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VMware sneaks out free Alive VM virtualization management software

Virtualization management software VMware acquired in August is being offered as a promotion with new purchases of enterprise vSphere licenses made after Nov. 23, leaving some users feeling left out.

VMware is giving away licenses to Alive VM, the virtualization management software it acquired from Integrien in August. But while users welcome the promotion, its success is by no means ensured, say users who have had previous dealings with the product.

We always seem to learn about [VMware's] promotions from the news.

Rob Zelinka,
director of infrastructure for a transportation asset management company

Customers who purchase new vSphere licenses at the Standard level and up between Nov. 23, 2010, and March 1, 2011, can now receive a free 50-virtual machine license and one year's Basic support for Alive VM, which provides real-time analytics and root-cause analysis of virtualized environments.

Some VMware shops welcomed the news but wondered how effective the early version of the tool will be. Other enterprise IT pros were frustrated to learn about the promotion shortly after having bought new licenses.

How will Alive VM stack up?
Virtualization management is still maturing, and enterprises are continually evaluating the latest tools for growing virtualization environments, even if they already have tools in place.

Terry McMillan, an infrastructure systems analyst at a large utility in Canada, uses VKernel for virtualization management, but says he plans to at least evaluate VMware's offering. "I just like to keep up … and the price is right," he said. "It's also not a bad idea to have more than one product to verify findings, as long as it can be done relatively inexpensively."

The competition isn't standing still in this space, either. For example, Quest Software recently added key elements of Integrien Alive VM -- real-time analytics and automated root-cause analysis -- to vFoglight 6.5. "VMware is definitely trying to be more competitive with the new platforms out there," said IDC analyst Gary Chen. "I don't think they're feeling tons of pressure yet, but further down the road, these companies could pose a threat."

Still, some users say they're not sure how useful Integrien's tool can be given the integration process with VMware. "I think the product is going to be in a big state of transition now, so I'd wait to see what [the end result] is going to be," said Eric Siebert, a systems administrator for Boston Market. "[With] other acquisitions, such as vShield Zones, the product became much more useful after VMware took the time to properly integrate it with vCenter Server."

Others wonder what kind of upgrade path to a production version of Alive VM will be available after the first year. According to the fine print on the Alive VM promotion, a support upgrade from Basic (12/5) support to Production (24/7) will not be available for the promotional license -- instead, about 90 days prior to the expiration of the promotional contract, users "will receive a quote to renew at the then-current list prices."

Adam Baum, an IT architect at the city of Mesa, Ariz., said he's currently evaluating monitoring tools from Hyper9 and VKernel, and is wary of what would happen when the free trial period for Alive VM ends. "Is my 'free product' going to cost $20,000 a year next November?" he said.

Promotion too little, too late?
Given the growing interest in virtualization management, the Alive VM giveaway is timely -- but not quite timely enough for some users who say they learned of this freebie only after recent virtualization license purchases.

City of Mesa's Baum, for example, said he missed the promotional period by about two weeks, having purchased a number of new licenses in the first week of November.

Another user, Rob Zelinka, the director of infrastructure for a transportation asset management company in the Midwest that signed a six-figure deal for new vSphere licenses earlier this year, said this wasn't the first time he learned of a promotion through public sources rather than during licensing negotiations.

"We would love to try out real-time analysis; it's actually really important to us," Zelinka said. "But we always seem to learn about [VMware's] promotions from the news."

Independent of the promotion, Kent Altena, a technical engineer at FBL Financial Group Inc. in West Des Moines, Iowa, said he has all but given up on Integrien. He is evaluating virtualization monitoring products from VKernel and Hyper9. "Given that [VMware hasn't] been able to cough up a demo, they may be excluded from the bake-off," he said. Further, preliminary quotes he received from VMware for the Integrien product were way out of whack with the competition. Quotes from VKernel and Hyper9 for Altena's environment were competitive with one another, in the $70,000-to-$80,000 range, but VMware's initial quote for Integrien was $480,000, or seven times as much.

"It's all nice and well for them to have these products, but not if they're not going to price them in the same ballpark as everybody else," Altena said.

Integrien was also beaten out in some enterprise deals before VMware even bought them. For example, one anonymous VMware user with tens of thousands of virtual machines said he'd struggled with the customization required by Integrien's tool to create multi-variable metrics. Instead, the shop went with Netuitive, which the user said didn't require as much customization.

"The heat chart visualization was something we really liked about Integrien's product," he said. "But it would've been orders of magnitude more expensive to operate."

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

Alex Barrett contributed to this report.

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