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While catching up on some virtualization news, it occurs to me that a new category of channel company could emerge as a result of virtualization technology: the virtual solution provider.

Two seconds later it dawns on me that “virtual solution provider” would actually describe something completely different from a company that sells, deploys and maintains virtualization technology.

See, that’s what happens when the currency of your trade is words. You tend to get hung up on their meaning, and that meaning changes when you string words together in a compound noun. For instance, change the term “virtual solution provider” to “virtual solutions provider” and you have something quite different — all because of one little s. With that little s, however, the term far more closely describes what I was thinking when I thought of the VSP term in the first place.

It turns out, however, that “virtual solutions provider” would only create confusion in the marketplace. An advanced Google search on “virtual solution provider” pulls up a handful of companies already using the term to describe themselves.

ALeNet is one of them. The company specializes in e-learning solutions.

Mike Grubb Consulting is another. On its Web site, the company describes itself thusly (grammar fixed): “For some clients, my firm serves as a single department’s ‘personal’ programmer; for other companies my firm is a ‘first-call’ hotline for tech support or accounting problems; and for other companies we are a one-stop, end-to-end, major systems developer.”

Wow, was I ever headed down the wrong track with my original VSP idea!

Apparently a virtual solution provider is either a company that handles Internet-based education – presumably for “virtual learning?” – or a company that handles IT outsourcing.

In either case, using the term “virtual” to describe your company poses some problems.

If you’re an outsourcer, well, you’re an outsourcer. There’s really nothing virtual about that.

And if you are applying the term “virtual” in a clever attempt to describe Internet-learning, you may raise some unintended questions: Does “virtual learning” lead to “virtual knowledge,” and is that enough to get by? Or does it simply teach you virtually all you need to know?

See how much fun a word geek can have with this stuff?

However, it won’t be too much fun when the customer sends in a virtual payment for the virtual services delivered by the virtual solution provider, will it?

Interestingly, ALeNet shows up when you do an advance search on “virtual solutions provider.” And wouldn’t you know it, U.K.-based Uber 24 shows up on searches with and without that little s.

It turns out companies are using the “virtual solutions provider” designation to mean a lot of things. I start going through the list, and my head starts to spin. I even find the mouth-filling “mobile virtual solutions provider.”

Serves me right: What I originally set out to do here was to write about how virtualization is high on the list of solution providers’ profit-making technologies.

In a recent Ziff Davis Enterprise survey, application virtualization and storage virtualization ranked one and three, respectively, in a list of Top 5 technologies deployed or tested by solution providers that are likely to generate the most profits. The other three were SOA (ranked second), unified communications and smart phones used as mobile clients (fourth and fifth, respectively).

I suppose we can talk about that some other time. Meanwhile, remember to stay away from the VSP term, with or without the little s. But if you must – absolutely must – use it with the little s in reference to virtualization solutions; that’s where it makes the most sense.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He is at