Recently, I’ve been working along side the folks at VMware. We first became acquainted when I was at the Silicon Valley VMUG talking about VMware Site Recovery Manager. It just so happened that at the event I spoke about my thoughts on the SMB. My general premise is that how the SMB currently delivers their IT infrastructure might provide a template for how services are delivered in large corporate environments.
My line goes a bit like this. If the last decade of virtualization was about “doing more with less” what do you suppose the next decade will be about? Yes, that’s doing EVEN more with EVEN less. This has number of consequences on a variety of fronts.
Firstly, the protected fiefdoms or silos of IT responsibility are ripe for restructuring. All too often the various stakeholders of these silos of specialism are often a barrier to adopting new technologies and more efficient ways of working. One of the joys of working in a SMB environment is by necessity that system admins (if there is more than one!) have to wear multiple admin hats at once. It’s lean, mean and efficient – because it has to be. For some time there’s been discussion in our industry about whether a new breed of administrator is being forged in the white heat of virtualization. An admin who is equally comfortable with server, storage, network and virtualization – and is able to fit all those pieces together. At the SMB level that has always happened – it’s not new. But in the world of the enterprise it might be the way forward – with fewer “one-trick-pony specialists”, and more “jack-of-all-trades”. These multi-skilled individuals main job is getting all the parts together to make it work. From a troubleshooting perspective they are skilled in understanding all the various interdependencies, and quickly diagnosing and resolving problems as they arise.
The more I talked with folks, the more it became apparent that there exists in the industry a bit of a narrow view of the way SMBs work. The trouble is that the only narrative is one that states that “cost” and “price” are always the only priority. Nothing, I believe can be further from the truth. Some of the most gifted, talented and smart people I’ve met in IT come from the SMB. They’ve learned to be creative and efficient – and yes, sometimes that’s because money is the necessity of virtue. Also in my career I’ve come across businesses that our industry classes as “small” because the judgement of scale is based on the number of users, not the size of the budget; geographical remit or profit. I’ve been doing contracting for a number of SMBs whose revenue is in the millions, and whose operations span the globe – and they only employ less than 200 people. So small needn’t be regarded as “simple” much depends on the nature of the business and fitting technology to the company’s needs. This is not very different to the agenda in the large corporate environment. The SMB has always had to think smart, and be hyper-efficient with their resources. The law of the “survival of the fittest” has always applied in the world of the SMB where there aren’t the resources to support bloated and wasteful CapEx and OpEx overheads.
So it was with this view that I started to use my personal network to line up a number of individuals who by the very nature of their work – demonstrate how rich and diverse the SMB sector is. Each individual represents a different aspect of life in the SMB. From the archetypal system admin, me, who wears many hats – to the legal firm that has the same SLAs, QoS standards as any global corporate. I’ve also pulled in a service provider who is building a pre-package virtualized solution in a box – a kind of SMBlock. I wanted to find people on the “services” side of the house who make SMB the core of their business, rather than some after thought. Each podcast includes a blog post by yours truly that takes a thread of thought that springs out from our discussions. It’s “community” oriented so these folks are out there in the real world doing virtualization for real.
So check out my very first podcast with Raymond Overman of North Carolina – a system admin in SMB who has transformed their infrastructure from zero virtualization, to hero virtualization in a matter of months. Within months of being engaged, Raymond had migrated 80% of the companies servers on to the vSphere Platform by the fourth quarter 2011 all their servers were running under ESX 5.0. In the 20min podcast Raymond shares with us his personal virtualization journey and we talk about how he’s approach the issue of backing up VMs in a SMB environment. There are some interesting possibilities – don’t just take my word for it – check out Raymond’s views and perspectives.
Stay tuned to hear other views and perspectives around IT in SMBs in my upcoming podcast series: Mike Laverick’s IT Hero Podcast Series.
Mike Laverick is a VMware vExpert who writes, instructs and otherwise communicates about virtualization.
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