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VMware overhauls lineup

New products put company ahead in virtualization, says company exec

Set on becoming the default choice of customers in the virtualization market, VMware has introduced its third generation infrastructure software bundle, packaged and priced at levels the company says will be alluring to companies of all sizes.

The Palo Alto, Calif.- based EMC subsidiary has worked over two years, to update its core virtualization software, its management console and develop a whole new set of capabilities according to Brian Byun, VMware’s vice-president of products and alliances. The result is a line that “distances us from anything in the market.”

“There’s the capability for the software to know that a database server needs more CPU and capacity,” he said. “Automatically the software is smart enough to load balance and move work loads around. That’s part of the automation we’re introducing.”

VMware Infrastructure 3 enables systems infrastructure capabilities for entire farms of servers and storage, independent of the application and operating system workloads and of the underlying hardware.

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The package includes the new ESX Server 3 software along with fresh versions of existing management products such as VMotion, VirtualCenter 2, Virtual SMP, and Resource Pools. VMware has also added four new products to bundle as well with its VMFS file system, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), High Availability product and Consolidated Backup software.

The VMware Infrastructure Starter, priced at US$1,000 per two processors, is designed for easy adoption in small and medium businesses as well as branch and distributed locations within companies. The package includes ESX Server with local or NAS storage and full management capabilities through the included VirtualCenter management agent.

“This lets them (VMware) get ESX servers into accounts that looked before but felt it was too pricey,” said Gordon Haff, research analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata.

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Haff added that the company’s new bundling model will also enable virtualization to become more pervasive in enterprise and data centres.

“The idea here is that enterprises will start deploying base level packages where they don’t see as big a need and then build up over time after they use them a bit more,” said Haff. “It shifts the selling more towards the general level of capability you need as opposed to whether you need this specific function or that one.”

Infrastructure Standard is for companies consolidating department-level environments and costs US$3,750 per two processors and Infrastructure Enterprise, aimed at large companies, sells for US$5,750 per two processors.

All three editions will be available later this month.

According to Stephen Elliot, research director at IDC, VMware’s key areas of focus around high availability, disaster recovery and management will improve scalability, availability and provide more assurances to take virtual infrastructure into production.

“What VMware is really smart about is creating a culture of innovation,” said Elliot. “They realize that there will be commodity pricing on some of their capabilities so the value comes from additional add-ons, additional levels of virtualization, management and partner support.”

It’s all about channel distribution, channel support and creating a partner base culture, said Elliot. “They’ll need to continue to scale that and adjust the model as they get more entrenched with large enterprises.”

VMware has just over 100 channel partners in Canada, including NexInnovations, Metafore and Xwave. The company, however, is not aggressively recruiting partners right now, said Grant Aitken, VMware’s Canada country manager.

“We’re selectively adding partners if we see a deficiency from a geography perspective or a particular skill set in an area where we think will be a complement to us,” said Aitken.

“We’re growing at a pace from a channel perspective that fits our need as the business requires.”

Aitken said that a key challenge VMware is facing in the area of growth is the lack of skill sets in customers, a situation, he added, that actually creates an opportunity for channel partners.

In the last 12 months, VMware has increased its Canadian employee base with the addition of a new support call centre in Burlington, Ont. “It gives us more feet on the street, bodies on the phone and the ability to reach more with our direct message,” said Aitken. “Our channel partners are an extension of us and so our ability to spend more time with them, train them, get them competent on the technology helps everybody.”

From a global channel strategy perspective, said Byun, VMware looks for VARs focused on a specific domain like Lotus, SAP or storage to combine that specialty with virtualization. “The ones that are most successful can bring in design and service expertise into their environment. Those are the highest value VARs,” said Byun.

In terms of platform propagation, “VMware is doing a heck of a job,” said IDC’s Elliot. “The question is how far can they take it before Microsoft starts to put the bullets in the holster.”

For now, Byun said his company feels Microsoft is not a threat. “We think in about two years, they’ll get to where we were in generation 1.5,” he said.