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VMware barges into SMBs with new bundle

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Well entrenched in the data centers of the Fortune 100, VMware has decided to go after the little guy. The software maker this week plans to roll out a new server virtualization management bundle aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The name says it all with the "VirtualCenter for VMware Server" pairing. VMware has moved the VirtualCenter management package already available for its high-end ESX Server product down-market to the more basic VMware Server product. With VirtualCenter, customers can control all of their virtual machines from one place, set up management alerts and tune the performance of their various servers. VMware reckons that it's made controlling virtual servers easy enough to attract SMB shops with limited hardware and personnel.

In the past, VMware shipped a product dubbed GSX Server that was meant to give large, corporate customers a taste of server partitioning technology. If all went well, the customers would upgrade to the better performing and more expensive ESX Server, which VMware now sells as part of the flagship Infrastructure 3 bundle.

Heated competition from the likes of Microsoft and Xen nudged VMware to come out with a new low-end product called VMware Server. The company offers up this software as a free download and then charges if you'd like support.

It has taken a few years for VMware to convince large customers that x86 server virtualization technology is ready for the prime time. Now, the EMC subsidiary thinks SMBs can handle the virtualization pitch, as they look to consolidate existing hardware and to buy less hardware down the road.

The VirtualCenter management package does have a number of features that could appeal to SMBs.

For example, administrators will find wizards and templates for setting up certain types of virtual machines like a file server or a SharePoint server. They'll also be able to set up alert systems for when a virtual machine misbehaves and see controls for retooling the performance of a virtual machine. There's a list of the VirtualCenter for ESX Server features here.

The "VirtualCenter for VMware Server" bundle goes on sale Thursday for $1,500. That price includes the software, agents to manage three two-socket servers and enterprise class support. The target audience for the bundle will be companies with between 10 and 40 servers.

VMware hopes that VARs and services companies will use the new bundle as a chance for hitting up SMBs.

The company tells us that "SMBs are rapidly adopting virtualization," but we'll go ahead and remain skeptical for the moment.

Firms of any size can appreciate the benefits of server consolidation. SMBs, however, tend to be very cautious about introducing new software into their mix to reach such a consolidation goal. Already stressed administrators will need to learn the ways of VMware and deal with the complexities of managing numerous applications on a single box.

VMware is wise to start this march early before Microsoft finishes off its new virtualization software. Microsoft has done well with the SMBs by selling its familiarity across a broad set of products. Now, VMware hopes to woo the little guy with a new interface before Microsoft can prep its commonality pitch. ®

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