VMware is taking steps to stay ahead of the pack with a free version of it next generation GSX server product, called its VMware Server. Stephen Shankland scooped it yesterday. It's a good example of Sun's Jonathan Schwartz's mantra: "There's value in volume, even if you're not paid for it." In this case free does not equal open source. The company has already had success with a free VMware Player, which run virtual machines from VMware and others. Since it was introduced in December last year, the Player has had more than one million installs, with 70 percent coming from new users, according to the company.
The free VMware server edition (available Monday in beta) seeds the market and addresses competitors who are entering the market with virtualization software, such as the free and open-source Xen. VMware profits when the free users discover the virtues of the software and upgrade to the the company's virtual infrastructure, which clocks in at $5,000 per dual-processor server. Customers could also choose to pay VMware for support on the free server.
I talked to VMware President Diane Greene about the features in the new GSX server. "It's not a crippled version. VMware Server includes 64-bit and Intel Virtualization Technology support. It's our our next-generation version, with VirtualSMP and easy installation and VM creation," Greene said. "However, it lacks a hypervisor and bare metal architecture, which you need to virtualize an enterprise for scalability and performance." New versions of VMware's infrastructure--Virtual Center 2.0 and ESX 3.0 are due in the second quarter of this year. New features include four-way SMP support, distributed resource management, built-in cluster management, consolidated agentless backup and improved SCSI and IP storage support, Greene said.
She explained the motive for 'free' as follows: "Virtualization has hit its stride and people know what it is. We don't have to explain it anymore. We are doing it because awareness is great, and it will enable the market to grow faster, as we saw with[VMware] player," she said. "We aren't on that many servers today--only about 10 percent of the x86 server workloads. The free server will allow a lot more people to try it out and understand the benefits of virtualization. I see this as a way to accelerate adoption and for us to set the bar [for virtualization software]." (See David Berlind's take on VMware setting the bar for virtualization and The Register's interview with Greene.)
With Microsoft looming, likely to bundle or give substantial price breaks for virtualization with its server software, and a vast untapped market pegged at $15 billion by 2009 (IDC) VMware Server is both free and strategic...