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By Paul Beacham

General Manager TDM Data, Ethernet, Optical & Managed Services

Virtualisation is not a magic trick. It’s a key strategy to deliver flexibility to customers but needs fast and reliable connectivity to reach its potential.

It’s not unusual for IT departments to bemoan the lack of physical boxes in the building. If you can touch it, you know where you are in the world and all can be fixed with a neat set of micro screwdrivers. It’s surprising really but then technology change often flies in the face of culture. Virtualisation fits this category and while it is not a magic trick to solve all ills, it certainly represents a dramatic shift, primarily to meet the challenge of increased cloud-based services.

For BT, virtualisation is a strategy to provide services for the on-demand world. This is two-pronged. As customers move more services to the cloud, so the quality of the connection is critical to cloud adoption. Customers want to be able to react quickly to their customer demands, which means they also need flexibility in terms of their bandwidth and how they access those services.

Offering near real-time services is becoming central to service provision. Customers want greater control over their services. So, providing quick and reliable access to functionality, whether that’s to react to unplanned changes, such as the need for greater bandwidth, or to remotely add new service functionality without the need for new hardware, is increasingly essential.

This sort of rapid provisioning will become the norm, made possible by next generation networks, virtualisation and the cloud. Agility and flexibility are the recurring themes and IT departments, even those that are culturally challenged, will benefit from improvements in service levels, helping them to contribute to the operational and commercial success of their all-round business.

For channel partners, this will mean an enhanced way of doing business. As we evolve our own network virtualisation, partners can start to rethink their relationships with customers. Currently these relationships revolve around hardware physically located at a customer site, with fixed end of life terms and multi-vendor supply chain lock-in. Virtualisation will change this, bringing less reliance on hardware and more flexibility and value-driven services via the highly resilient BT network. It will lead to reduced operational costs but increased service provision agility. Within the wholesale model BT sees its role to enable partners to ultimately be in control, efficiently managing customer requirements without the need of mini screwdrivers.

This is the plan and it fits within a wider industry shift to real-time services. The statistics bear this out. There is an appetite for change, despite a recent report from Forrester, The Sorry State of Digital Transformation, claiming security concerns, culture and a disconnect between management are undermining progress. And yet progress is being made. Virtualisation, driven by benefits such as flexibility, scalability, ease of use and cost-effectiveness has for some time underpinned digital transformation and the shift to the cloud, regardless of which flavour of cloud businesses actually want.

One thing to consider is the perception of cost. A survey by 451 Research recently showed that cost-savings are the top motivating factor for CIOs moving to the cloud model, at 38.8 percent. (Resource scalability and time to market/agility rank high as well; both were cited by about 32 percent of respondents.) The idea that virtualisation is lower in cost than the physical world is not necessarily true at a basic service function level. Selling virtualisation on cost benefit alone would therefore be wrong but when combined with other benefits such as agility and speed to market, total cost of ownership becomes an attractive factor. What is certain is that virtualisation is the present and the future. Nothing else comes close to enabling the services that customers will increasingly demand.

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