Virtualization Battle Moves Into the SMB Sector
Though virtual machine adoption is old hat in the enterprise, a lot of small and midsize businesses are just coming up to speed on virtualization on both the server and the desktop. In fact, the pursuit of virtualization customers in the SMB space is starting to reach a frenzy, with Microsoft, VMware, Red Hat and Citrix all trying to grab a piece of a rapidly expanding market that requires them to rely even more on channel partners to carry their standards into battle.
The latest virtualization offering aimed at the SMB sector comes from Citrix, which has also tweaked its channel program to make selling virtualization solutions based on its Xen hypervisor technology more attractive to channel partners.
Citrix is now bringing to market a Citrix SMB Edition, which bundles VDI-in-a-Box, XenDesktop, NetScaler, ShareFile and support for companies with more than 25 and 50 users. For those who purchase the bundle designated for more than 25 but fewer than 50 users, XenDesktop will be replaced by the simpler-to-manage VDI-in-a-Box solution. The price is $6,600 for the 25-user bundle and $21,000 for the 50-user bundle.
The SMB suite will carry an additional 5 percent margin for partners, and the company has lowered the Citrix Advisor Rewards threshold from a minimum of $10,000 down to $2,500, said Mike Fouts, vice president of channels and field operations for Citrix. Solution providers that can clearly demonstrate that they showed customers demos or built proof-of-concept instances of Citrix solutions will be eligible for additional rewards.
"We're trying to give solution providers incentive to uncover new opportunities," he added.
Fouts admitted that from a solution-selling perspective, working with Citrix to pull together all the appropriate parts has been a challenge. The new SMB offering is designed to give solution providers aligned with Citrix more of a turnkey offering that will appeal to customers trying to implement desktop virtualization solutions, where Citrix is particularly strong.
The challenge facing Citrix, which pioneered the terminal services market, is that VMware and Microsoft are much more aggressive competitors, and entrants such as Quest Software, a unit of Dell, are also making their presence felt in the desktop virtualization space.
Microsoft, in particular, is extending its reach into virtualization with the integration of the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor on Windows Server 2012. As organizations upgrade to the latest Windows server environment, they are beginning to deploy more workloads on what is perceived to be a free hypervisor platform.
Red Hat, meanwhile, is pursuing a plan similar to Microsoft's, while VMware is trying to ride its popularity in the enterprise computing market—which it currently dominates—into the SMB sector.
In all probability, solution providers across the channel are going to find themselves dealing with hybrid cloud computing scenarios that will be based on multiple variants of hypervisor technologies. This should create an opportunity for overlapping virtualization practices and a variety of managed services that are optimized to manage multiple types of virtualization deployments.
With the virtualization space becoming more diverse, solution providers need to think through where they are placing their bets. While one or two vendors are clearly the most dominant today, chances are good that as many as four or five might thrive in the SMB space. That puts a lot of pressure on solution providers in terms of the resources they need to marshal to support all those environments.
The good news is that interoperability standards across the environments are steadily improving, which should eventually make it a lot easier for solution providers to transfer expertise across multiple virtualization and cloud computing domains.