This week’s podcast is with Wayne Sayers of Telius. I first came across Telius co-founder Steve Palmer when I was VMware Certified Instructor in the previous decade. I was teaching the Vi3 Install and Configure course, and Steve and myself hit it off right away. I think Steve liked my no nonsense; tell it as I see it approach. We’ve kept in touch ever since. When I was thinking about this series of SMB related podcasts I knew I wanted to draw upon a broad range of voices by going to the source–to show how rich and diverse the SMB world is. I quickly identified that one useful field to plough is the service provider market that focuses on the SMB. I want to be very specific on this point. I mean the service providers who direct their attention to SMB at the exclusion of all other markets, rather than an SMB offering which is tagged on as an after thought – in that “Oh yeah we have an SMB offering too…” way all to common amongst the big players.
Telius have a solution that bundles both HARDware and VMware together using the vSphere Essentials+ SKU, and delivering other infrastructure components as virtual appliances such as firewalls and telephony. They also include VMware View and virtual desktops as a remote access mechanism – when I was discussing their solution offline I coined the term “SMBlock” as a quick way of describing what they do. It’s a bit of pun on VCE’s “vBlock”. The idea is the entire stack is delivered as a solution with a level of automation that becomes increasingly easy to rollout to large number of customers because one customer’s environment is highly similar to the next. Telius describes their approach as an “office-in-a-box”, and their intention is to distribute it in a franchise way to enable rapid scale according to demand.
A couple of years ago I was invited to attend some partner training. I was surprised to find myself surround by lot of SMB partners who had historically delivered solutions based on Microsoft SMB Server. Within a very short time the debate switched quickly to the group expressing fears that their business was under threat from SMB outsourcing such applications as email, and would eventually end with their customers not having any servers at all since everything resided in the cloud. Sadly, there was a feeling that the cloud or virtualization was a threat more than an opportunity.
I took the opposite position – partly because whenever I hear a group consensus forming you can depend on my contrary nature to pipe up. I took the view those very large-scale cloud providers whilst, being able to offer commodity-based resources wouldn’t have the same level of customer care and interests in the details of particular SMB operations. It struck me that the reason these solution providers had been successful in the past wasn’t so much because of the technology, but due to the care and understanding they have for their customers. Sure some applications may be relocated, but there would always be some applications that the business still wants/needs/requires to run internally. The hybrid model works for the large enterprise and the SMB in equal measure. They share the same security, compliance, and audit trails concerns.
That’s the message that came through loud a clear on the podcast. The savings that cloud computing can offer the SMB cannot be ignored. But there is still a strong case for certain applications being on the businesses terra firma. These customers are SMBs, but incredibly sophisticated and often have technical demands that you normally expect to see in the enterprise. SMBs may have global operations (hence the need for a remote access solution like VMware View) but may also have disaster recovery concerns. For years these SMBs have been priced out the markets by exorbitant licensing fees and lack of bandwidth. In this decade the improved network links and the rise of “virtual replication” in the form of vSphere Replication is opening the door to allow for enterprise-like solutions to be available to the SMB.
The days of one big fat bloated server with multiple applications installed on it, are well and truly over. The SMB space understands the isolation that virtualization brings – and flexibility it delivers. Need a new application stood up in a short period time? Well, fire up another VM and forget about waiting another quarter for a server purchase approval. Stuck with a truckload of antiquated PC’s using a Jurassic version of Windows? Strike up a virtual desktop environment and reuse those timeworn PCs as if they were thin-clients. The Service Providers of the future will learn to be more flexible in their offerings – acting as trusted advisor for when its best to out-source, in-source or co-locate based on the circumstances of the customer. They will be well aware of the free and “freeium” virtual appliances that can be used to offer professional grade services – services normally endured in the operating system or enjoyed only by the enterprise.
And finally, one last thing to remember about the Service Provider space – they are well worth keeping in touch with even if you don’t require their services. By their nature they touch base with an extremely large number of businesses – some of them might be your customers or even competitors. They are a useful touchstone for finding out what others are doing. Working in any company can wind up like working a bubble. You only see the world from your organization’s very narrow perspective. Occasionally, it’s useful to look over the fence to see what your neighbor is up to…
Mike Laverick is a VMware vExpert who writes, instructs and otherwise communicates about virtualization.
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