Health care IT departments in the UK are being offered a low-risk new way to get hands-on experience of virtualisation.

NHS specialist reseller CSA Waverley has introduced a try-before-you-buy approach to give IT professionals the chance to get acquainted with virtualisation before they commit to buying and installing it.

"There's a good deal of interest in virtualisation but we've found that only about 30 percent of health authorities have any sort of virtualisation project running," said Jon Leary, CSA Waverley's southern sales manager.

As he explained, that left a lot of authorities who had yet to try the technology, even though nearly all of them are interested in exploring virtualisation. He added that he believed the CSA Waverley approach was unique, "I've not heard of anyone else offering this," he said. "It's a very old-fashioned approach."

He said that money was the main driver. "Nearly all the authorities are pretty tight for cash and are looking at ways to make the most out of their existing servers," Leary explained. He added that according to a company survey, nearly 60 percent of IT managers within the health service had neither tried or experienced virtualisation.

CSA Waverley will take HP Blade servers plus VMWare and 1TB of SAN to the health authorities' own premises where one of the company's techies will run through the technology and demonstrate a real-world example - the migration of one of the authority's own SQL application for instance.

The kit is then left with the authority for a week while the IT professionals get some practical experience, benefiting from CSA Waverley's technical support desk. The scheme is entirely free of charge,

Leary said that the scheme has been running for about three months and has been extremely successful, pointing out that the company nearly always made a sale. "Typically they have anything from 30 to 150 different servers that they want to use more efficiently; we can upgrade some of the older ones and sell VMware licences and consultancy."

The company offers VMware as it's a VMWare Enterprise Partner. Leary said that as VMware was setting the pace in virtualisation, it was the obvious place to start. Although he admitted that sooner or later someone will ask for Hyper-V "I'm not sure what we'll do then," he said. However, he added that the many companies that supported VMware, such as PlateSpin and Vizioncore would still offer a compelling argument for VMware.

Although CSA Waverley's experience is mainly in the NHS, it's not tied to it, said Leary, there are a lot of people out there without the skills and experience and nowhere to get them easily. "What else is there?" he asked."People haven't the time to go to seminars and webinars seem impersonal. By going to their own offices we can give them some real practical experience," he said.

Want to learn more about virtualisation? Take a look at our short video that gives a rundown of the technology in just a few minutes.