Why VMware needs to focus on SMBs

The majority of small businesses fail because of a lack of experience, insufficient capital, poor location, poor inventory management, and over-investment in fixed assets.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Thinking of VMware's dominance in server virtualization made me wonder how the company approaches small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and it occurred to me that the focus is really on enterprises. Are SMBs an afterthought for VMware? No, says VMware but yes, say analysts and SMBs. Given that VMware has only begun to focus in this broad area, with any serious effort, in the past year or so, it makes one wonder. My best guess is that VMware has begun to feel pressure from Microsoft and Citrix to make a server virtualization product lineup available that fits better into the SMB market than its standard vSphere products do. It's about time.

The VMware Essentials Plus Kit is one of its new weapons to win the SMB battle:

"VMware vSphere Essentials Plus Kit provides an all-in-one solution for small businesses to virtualize their physical servers and reduce hardware costs while ensuring superior high application availability and data protection. This kit includes six CPU licenses of vSphere Essentials Plus (for three servers with up to two processors each) and one license for vCenter Server Essentials."

VMware vSphere Essentials Plus Kit includes all the benefits of Essentials and:

  • VMware vSphere Storage Appliance for Essentials Plus

  • VMware Data Protection

  • VMware High Availability (HA)

  • VMware vMotion

  • VMware vStorage APIs

  • VMware vShield Zones

  • VMware vShield Endpoint

  • VMware Replication.

You get all this plus three years of Production Support for under $7,500. VMware Production Support is 24x7 for Severity 1 outages.

Admittedly, I've had a few negative things to say about VMware in the past, but I don't care who you are, that's a damn good deal.

And what's more is that you can expand with another package of three at any time. Why three, you ask? Well, if you know anything at all about the vSphere product, you should build your clusters in three server increments for redundancy, maintenance, and balance. Sure, you can add in new hosts one at a time, but if you already own the hardware, why not add the extra capacity for test and development, production standby, or disaster recovery?

And, yes, you could simply purchase VMware's Essentials package, which gives you the following features:

  • VMFS (Virtual Machine File System)

  • 8-way Virtual SMP

  • VMware Hypervisor

  • VMware vStorage Thin Provisioning

  • VMware Update Manager

  • VMware vStorage APIs

  • VMware vCenter Server for Essentials.

But note that vMotion isn't part of that three host package for $560. Spend the extra money for the Essentials Plus package to get the extra features and enhanced support options.

Now, you're probably wondering why I titled this post, "Why VMware needs to focus on SMBs". Good question. The answer is that VMware, the company that started x86 virtualization, lost sight of its most probable customer, the SMB, until recently.

VMware should offer a packaged product complete with hardware, software, support, training, and a support technician's block of time to get an SMB started with VMware's vSphere product line. I call this offering vSphere-in-a-box or VIAB, as in SMB VIABle Virtualization.

It's the turnkey solution that a lot of SMBs would purchase. Gladly. The part that a lot of ivory tower companies don't get is that small businesses often can't hire the expertise they would need to get something like this off the ground. There is a knowledge gap and a budget gap for smaller companies that could benefit from virtualization, but will never make the leap because of the barriers. The VIAB product could do make that difference and then VMware could hand off ongoing support to a local support company or partner.

Everyone wins.

And when that small company grows, whose products are they going to purchase again and again? A new one with a new learning curve and the mess of migration? No. They're going to choose VMware.

VMware needs to not only create a product offering and price point that's palatable to SMBs, but a full-service offering as well. SMB owners will look at the $7,500 price tag and pass it by because they see a product that is non-trivial to set up, manage, and maintain. They see the $7,500 as $7,500 plus the cost of hiring someone to take care of the hardware, VMware, operating systems and services as too cumbersome and too expensive.

Let me put this in plain English for you: You gotta make it easy for 'em. Is that clear enough? SMBs have to focus on doing their business, making a profit and building a future. If those SMBs aren't in the IT business, IT is a complex overhead and an ongoing headache for them.

The bottom line here is that you have to feel the pain of what it means to run a company that falls into the SMB range. And believe it or not, most of them do. It's a huge market and it's a very lucrative one, but you have to make it easy for them. And they're willing to pay a bit more for a painless experience.

Think about it.

No, really think about it.

VMware needs the SMB market. SMBs need VMware. Sure, there are the various free software options out there, but can you take them seriously for production? Maybe you could if you had the expertise to set up, maintain, and manage them for yourself.

What about Microsoft? Hyper-V is a great product. Microsoft offers it virtually (pun intended?) free of charge, but Microsoft is a software* company. It's doing exactly what VMware is doing — tossing out a product for you to purchase, but no turnkey solution for it. And no, strictly speaking, VMware isn't just a software company. They're owned by EMC. Think about the implications of VIAB that comes complete with storage, too. Now that's a VIABle product.

Puns aside, it's time for VMware to focus on the large and ever-expanding SMB market with a turnkey solution. Enough DIY already. Give me a solution that's running and ready for my business without the painful learning curve.

If you want to build a better mousetrap, you have to think like a mouse.

What do you think of VMware's SMB product offerings? Too little, too late, or just the right mix of DIY and SMB "Git 'er done" mentality to meet the need? Talk back and let me know.

*Xbox and Surface don't count for this discussion.

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