Why Do Virtualised Servers Need Real Support Staff?

The  mega-merger of Atos and Siemens’ services arm for £720 million is more confirmation, if any were needed, that the coming cloud services boom will be big. But with service companies gearing up, it’s worth asking what the impact will be on support contracts.

Cloud services are enabled by virtualisation, which streamlines the provision of IT resources, so applications are run on virtual machines in pools, instead of on dedicated machines. I was surprised this week to discover that this move to a more virtual world in the hardware and software domain, might actually lead to a move in the reverse direction when you call someone up for help.

According to Hewlett-Packard’s announcement this week of its Critical Advantage support package, the big enticement to go with HP is that you get “dedicated” support teams, according to the press release. This means people who are specific named representatives working on your account.

In other words, while dedicated hardware is a thing of the past, HP is increasing the avaialbility of dedicated people. HP spokesman David Welsh didn’t think this was an ironic juxtaposition.

Cloud users need their hands held – for now

“It’s a consequence of a dramatic shift,” he said. In other words, people are still uncertain about the cloud – although it seems government agencies are so keen to start moving in that direction, they are preparing to bend the rules on compliance.

Ultimately, virtualisation should result in greater automation, more reliability and fewer support calls. The tools of the cloud also offer the ability to deliver support in an automated way, by using remote monitoring and fixing tools – Dell has made this a big part of its push into services, promising to deliver better value by automating service and support, a move in the opposite direction to that taken by HP.

It’s my belief that there is an underlying trend here, towards a requirement for less human contact in any transaction, which would include the service and support business. Atos and Siemens are cutting staff already – though much of this will be simply adjusting the bottom line, and making the usual “efficiency” cuts in any merger.

Welsh’s comments to me seemed to hint at a short-term need for greater hand-holding, which would eventually go away when users have adjusted to the new paradigm and are prepared to trust the cloud.

It’s clear to me that, if the cloud is actually going to deliver its much-promised economies, it will have to be provisioned and supported in a much less labour-intensive way. I’m sure that is equally clear to Thierry Breton at Atos, and to the people at HP, as well as all the other service companies closing in for the forthcoming boom in cloud services and in-house virtualisation.

Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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