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Review: VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3.5

VMware Infrastructure 3.5, the 800-pound gorilla in our Rolling Review of hypervisors, continues to lead the virtualization pack in performance, support, and scalability.

In tests, the VMware Infrastructure suite -- comprising the VMware ESX hypervisor, vCenter Server, and client tools -- got our virtualization job done handily. But whether it's worth the premium price may be another matter.

Version 3.5 answers some calls for easier setup and management features. For example, VMware offers Guided Consolidation, an easy-to-use analysis tool for virtualizing Windows environments, along with new patch management capabilities and enterprise-class support. In addition, the VMware ecosystem offers thousands of ready-to-roll virtual appliances, and API tie-ins and vendor partnerships provide limitless management, reporting, automation, storage, and security options.

VMware also has the most difficult learning curve for novice admins and the highest price tag among the participants in this Rolling Review -- does this sound like a winning combo to you?

Citrix Systems (NSDQ: CTXS) promises that you'll only need a few minutes to achieve Xen, and we had our base Virtual Iron, Parallels, and Hyper-V test platforms up in less than an hour. Our virtualization-neophyte experience wasn't as smooth with VMware. Yes, ESX 3.5 did everything we asked of it for our small-business model test case -- and more -- but it took the better part of a day to get our base environment up and running. This was a "real world" test, using IT admin test subjects who have limited familiarity with virtualization and no familiarity with VMware. This is in line with many small IT shops, working under constricted budgets, with limited training options and cranky CFOs, faced with aging hardware and flat staffing models.

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