June 17, 2013

Revenue Streams From The Data Center Are Changing—VAR Business Models Will Need to Adjust

Data Center Tech Trends

Cloud and virtualization are dramatically changing the footprint of the Enterprise data center. In today’s cloud- and virtualize-first mentality, fewer new applications are being deployed on-premise and fewer still on physical servers. As more applications are moved off premise, fewer ports are needed to connect servers.  The ongoing move toward virtualization is driving server and storage consolidation, further reducing the number of ports used.  These trends are reducing the number of physical network ports needed to support the data center, but increasing the need for higher performance on the remaining ports. In response, customers will need to upgrade those ports to higher capacity 10 Gb Ethernet.

While the total number of data center ports is being driven down and data centers are becoming smaller, data centers are NOT going away. Data centers are—and will continue to be—a critical component of the enterprise network. Hybrid data centers have become a prevalent enterprise environment, which means that the onsite data center continues to be a critical means to deliver applications—whether cloud based, or on premise—to the enterprise user. As a sanity check, I asked Rich Casselberry, Director of IT Operations at Enterasys for his thoughts on the subject. His comments are very insightful, and validate the importance of the data center, especially in light of Enterasys’ focus on cloud applications and strong commitment to server virtualization.

“Like many enterprises, we have a “cloud-first” mentality.  However, even as a company that looks to deploy applications to the cloud as a first option, we still have a very robust data center that we will never eliminate. Our data center is a strategic business asset that ensures a secure and consistent high-quality experience for our users.”

In no way is the data center becoming less complex, even as the overall footprint of the data center is decreasing. Today’s data center needs to support virtualization and consolidated storage.  IT needs to connect everything while managing the mobility of VMs and mobility of end users, as discussed in “What Makes The Enterprise Data Center Different?”

When manual processes are used to manage today’s complex data center, mistakes and inefficiencies can result.  A recent Enterasys global survey showed that 72% of IT organizations need better operational process to effectively manage networking, servers, and storage.  Early-on, data centers were not as dynamic as they are today (no virtualization, no mobile users), but that has changed. Yesterday’s data center solutions simply don’t and won’t get the job done tomorrow.  Performance of 1 Gb Ethernet no longer delivers the capacity to support today’s servers running multiple virtual servers. Today’s networks simply need more bandwidth. Furthermore, virtualization is changing application architecture, by separating application layers across multiple VMs on multiple physical servers. Processes that once were handled locally by the server CPU are now distributed across the data center on multiple servers, creating increased East/West network traffic and adding to bandwidth congestion. From a management perspective, multiple systems, tools, and manual processes drive OpEx costs through the roof.  It’s no longer acceptable to require seven different management tools to run a data center—organizations simply don’t have the IT staff to support this kind of management overhead.  While many vendors fall short on providing holistic management, Enterasys unified network management provides automation, visibility and control to enable simplified management across the entire data center infrastructure.

In many cases, customers are purchasing their 10 Gb Ethernet ports in conjunction with a storage consolidation or virtualization project.  According to Dell’Oro Group, 90% of the Enterprise data centers have not yet upgraded to new networking requirements, such as 10 Gb Ethernet for server and storage access.  This translates to a market opportunity of over $8 Billion by 2016, and represents an enormous opportunity for resellers and integrators to be part some very large IT projects. To be included in the conversation, however, VARs need to align themselves with those storage and virtualization projects.  They also need to offer value to the end user for delivering integration services for the project.

Channel Services Opportunity

From a channel perspective, there is revenue opportunity in helping to make this data center transition happen. In a world where hardware margins are eroding and dollars are shifting away from hardware, resellers need service opportunities. While some of the dollars spent are shifting from server ports, there is an increasing need for integrated, intelligent solutions to manage the new data center.  The channel wants to be in this space. Our recent survey highlights the importance of solution selling, and providing integrated solutions and services.  All of these dynamics align perfectly to support the business models that are most interesting for the channel.

Wanted: Right-sized Vendor Solutions

Resellers face some deficiencies in their line card that stand in the way of capitalizing on these compelling dynamics. One of the challenges is a lack of real integration capability within the tools they are selling.

Most vendors’ data center solutions are built for the very large enterprise or service provider market – not the mid-market enterprise. This requires partners to force-fit overprovisioned and overly complex solutions into their mid-market customers.  For example, Cisco’s Data Center Solutions including Nexus and UCS are built for very large environments and are very complex. We explain  in more detail how, for the mid-market enterprise, this solution is over provisioned and complex to manage.

Since most channel partners are not selling to companies like Google, the channel is better served with a platform that is right-sized and purpose built for the midsized enterprise data center. Enterasys is focused on solving enterprise data center challenges; smaller, but still complex environments that require intelligence, automation, and simplicity. Enterasys OneFabric Data Center provides integration with other solutions that channel partners already sell–VMware, servers, storage, etc. As well, our proven SDN functionality enables solution selling and delivery of the integration services that are so important to the channel. A recent blog post  succinctly outlines the key aspects of the Enterasys OneFabric Data Center solution.

Again, I tapped Rich Casselberry for a real-word perspective on Enterprise data center operations:

“Analysts estimate that on average enterprises spend 60-70% of IT resources on keeping the network running.  By contrast, Enterasys spends only about 25-30% of time keeping things running. This is due largely to automation and excellent management tools. We use OneFabric Control Center Advanced, which is open and standards-based, and integrates into the existing systems and application tools our team is already using, like vCenter. But most importantly, our single management system covers both our virtual and physical servers. This means we don’t spend time passing tickets back and forth. All of this makes us twice as productive as the average IT organization.”

Integrating and managing on-premise and cloud-based applications, servers (physical and virtual), storage, etc., presents another IT challenge.  In response, Enterprises are moving toward software defined networking (SDN) through the integration of these disparate solutions.  The problem is that there is no defined industry standard for delivering SDN and there are a variety of approaches for implementing it.  Markus Nispel’s blog is a good primer on how SDN is impacting the Enterprise.  How well does your vendor solution support and enable your business model as an integrated solution provider?  Unlike many solutions on the market, Enterasys OneFabric SDN delivers an open, standards-based API that enables integrating virtualization and storage with many third-party applications that are already deployed in customer environments – many available right out of the box.

The Bottom Line

Traditional VARs and system integrators are mostly selling into the mid-market as their sweet spot.  Now is the right time for them to align themselves with the right solution and services to support the significant shifts and opportunities available in the data center market.  Remember:

  • 90% of these customers have a data center upgrade ahead of themimages (2)

  • Customer size and IT resources in the Enterprise market necessitates implementing solutions that deliver on the promise of SDN, including delivery of value added services

  • Enterasys provides the purpose-built right-sized solution for the mid-market enterprise data center.

Enterasys OneFabric Data Center is further validation of the ongoing commitment Enterasys has to provide innovative, differentiated solutions to our partners. Earlier this year, we announced OneFabric Connect SDN; then IdentiFi Adapt, which brings SDN capability into the wireless architecture; and now into OneFabric Data Center.  These solutions support the direction channel business models are moving, and what customers require to solve the complexity challenges in the data center.  In the end, our partners are able to deliver an end –to-end, intelligent network with full SDN capabilities, via a platform for delivering a breadth of value-add services. To learn more about OneFabric Data Center, visit our solution web page.

 This blog was co-authored by Mike Howell, Channel Marketing Manager with Enterasys

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