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I just completed another hardware spec. Like every hardware spec I’ve done in the past six years, I spent a while tweaking CPU, memory and disk. I could spend an entire day playing with the various RAID configurations for performance versus cost. If I add lots of spindles to a system, I increase performance, but also drive up cost dramatically.

There’s nothing glamorous about hardware. Despite the fact that we want it to be glamorous (and the hardware vendors even more so!), it’s just not. Customers aren’t incredibly impressed by all the flashing lights. The moment that server goes into place, the investment becomes one entirely of business need.   

As IT people, we often get very obsessed with the flashing lights. The new hardware, the latest software, the best smart phone. While to us as IT people these are very exciting, to our customers these are just costs. Business people are more interested in money: making more or spending less. That’s the flashing lights that they chase.  

This distinction is important to consider when looking at a virtualization solution. Often, virtualization requires more significant hardware investment initially. A customer may be required to purchase a system with more horsepower than they have previously purchased. It is not uncommon to need 12 or 24 gigabytes of RAM in a virtualized solution, and customers may not be used to purchasing systems like this.

Focusing on the actual “total cost of ownership,” as much as that is an overused phrase, is critical. A single, integrated system will draw less power, especially with newer green systems over prior generations. The system will require less cooling, will run more efficiently, and in the long term will require less hardware maintenance.  There are fewer parts to break, less spindles to have problems with, and physical space can be conserved.

These add up to cost savings operationally. New systems can be deployed more easily, additionally resulting in savings.

Finally, these new systems can enable new capabilities. With available resources that can be deployed quickly, a business owner may be able to invest in a line of business application they hadn’t previously wanted to, or take budget intended for hardware and spend instead on new software. Need a CRM? Need document management? All more easily available with this new solution platform.

The key to success for the customer and for the solution provider is this focus on money. ROI, TCO, CapEx vs OpEx – this lingo has come into our industry trumping RAM, RPM, and MHz because the budget control for spending has moved from the CTO to the CFO. Remembering this and focusing on the business benefits of investing in virtualization will result in happier customers and more project spending.

Dave Sobel is the founder and CEO of Evolve Technologies, a consulting firm that provides information technology (IT) and computer networking services to the small business, faith-based and nonprofit communities in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

See more by Dave Sobel at:

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Book: Virtualization: Defined.  A Primer for the SMB Consultant