In the world of journalism, there's an old saying: "Three's a trend." I thought of that truism this morning when I learned Tech Data plans to offer VMware to its resellers. Managed service providers should take note. In addition to Tech Data, at least two MSP platform providers are striving to help VARs more effectively manage virtualized servers.

You should expect a steady stream of virtualization-related MSP news over the next few weeks and months. Even though VMware sales recently fell short of Wall Street's aggressive expectations, demand for virtualized servers and even desktops continues to grow rapidly. The virtualization craze has triggered new opportunities -- and challenges -- for MSPs and their customers.

Virtualization offers small, midsize and large enterprises several clear benefits. For starters, customers can consolidate their applications onto fewer physical servers. This potentially reduces power and cooling requirements in a data center or small business wiring closet.

Virtualization also is pushing onto the desktop. Parallels, for instance, is a widely popular environment for running Windows and Mac OS on Apple notebooks and desktops. Parallels also is introducing support for Ubuntu, an increasingly popular version of Linux for desktop PCs and servers. (See our sister site, All About Ubuntu, for details about that operating system.)

Despite its benefits, virtualization also increases customer complexity. Think about it: Customers -- or their managed service providers -- need to manage, monitor and troubleshoot a hodgepodge of software environments (Windows, Linux, Oracle, MySQL, CRM, ERP, email, storage, etc.) all running on virtualized servers. Each physical server actually has multiple environments that must be managed. So while your hardware footprint shrinks, you still have lots of software clouds to maintain.

Thats where MSP platforms enter the picture. I'm hearing rumblings that at least two platform providers will soon begin to evangelize their ability to manage virtual environments. Plenty of additional platform providers will follow suit. As soon as I'm able to share firm details, we'll be sure to offer more perspectives here on MSPmentor.net.

In the meantime, here are more details about Tech Data's decision to offer VMware to partners.