The spectre of vendor lock-in has long haunted CIOs and IT managers – but, says Veeam regional manager for Southern Africa Warren Olivier, a new wave of collaboration, inspired by virtualisation and the new possibilities it unlocks, is changing the landscape dramatically.

“The modern data centre must be built to meet the high availability requirements of the always-on, 24/7 business, which means using the best, most appropriate tools for the job,” says Olivier. “Ideally, its design should be based on whatever meets the specialised needs of the business, from servers to storage to networking to power to availability solutions. Historically that’s been difficult because so many vendors tried to lock customers in to using only their products – but we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the past couple of years. Vendors have recognised that the only way to deliver the availability businesses want is to present integrated solutions.”

“In the past the standard way of operating was to sell customers a set of components, then leave it to them to put it all together,” adds Olivier . ”Now there’s a growing recognition by most vendors that what our customers really want is a way to deliver their applications and data – they don’t care what the infrastructure looks like, so long as it does the job.”

Cisco South Africa data centre specialist Natius van der Watt says Cisco is now collaborating with Veeam and other vendors to make it easier for customers to build the agile, adaptable infrastructures they need. “For example, Cisco Validated Designs (CVD) are blueprints for entire data centre solutions that experts from a number of different vendors have designed, built and tested for a variety of customer needs. There are CVDs available for every conceivable customer, and it’s becoming increasingly important to deliver this kind of service. The pace of change in IT has trebled and quadrupled and increasingly it’s only the specialists who can keep up; so our role is shifting towards supplying the expertise as well as the hardware.”

Veeam’s Olivier says availability is an important part of the package in Cisco Validated Designs. “Often we see that people put a lot of thought into delivering virtualisation, but then either neglect availability or fall back on old habits of backing up to tape. Tape is still a good medium for long-term archival storage, but it can’t deliver always-on availability – businesses no longer have hours or days to restore systems and data. They need to be able to recover in minutes.”

Olivier says Veeam is seeing substantial growth in the number of customers seeking these all-in-one solutions. “People don’t want to reinvent the wheel, especially if they don’t have all the skills they need in-house. Being able to take a blueprint off the shelf for a fast, reliable, verified and well supported solution is an increasingly popular option.”