With its origins in IP technology, followed by the development of a components business (networking, cables, cabinets, power supplies and the like), and a well-devised focus on storage networking technology, Zycko would seem ideally placed to take advantage of the current data centre ‘sweet spot’, with its emphasis on convergence.
David Galton-Fenzi acknowledges that the opportunities are huge, but ensuring the right strategy to make certain that the resellers have the right solutions to offer their end user customer base is far from simple. Every time Zycko looks at a new vendor and a new technology wanting representation across Europe, no matter how rigorous the qualification process, there is always an element of risk. It is testament to a combination of Zycko’s diligence and market knowledge that the success rate is extraordinarily high, but when it comes to embracing the data centre as a concept, Galton-Fenzi is aware that the stakes are particularly high.
“Right now, the data centre space is not a big earner for us. The reason is that, when people are looking for a data centre, on the whole they go to data centre orientated organisations; they go to the data centre construction companies; the cabling guys…at the moment, we’re outside the normal data centre arena,” explains Galton-Fenzi.
However, he is keen to see this change, and believes there are two ways in which this can be achieved. First up, there’s a great deal of data centre capacity in the market right now, and Galton-Fenzi believes that Zycko can find a niche acting as a middleman, or broker, between the data centre construction companies, and the resellers keen to start offering managed services. With Zycko’s purchasing power, a good wholesale price can be negotiated, and this passed on to integrators and resellers as a tariff of ‘per cabinet’ prices – depending on such elements as power and redundancy level requirements.
With many data centres being built on spec (or with one underpinning client plus a great deal of space to fill!), Zycko can help the build companies find clients to take up space. Indeed, they have already worked with some of the build organisations on a consultancy basis, so extending this service, to the benefit of the whole chain, makes perfect sense.
Similarly sensible is the prospect of Zycko leveraging the relationships it is developing in the data centre market to increase cabinet sales. Right now, the company is selling over 100 ‘cabinets of kit’ per month, but Galton-Fenzi sees enormous potential to increase this volume across all Zycko’s European markets.
Already, Zycko has had some success in this area, working with Tier 2 and 3 providers who are offering managed services to either local or industry-specific markets.
With the breadth of products and technologies in its portfolio, Zycko is impressively well-placed to provide these cabinet-level offerings, and it is no surprise that Galton-Fenzi sees the bringing of new technologies to market as the key driver of the company’s expansion in the data centre space.
Space brokering is all very well, but Zycko is unlikely to make a name for itself just by putting buyers and sellers in touch with each other – data centre ebay it is not! No, where Zycko can offer real value-add to the Channel is by continuing its track record of identifying, and bringing to the European market, smart new IT intellectual property. I/O virtualisation is one such game-changing technology. For those unfamiliar with the concept, virtual I/O connects any server to any network or storage device, without the limitations of cards, cables, and switch ports. The potential benefits of doing away with up to 90 per cent of the cabling, HBAs, and Fibre Channel switches previously required? Reduced capital expense by approximately 50 per cent, ensuring application performance, and obtaining some 100 times faster moves, adds and changes.
Zycko offers two flavours of I/O virtualisation – Xsigo and Virtensys. Xsigo uses Infiniband to carry out switching on the backplane, Virtensys relies on PCI Express. The Xsigo solution plays in the large enterprise space – the 20 server + market that requires truly scalable performance and no bottlenecks. The Virtensys offering is for the sub 20 server, SME space and is priced accordingly.
In a market where the dominant player offers a proprietary virtual I/O platform that switches all its traffic on the LAN (an area in which it has a certain interest!), Zycko emphasises that, thanks to the Xsigo and Virtensys technologies, it offers true end-to-end and open I/O virtualisation.
In the US, Wholesale Electric, an electrical goods distributor, experienced a significant reduction in expenses by combining a virtualised storage area network (SAN) and Xsigo's virtual I/O - deployed as part of a VMware ESX server virtualisation rollout. Virtualising the storage and I/O resources allowed Wholesale Electric to deploy 66 percent fewer server I/O cards, cables, and switch ports than would have been otherwise possible. The reduced physical complexity also permitted the use of compact 1U high servers rather than 4U high devices, reducing power supply requirements by 35 percent and space requirements by 75 percent.
I/O virtualisation is the next piece in the overall virtualisation jigsaw and, for every Wholesale Electric, there are many more companies in the US and Europe using the technology in test environments right now, with, it seems, universally positive feedback.
Of course, in the volatile world that is IT, there’s no guarantee that both Xsigo and Virtensys will be around in a couple of years’ time, but, as the start of the article made clear, Zycko has made its reputation in backing technology winners.
The company directors cut their teeth in the Channel as ex-founders of Cisco distributor Comstor, taking full advantage of the huge incentives and promotions offered, guiding and benefiting its resellers along the way – an approach which continues with Zycko’s current product portfolio. “For example, we do the same with Hitachi Data Systems right now,” says Galton Fenzi. “We offer a lot as a distributor by simplifying the vendor story and maximising promotions – cutting through the confusion, if you will, for our reseller and integrator base.”
