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VMware Go promoted to Pro

More features, fee for VM control freakery

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Server hypervisor juggernaut VMware is known for charging a hefty premium for its virtualization and related management tools, but its ESXi hypervisor has been free for years and for a year it has been shipping a tool called VMware Go to manage its freebie hypervisors. These moves were reactions to Microsoft entering the market with Hyper-V, and Citrix System giving away its own XenServer, and have allowed VMware to build a large base of customers using cut-down versions of its hyper wares for zip, zilch, nadda.

But now VMware wants to get a little money out of them, and is turning once again to partner Shavlik Technologies to boost the capabilities of the online VMware Go control freak for managing and patching hypervisors, VMs, and their software stacks.

The kicker product from the pair is VMware Go Pro, which activates a deeper level of functionality on the management tool that was (surprise surprise) already coded into the Go tool from the get-go.

The original VMware Go tool was in beta in August 2009 and shipped in January 2010. It was aimed at small and medium businesses who did not have a lot of budget for server virtualization projects and who nonetheless wanted tools to help them manage ESXi, the embedded version of VMware's ESX Server bare-metal hypervisor.

Knowing that it could not get money out of most customers who were looking at ESX, Hyper-V, and XenServer, VMware punted the Go tool to get them started and, more importantly, to get them used to the VMware way of virtualizing servers and be a loss-leader for the vSphere stack. In June 2010, the Go service, which is hosted at Shavlik's data centers and has no local component running on customers' infrastructure, was updated

As it turns out, VMware Go is arguably the most popular product in the company's history, with more than 100,000 users in a year, according to Manoj Jayadevan, director of emerging business and products at VMware. By contrast, VMware has in excess of 170,000 paying customers and it took more than a decade to get there. (The freemium approach is arguably as good at marketing software as is the open source/fee support model, even if it is for many politically less appealing.) That said, the base of VMware Go users has not changed since last June, when VMware was saying that about 10,000 users a week sign up for ESXi and about 2,000 of those use the Go service to manage their VMs on the ESXi instances. At the time, VMware was bragging about having 100,000 Go customers.

Those using VMware Go can upgrade to the VMware Go Pro edition to get more features and functions across all aspects of the tool. For instance, in the basic Go, you can scan VMs for the patches that need to be applied to a VM, but in the Go Pro edition, you do the scan and it actually does the patching. In the Go version, you can scan your pools of ESXi servers to see what software assets you have running on them, but with the Go Pro release, you can actually manage the software licenses on the virtual machines. The Go Pro release of the tool has a help desk ticketing system built in as well.

VMware Go Pro costs $59.95 per month, but until June, VMware is selling it for only $29.95 per month. While the earlier Go tool could managed VMware Server (the hosted hypervisor formerly known as GSX Server) as well as ESX 3.5 and 4.0 hypervisors, Go Pro only works with VMware Server and ESXi 4.0 and 4.1.

Oh, and just to confuse things, somewhere along the way, VMware has changed the name of ESXi to VMware Hypervisor and going forward beyond ESX Server 4.1, there is no plain vanilla ESX Server hypervisor with the embedded console. Going forward, there is only the ESXi embedded hypervisor for all customers, and VMware will be trying to convince everyone to call it VMware Hypervisor.

If you want to buy support for ESXi, VMware will sell it to you for $495 per year or $299 for per-incident. ®

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