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VMware slaps SWsoft with hosting play

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In a clear shot at rival SWsoft, VMware has started hyping a new pricing model for its VMware Infrastructure software suite aimed at hosting service providers.

Hosting companies appear to have balked at VMware's rather expensive per processor/socket licensing model. So, the company will now sell hosters its highest-end virtualization software on a discounted per virtual machine/per month basis. Ideally, this means that hosting companies can save money by running numerous virtual servers on each physical machine.

Virtualization competitor SWsoft has enjoyed a special relationship with hosting companies. It counts hosters such as RackSpace, EV1Servers and Host Europe as close partners.

These service providers seem to like the overall performance provided by SWsoft's terribly-named Virtuozzo software, which lets you run many virtual machines off a single copy of an operating system.

Even though each of SWsoft's "virtual environments" has its own, isolated security and resource management, VMware has gone after the one-for-many model. "All of their (VEs) share the same OS, which does create security and risk exposures with all your eggs in one basket," said VMware's marketing director Bogomil Balkansky. "In our case, every virtual machine has its own OS copy, which is completely and fully isolated from all the other virtual machines."

Security shots aside, the biggest issue at hand would seem to be price, and VMware refuses to utter a peep on that front.

The company rebuffed our repeated attempts to discover how much it charges hosting companies under the per virtual machine/per month model. "We have made a commitment that we will not disclose that," Balkansky said. "We don't want to make it harder on the hosters to have conversations with their end customers."

So, VMware has two pricing models for the hosting companies - big and small - but refuses to say how much these cost. That makes it near impossible for outsiders to decide how paying for a single OS and support under the SWsoft model stacks up against paying for numerous OSes and support under the VMware rental model.

In addition, it sounds like VMware has custom pricing going on for the 20 hosting vendors it has in a pilot of the new program.

Those hosting companies ought to let the cat out of the bag, if for no other reason than to force VMware to accept some manner of consistent, transparent pricing.

VMware's hosting plan may also hurt the vendor's long-term play with large corporations. Say, for example, that you have 10,000 servers running VMware. Why should hosting companies with a similar number of systems enjoy a hefty discount and a new pricing model, while you're stuck on the perpetual per socket licensing program?

Ignoring all these questions, the hosting attack seems a natural play for VMware. The company continues to try and expand its business from the desktop to the farthest reaches of the data center. ®

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