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Is this scenario familiar to you? You are on a
sales call and it’s going well. After a nice long conversation and a WebEx
presentation, the customer says he thinks your software might be a good fit for
his company. You think it’s a done deal.

Then, “Can we try it out first?”

That’s when the sales cycle gets interrupted. Trying out your software means a
trip to the customer’s physical location on another day or week. You either
have to ship hardware and disks to the location or make sure the customer sets
up a server and other infrastructure needed to run the trial.

Bottom line? The delay between optimistic phone call and on-premises test run
results in plenty of time for the customer to change his or her mind.

A new company called IT Structures is looking to change that.

IT Structures has developed a cloud-based platform, much like WebEx and,
that enables a solution provider or ISV
selling software to immediately provide access to that software for the
customer to try out. The platform fuels creation of virtual IT environments, or
mini-data centers, that IT Structures hosts in the cloud. The reseller goes to
a drop-down menu in the IT Structures portal and clicks on the application the
customer wants to try out, and then an e-mail is sent automatically to the
customer pointing him to a Website branded with the reseller’s name where the
virtual data center is constructed in real time. It is a single instance copy
for that customer alone.

The environment provides all the virtual resources—servers, storage and other
infrastructure—needed to run the application in question. When setting up IT
Structures, customers type in information about their existing network
environment, configuring the virtual data center to reflect existing conditions.
This ensures that the software demo is authentic, with users able to see how
the application performs against particular peaks and valleys in network
traffic and other activity, according to Kevin Epstein, vice president of
marketing at IT Structures, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif.

“What WebEx allowed people to do was to control the experience of an online
demo: who can join, who can participate,” Epstein told Channel Insider. “We are
doing these demos with a full IT environment in place to reflect when there is
volatility in the environment.”

Epstein says the IT Structures format is perfect for sales demos, online
training on new software and for help desk tech support provided by managed
services providers. The mini-data centers can remain active for as long or
briefly as the reseller configures them.

Founded in 2007, but operating in stealth mode until now, IT Structures
nonetheless came out with Version 2 of its platform this week and already has
amassed some impressive customers, including SAP,
Cisco, Websense and VMware. These industry giants in turn put the platform in
the hands of their channel sales reps to facilitate demos.

“This really is a new business model altogether,” Epstein said.

As for pricing, the structure is a flat fee for initial use, with monthly
billing thereafter if the customer decides to keep the mini-data center in
place, Epstein said.