ESX may be VMware's preferred enterprise virtualization platform, but for users that are still running on VMware Server – formerly GSX Server – the company has developed a management software and support bundle that includes VirtualCenter for VMware Server management server, three VMware Server agents and enterprise support for $1,500.
That represents a savings of 46% over the cost of purchasing the VirtualCenter license and three server agents separately – and that's before figuring in a support subscription. Sold separately, VirtualCenter for VMware Server costs $1,000, plus $400 for every VMware Server agent. A one-year Gold support subscription for VMware Server starts at $350 per year per two-processor system, and $450 for Platinum.
VirtualCenter for VMware Server provides two main functions: centralized monitoring and provisioning of virtual machines (VMs). It also includes VMware's new physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration tool, VMware Converter, which IT administrators can use to non-disruptively migrate Windows servers into VMware's virtual machine (VM) format.
VMware followed Microsoft's footsteps and made VMware Server free last summer. Since then, it's been downloaded 1.2 million times, said Ben Matheson, VMware director of product management. Demographics show that 70% of the downloads are going to small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), which VMware defines as organizations with 1,000 employees or less, or less than 100 servers.
"There's a belief out there that virtualization is an enterprise technology, but we believe it's useful to companies of all sizes," Matheson said.
The virtualization light
John Dolan oversees the IT operations at Perimeter Church in Duluth, Georgia, a parish that counts about 6,000 members, has 250 full-time staffers and runs a full elementary school. Recently, Perimeter moved its 19 servers on to three IBM two-way dual core xSeries servers running ESX.
"For us, the main advantage we saw [with ESX] was that our IT needs were increasing," said Dolan. "The resources we had to run them were not."
Occasionally, Perimeter also uses VMware Server to run applications that require USB support. For example, the church's air conditioning system runs on a server licensed by a USB dongle. As a hosted platform running on top of Windows or Linux, VMware Server supports a more complete range of hardware than ESX can, Dolan explained.
Dolan also heads up IT consulting firm Viant Soluations and regularly recommends VMware Server to the small and medium sized companies he consults with.
"You figure if a company has eight or 10 servers, they can consolidate all those systems on one box, and that gives them the ability to invest in a more robust, redundant system than they would otherwise," he said.
For price-sensitive customers, the $1500 VirtualCenter bundle may seem like a lot, but Dolan would still encourage them to buy it. "VirtualCenter provides a nice migration path to ESX. They can spend a couple of years getting used to virtualization. $1500 may seem a bit high, but when you consider that you don't have to buy as many servers, it becomes more compelling," he said.
Strong SMB focus
VMware is using the free VMware Server to spread its technology to mainstream IT departments, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, an analyst firm in Hayward, Calif.
"They're making a very concerted effort to meet the needs of smaller businesses," he said, as evidenced by the "heightened ease-of-use" that VMware has built in to VirtualCenter for VMware Server, as compared with the version that manages ESX hosts.
"VMware Server is a great piece of experimental software, either for companies that haven't figured out whether they're interested in virtualization, or for companies that have figured it out but that have very modest needs," said King. "This bundle is for customers that have it figured out."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Alex Barrett, News Director.