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EMC Is Helping Customers Enter a Virtual World

By Micky Baca

Steve Meyers
Steve Meyers, EMC consulting director, Enterprise Infrastructure, says customers are letting go of physical IT environments to embrace virtualization. Photograph by Monya Keane

As they move to 100 percent virtualized data centers, customers are looking for vendors with fresh technologies and an emphasis on service levels. EMC's capabilities in this area are growing dynamically.

When a major U.S. bank needed to complete a physical-to-virtual conversion of 2,500 servers in just 18 months and define a new virtual data center model, it turned to EMC Consulting. When a major Israeli utility wanted to create a disaster-recovery system to safeguard its VMware environment, it relied on EMC Global Services. When a U.S. energy provider needed to automate recovery of its VMware Exchange environment, EMC Consulting designed the solution.

As organizations make these leaps toward a private cloud, EMC Global Services and VMware are providing resources and guidance. EMC Infrastructure Consulting Practice Marketing Lead Dave Buffo says, "Actually, the scale of our joint services and solutions does surprise people."

Long-time partnership deepens

EMC has nurtured its VMware relationship since acquiring the company in 2003integrating storage, data protection and management, and services with VMware server and desktop virtualization solutions.

In January 2009, EMC strengthened its alignment by becoming a gold-level VMware Authorized Consultant. (The program is now called the VMware Partner Network.) The affiliation made it easier for EMC to deliver VMware products and services and to incorporate VMware technology more broadly across its portfolio.

By June, EMC had launched more consulting, implementation, education, and residency services, including the VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager (to automate data recovery) integrated with EMC business continuity products. Additionally, hundreds of Global Services employees have been VMware certified since January. EMC also is now a VMware-authorized training center, offering courses to customers on how to use VMware technologies with tailored EMC solutions.

Steve Meyers, EMC Consulting Director, Enterprise Infrastructure, says, "Our virtualization services now extend from basic strategy to migration planning to the building out of end-state production environments."

By working together, VMware and EMC also extend their market reach and their relationships with other big IT companies. "This services-focused partnership is helping us become an even broader IT infrastructure player," Buffo confirms.

Adds Virtualization Global Competency Lead Martin Snellgrove, "We partner so openly and extensively now. And it's hard to view a premier VMware partner as 'just an enterprise storage company.'"

Primed for opportunity

Years after the concepts of server and storage virtualization first piqued the interest of the IT world, companies were still behaving more optimistically than realistically about how much transition work would be needed. Unfortunately, "some of the world's biggest companies still are nowhere near meeting the virtualization goals they'd set for themselves two or three years ago," Meyers says. "It's a huge opportunity for EMC and VMware right now."

Virtualization invariably brings cost and energy-use reductions, but despite that fact, most companies have virtualized only 20 to 30 percent of their IT environments. According to Buffo, they often "hit a speed bump" while trying to adapt processes, procedures, and personnel for a virtualized environment. "Technically speaking, a server admin can create a virtual machine easily," he says. "But then procedures, employee skill sets, and management all must adapt, and the rest of the IT team must figure out how to backup the data and track the changes to the environment."

That's where EMC Global Services comes in. Its growing number of professionals with VMware expertise help companies at any stage of a virtualization journey.

EMC Consulting experts analyze customers' data sets and business objectives, then they design a virtualization roadmap with conversion activities chunked into three-year increments. Customers get advice about adapting procedures and processes for a virtualized environment, as well as business continuity and disaster-recovery solutions.

Importantly, EMC Consulting also helps with the cultural aspects of going virtual. "Stakeholders are letting go of a physical IT environment that they'd pampered for years," says Meyers. "A mindset change must take place."

Snellgrove agrees, estimating that the act of virtualizing an IT environment is actually only 30-40 percent technical. "The rest involves implementing processes and convincing stakeholders and management to buy into those processes," he says. "We do a lot of people-work on the ground. When competitors treat data center virtualization merely as a technical effort, they miss that vital piece."

Looking beyond the infrastructure layer, EMC Consulting employees also have been answering customers' questions about how to virtualize applications, how to tie private clouds to third-party clouds, and how to use a virtual IT environment to drive new business models. (The organization's Infrastructure, Application, and Business Consulting capabilities help there.)

And when a client asks that EMC Consulting collaborate with other service providers, the organization's partner ecosystem provides the most comprehensive breadth of virtualization services available.

Crafting the transition

After customers have a virtualization roadmap in hand, EMC's Global Services Technology Solutions and EMC's residents create a design, install the tools, oversee the physical-to-virtual migrations, train the customer's team to maintain the infrastructure, and if engaged to do so, they stay onsite as residents to help manage day-to-day operations.

Helping customers to feel comfortable with virtual technology's newnesssuch as losing the ability to "reach out and touch" a computer rack if something goes wrongis part of the job. "We teach them to use the right tools to pinpoint where a problem is and to deploy the correct automatic recovery features," says Marisol Arroyave, Technology Solutions Services offer marketing manager, Global Services.

EMC's security, deduplication, and disaster-recovery solutions provide an edge in building a virtual environment. Specifically, EMC offers EMC Proven Solutions for VMware, which are rigorously tested combinations of products, applications, and services to speed VMware deployments of virtualized mission-critical applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, or SAP.

EMC Ionix (a collection of IT management products including EMC Smarts, nLayers, Voyence, Infra, EMC ControlCenter, and Configuresoft technologies) provides management across the physical and virtual data center.

And if customers want help in operating their virtual environment, including hearing about proactive recommendations and best practices, EMC Residency Services for VMware will provide formally certified experts.

Easing the way into the cloud

On August 31, EMC extended the portfolio further by launching a collection of services to accelerate a customer's journey to a private cloud.

The new offerings combine EMC's consulting, implementation, residency, and education services to address such customer challenges as virtualizing tier 1 (crucial, performance-intensive) applications; developing architectures for next-generation compute, network, and storage infrastructures; and integrating critical operations in a virtual environment, such as management, security, and data protection.

"Customers are starting to ask us, 'How do I optimize my data center for virtualization to take that big step into the private cloud?'" Buffo says. "We're using our expertise to give them all the answers."

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