This has enabled Zycko to build up a certain level of trust within the Channel which is key to bringing new technologies to market. For, as Galton-Fenzi comments: “If I go to a reseller with a new vendor, maybe expecting him to ditch a conflicting one along the way, Zycko’s track record is a key influencer.”
So it is that much of Galton-Fenzi’s time is spent looking for, and, most importantly, qualifying potential new technologies and the companies behind them. “We help resellers to make money, so it is important to choose the right products and vendors,” he says. “Over the years, we’ve built a more robust selection process – we need to understand what the OEM’s own motivation is – are they committed to the long term, or more likely interested in a short term gain, selling out so that the venture capitalists get a quick payback on their investment?”
Seeing the potential for technology is also key – is it simply a me-too product, or something that’s really likely to disrupt the market?
Zycko makes a significant investment when it takes on a new technology/vendor – building up the installation base, publishing some proof-of-concept case studies, talking to its resellers etc.. Payback is not quick, so there needs to be real confidence in bringing anything new to market. Zycko certainly can’t afford to play the numbers game – back a load of ideas and hope that one or two come good.
However, as the first distributor in Europe for CommVault, Riverbed, Isilon and F10 and the first EMEA wide distributor for LifeSize, Zycko has earned a reputation for picking winners. Galton-Fenzi admits to frustration that many end users still show a certain reluctance to abandon the ‘big guys’, but believes that more and more are understanding the benefits of the disruptive technologies that Zycko represents in Europe. “People are becoming more confident in looking at alternatives,” he says. “And when they see that, for example, it takes six Cisco chassis to do what two F10 chassis can do, we gain traction in the marketplace very quickly.”
A similarly positive response is anticipated by Galton-Fenzi for Zycko’s most recent signing – Talari Networks. In simple terms, Talari Networks offers a cost-effective alternative to Frame Relay or MPLS services, by aggregating ADSL connections and bandwidth to provide the reliability required by enterprise customers.
In the same way that RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) revolutionised high-end data storage, Adaptive Private Networking (APN) is revolutionising corporate WANs. Talari applies to WAN connections a unique combination of RAID-like methods and overlay networking techniques, like those used by services such as Skype or Vonage in delivering voice over the public Internet. By leveraging network bandwidth from multiple sources - including both high-speed Internet connections at central locations and broadband connections (DSL, cable where available) at branch locations - APN allows businesses for the first time to take advantage of the economics of broadband and the public Internet without sacrificing business quality reliability and availability.
No one today builds monolithic, proprietary, single-disk storage solutions; they leverage commodity PC hard disk technology and use RAID technology to get greater capacity and performance, lower cost, and higher reliability. With Talari Networks' Adaptive Private Networking, enterprise managers can take the same approach to building corporate WANs. No longer must businesses purchase overpriced, "over-engineered" network services from a single telecom provider. APN delivers more bandwidth, lower monthly WAN costs and greater network reliability than the best single Frame Relay or MPLS network can provide.
“When Riverbed’s WAN optimisation technology first hit the market, people thought it was some kind of a trick,” says Galton-Fenzi. “But once they’d tried it for themselves, end users were dumbfounded at the improvements they were seeing, and certainly wouldn’t accept a return to their old technology. Talari’s APN has the same, massive potential.”
Talking to Galton-Fenzi, it’s difficult not to share his enthusiasm for the Talari Networks technology. And it soon becomes apparent that, for him and Zycko, the biggest problem isn’t actually finding new ideas, but having the discipline to decide which ones on which to concentrate. Virtualisation of all kinds, network optimisation…IPTV. IPTV - surely a little outside Zycko’s comfort zone? Maybe, but several vendors are courting Zycko right now, and when one considers that delivering video services is the main driver of the network right now – not so far away.
And then there’s the possibilities offered by videoconferencing. First time around, unreliable and far from impressive; but with the advent of HDTV and better networking technologies, allied to the focus on green technology that is here to stay, who’s to say what might be achievable?
Oh, and then there’s high-definition (HD) voice – not so well known as HDTV right now, but one for the future. In mentioning all these possibilities, Galton-Fenzi is also acutely aware that the whole IT supply chain landscape is changing as, yes, finally it must be mentioned, all directions lead to The Cloud. Even with Zycko’s track record for anticipating the future, Galton-Fenzi is happy to admit that nobody knows right now where it will all end up. Maybe with five or six huge IT suppliers in each country, but underpinned by tiers of service providers feeding in to each Cloud; maybe more like what’s happened in the food industry – with the supermarkets squeezing the high street and corner shops, but still a place for good quality, independent businesses…
Quite how Zycko will fit in to either scenario, or one completely different again, Galton-Fenzi seems genuinely unsure. However, it’s a safe bet that, when the path to the Cloud ‘nirvana’ is revealed, Zycko will be leading the way.