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Twice as many SMBs will be heavily virtualised by 2014, say EMEA resellers

VMware, a provider of virtualisation and cloud infrastructure solutions, has announced that the EMEA solution provider channel is seeing SMBs investing substantially in virtualisation, with this continuing to be an IT spend priority.

According to new research, the acceleration of virtualisation adoption will see twice as many SMBs become more than 80% virtualised by 2014, as they look to drive efficiencies and embrace a move toward cloud computing.

The research, conducted by Canalys among 350 channel partners serving SMBs across EMEA, found that of SMBs who have adopted virtualisation, 48% have virtualised the basic IT infrastructure of their businesses. Over the next two years, however, 75% of SMBs are expected to expand their virtualisation programs to include business-critical applications and more. In fact, channel partners predict that 38% of these companies will have more than 80% of their businesses virtualised, as they move toward IT as a Service, up from 20% of companies today.

According to research analysts, the reasons behind this extend beyond pure cost savings. While reducing costs is the more immediate driving factor (rated most important and second most important by 71% of respondents) to virtualise, it’s closely followed by the desire to ensure business continuity and improve hardware utilisation, they said. In terms of the over arching business priorities for SMBs, beyond technology, cost reductions (rated as highly important or important by 83%), business continuity (79%) and business agility (75%) emerge as the top three, showing alignment between immediate virtualisation drivers and longer-term objectives. Furthermore, the majority (86%) agree that virtualisation and cloud computing are connected.

“SMBs are undoubtedly recognising the many benefits virtualisation can deliver,” said Alastair Edwards, principal analyst, Canalys. “It’s a tough economic environment at the moment, however, and organisations are getting pulled in many different directions, with costs being scrutinised at every step. Virtualisation is being seen as a solution that delivers cost savings as well as broader business benefits; as a result, within two years, channel partners predict that SMBs are planning a rapid rate of virtualisation adoption, with the majority of SMBs realising the benefits that heavily virtualised environments can deliver. Savvy organisations are those making the connection between IT investment and more holistic business priorities, and are virtualising today to gain competitive advantage.”

Of the main barriers holding back further adoption, upfront costs and virtualisation not registering as a short-term priority were those cited by channel partners supplying the SMB market. Tellingly, a lack of understanding was the third decisive factor, suggesting the need for further education from vendors and partners on exactly what virtualisation can deliver.

“Many tens of thousands of SMBs across EMEA have already embraced virtualisation and this research indicates this may just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the depth and breadth of SMB adoption,” said John Churchhouse, EMEA SMB director at VMware. “VMware has intensified its commitment to SMBs through its Real World Advantage initiative and offers products and bundles tailored to their specific needs. There’s a tremendous opportunity here for channel partners to work collaboratively with VMware to drive awareness for SMBs and jointly assist them on their virtualisation journey and the move to cloud computing.”

“There is a difference between those companies that see IT as a cost centre and those for whom IT is a strategic priority,” said Sam Routledge, solutions director, at UK reseller Softcat Ltd. “For those who see IT as a cost, virtualisation doesn’t go beyond financial savings. For advanced companies, they want a stable IT platform that is highly available and which aligns with their business strategy, for example; being able to open new offices quickly as they expand the organisation.”

As part of the research, Canalys also conducted 12 in-depth EMEA partner interviews on the major trends they are seeing in virtualisation amongst SMBs. Feedback from these reinforced the drivers for virtualisation raised in the study, but also the need for greater support in educating end users, including: joint marketing activities (both campaigns and roadshows), increased training and certification, and more tailored finance packages and solution bundles.

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