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Virtual Desktop Sales Made Easy

Research firm Gartner Inc. predicts virtual desktop revenue will hit $65.7 billion as adoption reaches 49 million units by 2013. That’s just around the corner, and even though many channel partners are caught up in the cloud computing craze, they may be missing out on the virtual desktop opportunity. That’s because virtual desktop technology, while simple to grasp, is difficult to deploy. From hardware and software to networks and data centers, there are so many moving parts that it would be understandable if most VARs and agents said, “Thanks, I’ll pass.” But don’t write off virtual desktop sales altogether. Instead, consider the technology’s benefits and the industry’s available resources. The key is to make the process easy on you.

The case for virtual desktop is straightforward. If a company employs dozens of remote and traveling workers, or if many of its employees use laptops, it makes sense to store the operating system and applications such as Microsoft Office in the cloud. The programs don’t run locally on the desktop (or laptop, thin client or mobile device) and that has several implications:

  • First, because the applications are housed in a data center, a business’s IT staff controls what employees may and may not access; security is tight.
  • Second, if a fire or flood, for instance, hurts the company, operations will continue as normal (for employees not located in the affected facility, anyway).
  • Third, if an employee loses a laptop, there’s no confidential information on the device all of the data is in the cloud and can only be accessed by authorized users. The company just has to replace the computer.
  • Fourth, virtual desktops cut costs. In a January 2011 report for DataCore Software Corp., analysts noted that virtual desktops lowered total hardware expenses to about $32 per desktop, rather than costing hundreds of dollars in a non-virtual environment. Similarly, research firm IDC found virtual desktops reduce hardware and operating expenses by up to 50 percent, and energy bills by up to 80 percent.

Thus, the advantages of virtual desktop technology for the end user are clear. Yet, for partners, so are some of the disadvantages. The sales cycle varies, from a few weeks to up to six months. Then, once the papers are signed, virtual desktop is a complicated deployment. It requires comprehensive knowledge of hardware and software vendors’ interoperability, data center capabilities and, on top of that, many end users’ IT staffs have to be trained to manage the new system. Plus, switching to virtual desktop will require partner and customer patience data migration can take up to 90 days and break-even can take up to three years, according to some analysts.

That’s a lot for partners to consider. Rather than walk away from the clear sales opportunity, channel partners unprepared to do the work can team with companies that will do most, if not all, of the intensive work. That’s how Breakthrough Technology Group (BTG), a managed VDI provider, sees the situation. “I believe that you will have multiple players involved in client opportunities since integration is such a large part of making this successful,” said Jeff Kaplan, CEO of BTG. To be sure, such partnerships are critical for VARs or agents who are new to the cloud, unfamiliar with virtualization, understaffed or who prefer to concentrate on selling core products.

Dave McMorrow (you may remember him from Covad Communications) falls into that last category. McMorrow’s company, NuSpective Solutions, is a VAR that specializes in cloud computing and data center technologies, but virtual desktop isn’t the company’s primary focus. So when virtual desktop does become a part of the client conversation, McMorrow knows what to do. “When I hear a customer tell me, ‘virtual desktop infrastructure,’ I don’t get too deep into the sales process,” said McMorrow, who serves as principal and co-founder of NuSpective. “I know enough to ask a few questions to qualify” the opportunity for cloud master agency Terrapin Solutions. Terrapin then takes over so agents such as NuSpective can continue to pursue new customers.

In a situation such as this, it’s critical that McMorrow know how virtual desktop works and who will benefit from it. Indeed, even though virtual desktop is not vital to NuSpective’s portfolio, McMorrow touts the technology’s importance to the channel. “This is a great way to future-proof your business,” he said. “If you don’t get on board, you’re going to get left behind.”

Despite that admonition, it is not imperative that NuSpective understand the ins and outs of the technology luckily for NuSpective, that’s for Terrapin to explain and deploy to the customer. Virtual desktop “is a very technical sale and requires very careful discovery and planning,” said Terrapin’s CEO Andrew Pryfogle. “Agents can absolutely open these doors but they need to partner with technical cloud sales engineering resources.”

For his effort, McMorrow earns a monthly recurring commission on closed deals. Pryfogle said the residuals range from 10-12 percent; most virtual desktop sales come in at more than $10,000 per month, he added.

This is an effective strategy for partners that don’t want to become VDI specialists, but it’s also a stopgap, giving  VARs or agents time to adjust their businesses to make room for needed certifications and personnel. BTG’s Kaplan emphasized that partners who seek to ”truly become successful…will need to train or hire the correct technical resources.” Certainly, for partners who can support a VDI practice, the payoff is greater. Forrest Blair, CEO of Virtuon, a virtualization and cloud computing supplier, said his partners earn monthly evergreen commissions of 10-30 percent. That’s because its resellers do the heavy lifting of educating the customer and planning the platform. Virtuon offers training on the basics of cloud computing, virtualization, virtual desktops, and business continuity and disaster recovery as well as pre- and post-sale support.

Blair said the partners that are most successful are those already familiar with IT infrastructure, communications equipment and bandwidth. One of these VARs is JASINT Consulting and Technologies LLC. JASINT’s specialties include virtualization and cybersecurity for the Department of Defense, which means the reseller must adhere to stringent federal policies and standards. As a result, all of JASINT’s technical staff are highly trained and credentialed. JASINT President Mark Cushman said these capabilities have helped JASINT branch out to nongovernmental customers who want their networks and systems protected from troublemakers, too. This level of proficiency means JASINT is in the driver’s seat throughout the sale from customer education to desktop and network configuration. Overseeing each aspect of the sale is profitable for JASINT. The reseller gets a percentage of monthly recurring revenue and the margin increases when the company provides a managed service such as network security or IT staffing assistance.


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