Pick your battles carefully

Pick your battles carefully

Attending the Auckland leg of Microsoft’s Launchwave event last Wednesday, it was hard to discern exactly where the company’s resellers should start to take advantage of the stack of products the company has released.

Microsoft focused a great deal on how its trio of new products – server operating system Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 database suite and developer platform Visual Studio 2008 – can help customers achieve a dynamic IT environment.

This is Microsoft’s utopian-like vision, of a state where IT infrastructure is optimised with products and technologies integrated to create an environment that helps customers gain strategic advantage.

Microsoft sees a dynamic IT environment as being unified and virtualised; process-led and model driven; service-enabled; and user-focused.

To reach this nirvana, organisations need to transcend three other levels of infrastructure maturity – basic, standardised and rationalised.

According to Microsoft, dynamic IT enables next-generation data centres and applications, of which virtualisation and web-based delivery are key elements.

At Launchwave, Microsoft centred on four pillars on which the new products would deliver dynamic IT – a secure and trusted platform, virtualisation, creating immersive online experiences and business intelligence.

While it is not hard to imagine the role partners can play in each of these areas, the sheer amount of information presented on the day was enough to leave anyone’s head spinning.

Therefore, I caught up with keynote speaker John Case, Microsoft’s Redmond-based general manager for development and user experience platforms and tools, to gain a broad perspective of where Microsoft partners should put their focus first.

Case singled out Windows Server 2008, picking out two new features in particular – Server Core and, not surprisingly, virtualisation.

Server Core is a minimal server installation option in Windows Server 2008. It provides a low-maintenance server environment with limited functionality.

A more basic system is not what most people go to flash launch events to hear about. Yet Case reckons Server Core will enable resellers to provide smaller customers with a more effective and efficient OS that has a reduced footprint, uses less power and is cheaper to run.

“Partners can take Server Core to customers and save them money,” says Case.

However, virtualisation still presents the biggest opportunities.

Case says Microsoft will enter this arena in force in the second half of this year when it releases Hyper V – the hypervisor for Windows Server 2008.

The comparative cost-saving and ease of deployment of Hyper V will create a myriad of new business opportunities for its partners, says Case.

“With Hyper V customers can create four virtual servers for the cost of a single license.”

At present fewer than 10 percent of servers are virtualised, says Case, adding Microsoft expects this number to double over the next year.

There is no doubt Microsoft’s entry into virtualisation, as well as its raft of other new products, will generate new business for its partners.

However, it is important to remember not all Microsoft resellers can or should follow the company down each new path it travels.

The more a company such as Microsoft diversifies its product set, the more it highlights the need for resellers to become more specialised.

Striving for an integrated world such as Microsoft’s dynamic IT vision is a great ideal, but in reality only the larger players will be able to provide the majority of the pieces of such a puzzle.

For smaller operators, which most readers are, the best bet would be to specialise in those disciplines they can truly excel in.

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