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Vendors everywhere are determined to reduce the complexity associated with configuring and deploying IT equipment.

The latest example is EMC, which today launched a VSPEX Proven Infrastructure reference architecture that initially consists of 14 configurations that have been tested and pre-integrated by EMC to work with virtualization software from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix, and IT infrastructure from Cisco, Brocade and Intel.

According to Fred Kohout, EMC vice president of worldwide channel marketing, the basic idea is to give solution providers a more open alternative to deploying pre-configured EMC storage systems. That approach allows solution providers to gain the benefits of being able to quickly deploy EMC storage without necessarily having to commit to a specific server architecture such as the Vblock integrated server environment created by The Virtual Computing Environment Company (VCE), a joint venture between EMC, Cisco, VMware and Intel.

Over the last two years the channel has seen a wave of pre-integrated systems come to market from companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard that now capable of automating any number of systems management functions. Now EMC is starting to apply those same concepts to storage systems.

Kohout says the upside of this approach is that allows solution provider to rely on fewer engineers to support a larger number of customers, theoretically making IT services more profitable. The downside, however, might be a drop in the amount of revenue being generated by IT technical services as the number of billable hours associated with setting up and configuring IT systems continues to drop.

Given the simple fact that there’s no such thing as stopping the march of IT progress, these advancements are not so much anything solution providers can avoid as much as they need to just factor into their business models.

In theory, customers want IT projects to take a lot less time to be completed, which is driving much of the interest in pre-integrated systems. At the same time, however, it’s still unclear to what degree customers will take to the higher levels of IT automation being provided. Many IT organizations are notorious for wanting to tune systems to meet specific custom requirements and are often dubious about anything to do with IT automation. The major issue is that not only is IT automation seen as a potential threat to the jobs of IT administrators, IT organizations are frequently not comfortable with automated process that they don’t have a lot of visibility into in the event that something goes wrong.

IT vendors, on the other hand, argue that fewer things will go wrong because the opportunity to introduce human error is sharply reduced. That could also be a very good thing for the channel because it means that number of customer support incidents could also substantially drop.

Of course, many solution providers simply think of deploying IT infrastructure as a means to an end. The faster the IT infrastructure is installed, the sooner they can begin rolling out applications. It’s the delivery and ongoing management of those applications that generates the lion’s share of the solution provider’s profits.

There’s no doubt that IT systems management is being transformed mostly for the better. The real issue facing solution providers is how to rebalance their services portfolio in a way that reflects this new reality.