A Virtualisation Academy offering free virtualisation advice will be opened in May by consultancy VirtualizeIT.

The Vacademy will use a purpose-built virtualisation test-bed to boost knowledge about virtualisation, among the biggest and fastest-growing phenomena in enterprise computing today, and give businesses a tailored assessment of what virtualisation could do for them.

Managing director Julian Box said: "Lots of people know something about virtualisation but they don't know it well or they even know it incorrectly. We want to offer advice free of charge in a no-pressure environment. Those who come along can see the differences between various technologies, for example between AMD and Intel. Then visitors can make informed decisions to use that in their own businesses."

Vacademy uses technology from all leading server, storage and application virtualisation vendors including EMC, HP, IBM, Intel and VMware. Box said: "We also cover Xen, Microsoft Virtual Server, Virtuozzo, Softricity, and we are talking to Altiris. The aim to have everyone involved in virtualisation on board." Other vendor technologies involved come from AMD, Vizioncore, Platform Computing, Neverfail and Leostream.

Potential visitors will complete a survey to give Vacademy's consultants a picture of the organisation's virtualisation needs and skills.

"After that", said Box, "We produce a VIFA - a virtualisation infrastructure feasibility assessment - to show people what virtualisation can do, and offer them a costed road map. If they join the academy, they can book any of 70-plus sessions - that number will grow by half a dozen annually - and they can book anyone in. It's not technical training, it's more about benefits. They can also plan and test real environments, including benchmarking, by bringing VMs with them."

The sessions cover server, application and storage virtualisation, although Box said that server virtualisation is the hottest topic by far. However, he expects that balance to shift as the cost of storage virtualisation falls over time.

Courses can be up to two days long although most attendees find half a day is best, said Box. Vacademy also has TCO, ROI and business benefit sessions for MDs. "Some sessions are on-site, many can be Web-based, or we can go to them. It depends on the customer's needs", he added.

Box said that he would if the customer chose to make use of the consultancy they would be welcomed but that the Vacademy business model included contributions from major vendors, plus £180,000 of upfront investment. This came from VirtualizeIT, a division of Ji Consultancy.

"By offering total impartiality, Vacademy will help customers make the right choice to address their critical virtualisation, disaster recovery, high availability and LAN/WAN tuning requirements", said Box.

Vacademy will open its doors on Tuesday 2 May 2006.