Just a few years ago, server virtualization was strictly for large enterprises. Today, VMware is helping change that perception thanks to its free VMware Server offering. According to the company, VMware Server has been downloaded more than 3 million times since 2006, with more than 70 percent of those downloads going to small and medium-sized businesses.
The latest release, VMware Server 2, is still in beta, but that didn’t stop readers from voting it number one in the virtualization software category of this year’s Datamation Product of the Year awards. Customers say they’re attracted to the product because it gives them a chance to see the benefits of virtualization without committing a lot of financial resources.
Justin Patten, technical analyst at API software, is impressed by what’s he’s seen of the beta so far. “We’ve tried other solutions, but nothing matches the stability and ease of use we get with VMware Server,” he said. “The software has already provided tremendous value to our organization with minimal investment.”
While Server 2 has received some criticism from users who are less than impressed with the new Web-based user interface, the overall response to the product has been very positive. “VMware is the best introduction product for virtualization; it provides the best entry-level experience,” brags Dan Chu, VMware’s Vice President of Emerging Products and Markets. “It also gives organizations which need advanced features, like automatic failover, the ability to move seamlessly onto our flagship product, VMware Infrastructure.”
Enticing customers to purchase VMware Infrastructure is a key part of VMware’s strategy for the Server product. So far the strategy has been fairly successful, as Chu reports that approximately 50 percent of those who evaluate virtualization with VMware Server eventually upgrade to the fee-based product. That has helped make VMware a dominant player in a market that could be worth as much as $11.7 billion by 2011, according to market forecasters at IDC.
What’s driving the increased spending in the virtualization market? First, customers are hearing so much about virtualization that they’re beginning to see it as a necessity. “Four years ago, virtualization was on the leading edge,” says Chu. “Today, in every segment of the market, virtualization is perceived as mainstream and pervasive.”
That’s not to say that the move towards virtualization is based solely on hype. Virtualization offers very tangible benefits in the form of cost reductions and energy savings. According to VMware, virtualizing a single server reduces annual costs an average of $700 and energy usage by 7,000 kWh.
That’s increasingly important for customers who are finding it difficult to get enough power to run their data centers. It also helps companies reduce their carbon footprints and appeal to environmentally conscious stakeholders. In addition, virtualization improves availability and disaster recovery, while easing deployment and maintenance.
Finally, virtualization has also opened up the market for a new software delivery system: virtual appliances. Deploying a virtual appliance is much easier than traditional software deployment, allows for more customization and control than SaaS, and doesn’t involve additional machines to track and maintain like hardware appliances. Currently VMware features more than 700 virtual appliances on its Web site.
While no date has been set, VMware expects to release a GA version of Server 2 sometime this year. The product will continue to be available free of charge.