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VMware wheels and deals on server virtualization

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The low-hanging fruit for server virtualization - customers who already knew they needed it on their x64 iron whether the economy was in good shape or bad - must be starting to dry up as the competition among virtualization-hypervisor providers heats up.

Why? Because VMware is starting to wheel and deal like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems.

VMware wants to keep its dominant position in server virtualization, and to that end announced Monday a promotional program that guarantees that VMware's techies will cut x64 server costs in half or the professional services used to deploy VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 software stack will be free.

The Guarantee Promotional Program is clever in that VMware is compelling customers to sign up for a services engagement, deploy its virtualization software, and then if server costs don't fall by 50 per cent or more, they get the services for free.

VMware is not, you will notice, offering any discounts on the VI3 software stack. Which seems a bit odd given that the vSphere stack - what we would normally think of as the VI4 tools, including the ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor and its related management tools and add-ons - will be launched on April 21.

I think it's highly unlikely that VMware actually expects companies to deploy the VI3 tools when much better (and presumably more aggressively priced) software is only weeks away. It is likely that the server-cost guarantee will continue long past the vSphere launch - but the VMware site says that the deal only runs from April 8 through June 30. This is the kind of deal that a vendor can - and often does - extend even as a new generation of products comes out.

Especially when the economy is rotten.

VMware is not letting just anyone take advantage of this deal. First, you have to want to virtualize between 200 and 750 physical servers, and they have to be located in the United States. Then you have to commit to buy a bunch of services from VMware.

The first of these is the Operational Readiness Accelerator Service, which is an overall analysis of the business and IT environment. Then you have to buy a service called Jumpstart with Physical to Virtual Migrations, which does a few physical-to-virtual conversions at your site to give you some hands-on experience. Then you have to shell out some cash for a Virtualization Assessment, which takes a look at the environment and does an analysis of the expected cost savings from virtualization and consolidation of servers.

Add onto that the Plan and Design for VMware Infrastructure service, which maps out the new architecture for your virtualized servers, and the Configuration/Build service, which does the P2V conversions as laid out in the plan, and then a Wrap Up service to calculate the realized savings from the virtualization project.

VMware did not provide pricing information for these services at press time. But I suspect they're not cheap.

To participate in the deal, customers have to have or acquire servers and storage that are on the VMware VI3 compatibility list, and they have to have host machines with a minimum of four processor cores and 32GB of main memory. That's a fairly hefty piece of x64 iron.

You also have to get VI3 Enterprise 3.5 software licenses, and you cannot disable transparent memory page-sharing settings, which allows VMware to stack up more VMs on a machine than you might otherwise be able to get away with.

To calculate the savings, VMware insists that customers perform a before-and-after configuration in its online TCO Calculator, which we told you about last month and which you can play with here.

It's not clear if the TCO calculator accounts for the cost of any new iron, but it certainly should if it's required. Mileage will certainly vary from shop to shop, but with x86 and x64 server utilization typically very low, even customers needing to buy new iron to virtualize efficiently can show good return on investment if the term is set long enough and operational, power, and cooling costs are tossed in.

The guarantee is open to new and existing customers in the United States. No word on when Europe will get a similar deal, but there is no reason why Europeans shouldn't demand equal treatment from VMware. ®

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