that most of the malware in corporate environments these days gets in because users visit any number of public sites where malware lies in wait to infect their systems. By running multiple instances of an operating system on the same machine, all of that activity could be better isolated from the corporate applications that would be running in the locked-down environment. This wouldn’t eliminate every security issue but it sure would go a long way to reducing a lot of potential harm.

From a financial perspective, the advent of multi-core machines on the client also opens up the possibility of allowing end users to use their own machines in the workplace. The machines consumers have are typically better than the ones they use at work, so why not leverage the multi-core processors in those machines to create an isolated virtual workspace? This would mean that the company would not have to fund the purchase of PCs while reducing the need for end users to have multiple machines.

Lately a lot of vendors, ranging from established companies such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft to startup companies such as Neocleus, MokaFive, Quamranet and a new division of ClearCube, have been talking about the value of virtualization on the client.

From a solution provider’s perspective this trend creates two intriguing possibilities.

The first is that it is a whole lot easier to provide managed services to a locked-down client environment.

The second opportunity derives from the fact that it’s a lot easier these days to interest a customer in the potential value of multi-core processors than any specific feature of Vista.

In either event, the way we think about using and managing clients is about to fundamentally change, and as always, the most successful solution provider is going to be the one that is on the leading edge of that change.

Michael Vizard is Stategic Content Expert for Ziff Davis Enterprise. He can be reached at