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Drawbridges have always required a bridge keeper. Seems like a simple job; bridges go up, bridges go down. But like a solution provider’s job, bridge-keeping is much more complicated. At great heights, manning the bridge means ensuring that no accidents happen, traffic on both levels is flowing well, and the mechanics are working correctly. It’s a lot like being a managed services provider, and requires eyeing the future and predicting how situations will go.

On the solutions front, virtualization is all the buzz. Use your favorite search engine and “bing” it.  (I’m trying this term out to see if it sticks like Google) Like any good technology, everyone is talking about it, but with that level of buzz, the signal-to-noise ratio is badly out of whack. Too much noise, not nearly enough signal.    

Like any good buzzstorm, a lot of the focus is around the technology. Speeds and feeds still rule the land, with discussion heavily around the capabilities. There is a brewing religious war, much like Microsoft v. Linux or IE v. Firefox, between Microsoft and VMWare for dominance over the hypervisor.

It’s a good time to be a technologist. 

In times like this, customers need expertise. They need their trusted advisor to navigate them through the noise and to the solution that works best for their needs. Virtualization is a key technology for solution providers, not because it’s new, shiny or the buzz. Instead, virtualization is a key technology for solution providers because it aligns with what customers need, offers flexibility for growth and positions for the future.

It aligns with what customers need because customers are demanding to do more with less. With budgets shrinking and spending carefully watched, technology can’t demand “more servers” which sit idle and underutilized.  Those systems have high costs — $8 in maintenance for every $1 in installation, if reports are to be believed.   Customers need to maximize their infrastructure spend, and virtualization lets them do it.

It offers flexibility because of the technology itself. Virtualization, by design, offers the ability to reallocate resources. This dynamic allocation capability means that customers get what they need, when they need it, and you can use what they have more creatively.  Customers like this.

Finally, it positions both the customer and the solution provider for the future.    Virtualization allows the solution provider to determine how the customer operates, be it onsite or offsite or cloud, and that choice moves the solution provider from technology partner to business partner, making recommendations on what is best for their business rather than how to use the technology. Virtualization is the bridge that links on-premise solutions to cloud computing, and mastering this bridge makes the provider the invaluable bridge keeper. As bridge keeper, the solution provider is responsible for monitoring and managing the data flow and business processes for the customer.  

Bridge keeping will always be required. Technology hasn’t swept away men and women watching draw bridges, and it won’t sweep away solution providers. The techniques may change – cameras, lights, and computer monitoring systems have augmented eyes, candles, and ears, just as technology solutions have automated patching, monitoring, and help desk functions.     

Bridge keepers remain a vital function, and so will solution providers who support and enable their customers.

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. Evolve Technologies provides a wide array of services including server installation, virus protection, network security, backup services, and complete information technology outsourcing. The first Microsoft Small Business Specialist located in the Washington, D.C. area, Evolve Technologies is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

In 1996, Sobel founded Evolve Technologies, established a successful Web hosting facility and won a USA Today award for his reality-based Web site. The business expanded into consulting in 1997, and has grown to include a number of clients in the Washington D.C. Metro area.