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VMware Go ESXi goes live

After five months in beta, VMware Go installation service is ready to automate the installation and configuration of VMware's free ESXi hypervisor.

VMware lifted the curtain on VMware Go on Wednesday. This Software as a Service offering automates the installation and configuration of VMware's free ESXi hypervisor.

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Starting today, IT managers can go to the new VMware Go Web site to sign up for the service, announced at < a href=>VMWorld 2009. Using a Web browser, VMware Go checks for hardware compatibility and downloads an installable ESXi ISO image. VMware Go can also help IT managers convert existing physical servers to virtual machines using the free VMware Converter or point them to preconfigured virtual appliances on its Virtual Appliance Marketplace. Once installed, Go also monitors an ESXi server for updates and patches.

VMware Go's lackluster beta
David Davis, a VMware video training author at Train Signal, used a beta version of VMware Go and said that it features a simple user interface that takes an administrator through the installation process step by step, even going so far as to help administrators burn the ESXi installation CD. At the same time, "I wish it was more user-friendly," Davis said, noting that it installed a lot of browser components to complete.

Indeed, newcomers to virtualization might find VMware Go "kind of lacking and not that easy to use," said Eric Siebert, a system administrator at Boston Market who also used the beta. "There are gaps, especially in the configuration piece," and Go's update management component is only marginally useful, since it only finds missing patches, but doesn't actually apply them," he said. "I hope they've polished it up and added stuff to it, because I couldn't really see recommending it to anyone."

If nothing else, IT administrators that deploy ESXi using VMware Go may benefit from more help from VMware, which may use Go's monitoring capabilities to gain insight into how and what IT shops are doing with their ESXi downloads and provide them with help when they run into trouble.

"To me, that's VMware's ulterior motive -- to help track what people are doing and put them in touch with partners when they're ready to upgrade," Siebert said.

VMware goes after smaller shops
The idea behind VMware Go is to "'onboard' more first-time virtualization users at a faster rate and give them value so they can become VMware customers," said Joe Andrews, VMware's group manager for product marketing.

The service targets small and medium-sized businesses, which VMware defines as organizations with up to 1,000 employees or 100 servers. That segment makes up two-thirds of VMware's paying customers and a significant part of its revenue, Andrews said, "but the adoption rate of SMBs has been below that of large enterprises."

"The thing we've learned talking to SMBs is that ease of use -- especially around initial deployment -- has been a pretty significant barrier to virtualization," Andrews continued.

Andi Mann, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, doesn't disagree with that assessment. According to his data, lack of time and/or staff is the second greatest barrier to virtualization adoption and trails politics but trumps cost.

"SMBs don't have multiple IT people, much less different IT departments," Mann said. "The average SMB has one guy or gal, maybe two, and they're doing everything. … They're overworked and underskilled, and the ability for them to learn anything in depth is difficult."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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