VMware's Virtual Appetizer

New VMware Server will be a free download to lure users into the virtualization world

February 7, 2006

3 Min Read
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VMware today took a leaf from the open-source book in an attempt to boost user takeup of virtualization by offering new free server software. (See VMware Adds Free VMware Server.)

VMware Server, a virtualization engine that installs on either Microsoft Windows or Linux servers, will replace the vendors existing GSX Server product. Whereas VMware Server can be downloaded for free from the VMware Website, GSX Server cost as much as $2,800, depending on whether users run the software on two or more CPUs.

Just to be clear, though, there will still be some costs associated with VMware Server. Users running the software in a production environment will have to pay VMware for support, although the vendor will not reveal exactly how much this is until the product is generally available later this year.

Despite such coyness on pricing, Neal Tisdale, vice president of software development at energy consulting firm New Energy Associates, anticipates shaving up to $12,000 off annual software licensing costs by using VMware Server for testing.

Tisdale, whose team of software developers uses GSX Server, says there is already plenty of interest in shifting to the new product. “My developers have already sent me emails about this,” he says. “They like this because they can use it to build several virtual machines to simulate a customer’s environment."As well as overhauling its pricing structure, the vendor is also offering new features in VMware server product that were not available in GSX Server. These include support for Virtual SMP, which lets a single virtual machine span multiple physical processors and support for 64-bit virtualization.

VMware has also tightened its relationship with Intel, adding support for Intel Virtualization Technology, a set of hardware enhancements designed to boost virtualization. Speaking on a conference call earlier today, Brian Byun, VMware’s vice president for products and alliances, promised that future announcements will extend beyond Intel. “We absolutely plan on supporting AMD’s Pacifica [virtualization technology] and other hardware innovations from the processor vendors,” he says.

But will all this be enough to sway users? In a recent IT spending survey, for example, buyers rated virtualization a low priority. A recent Goldman Sachs survey of 100 IT managers at Fortune 1000 firms shows only 29 percent are considering implementing storage virtualization over the next 12 months, which tracks closely with other recent studies. (See Virtually Nowhere.)

If VMware is to be believed, the technology just isn't on users' radar screens. “We think that the main growth inhibitor for virtualization is awareness,” said Byun in today's conference call. “A good chunk of the market for virtualization is open."

But, despite singing the praises of virtualization, VMware execs were cagey on the topic of para-virtualization, a technique for modifying operating systems to support virtualization, which is used by VMware’s competitors, Xen and Virtual Iron Software. (See Novell Supports Virtual Iron.) Byun, however, believes that users are still not ready for para-virtualization. ”It’s very much something that we will support, going forward, when the market is ready for it. Demand for it is not stable.”This is not the first time VMware has gone down the free software route. Last December the vendor brought out its VMware Player product for desktops, which is also available for no charge. According to VMware, more than 1 million copies of the software have now been installed.

VMware Server is expected to be generally available by June.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • Goldman Sachs & Co.

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Virtual Iron Software Inc.

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • XenSource Inc.

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