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Dell branches out from VMware with Virtual Iron

Dell announced last week that it will resell Virtual Iron virtualization software, following similar agreements from IBM and Hewlett Packard.

Virtual Iron Software Inc. of Lowell, Mass., announced last week that it had struck a new worldwide authorized reseller agreement with Dell Inc. to resell its virtualization software.

For more on Virtual Iron:
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Virtual Iron, a lower-cost alternative to VMware Inc., signed similar agreements with Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. in October.

Dell, meanwhile, entered into an OEM agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc., whereby Dell will support and sell the Solaris operating system. That plan gives Dell its first Unix offering, which complements Dell's Windows and Linux strategy, according to Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc.

The historic lack of official vendor support has hurt Virtual Iron's ability to compete against virtualization market leader VMware.

Virtual Iron's software builds on the latest Xen open source hypervisor with advanced virtualization services and automation capabilities such as LiveMigrate, LiveRecovery and LiveCapacity, akin to VMware's VMotion, VMware High Availability and VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler. Virtual Iron software also utilizes hardware-assisted virtualization capabilities from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. for better performance and to run unmodified Windows operating systems.

Too little too late?
Many of Virtual Iron's existing customers already run the software on the Dell Precision and Dell PowerEdge server platforms, the company reported.

But the historic lack of official vendor support has hurt Virtual Iron's ability to compete against virtualization market leader VMware, analysts said. Users look at virtualization platforms that are backed by their preferred vendors, namely HP, IBM, or Dell, so getting support from these companies will help it compete in the market, said Chris Wolf, senior analyst at Midvale, Utah-based research firm Burton Group.

In addition, Virtual Iron still has to gain support in the OS vendor community, Wolf said. "Official support from OS vendors such as Microsoft, Novell Inc., Sun Microsystems and Red Hat Inc. will go far toward enticing prospective customers to take Virtual Iron for a spin," he said.

Virtual Iron runs on the Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 kernel, and Wolf expects Novell to adopt broad support for those applications running on Virtual Iron, though the company does not support the platform yet.

"If Virtual Iron can realize official support from the OSVs [operating system vendors], they have the opportunity to see significantly more sales opportunities in enterprise environments," Wolf said.

But Virtual Iron's inability to successfully market itself against VMware thus far may have done irreparable damage, despite the strength of its product, said virtualization analyst Andrew Kutz.

"Virtual Iron has a good product ... but I think Virtual Iron's time to sail away with success has come and gone," Kutz said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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