Virtual Iron Partners With HP, Intel, Arrow


Virtual Iron is pumping up its channel program and software platform as it fights for a slot in the hotly contested virtualization software market.

The Lowell, Mass.-based company, one of several virtualization ISVs taking on market leader VMware, this week said it has signed Hewlett-Packard as an authorized reseller, joined Intel's Enabled Server Acceleration Alliance (ESAA) and nailed an OEM agreement with Arrow Electronics.

With the agreements, HP's licensing group and VAR partners can sell Virtual Iron on HP Proliant Servers. Virtual Iron is also in discussions with IBM and Dell, company executives said.

Joining Intel's server alliance will make Virtual Iron's virtualization software -- tested and certified on Intel servers -- available to a vast number of Intel's OEM and channel partners.

And under the pact with Arrow, the distributor's OEM group will offer Virtual Iron's base ESAA solution pre-installed on white-box servers to its North American customers.

Virtual Iron's business is 100 percent channel-driven. Since launching its first Xen platform last April and its Channel One Global Partner program in September, Virtual Iron has signed up more than 100 resellers globally, company executives told CRN.

The company offers substantial sales and marketing support, on-site sales and technical training, joint marketing and lead generation, lead registration and qualified lead distribution, pre- and post-sales technical support, evaluation software and dedicated account support.

Virtual Iron positions its platform as the most viable, affordable Xen contender against VMware in the enterprise data center virtualization market. The company claims it has all of the "relevant" management capabilities of VMware's ESX at roughly one-fifth the price, except for hot backup of virtual servers and physical-to-virtual (P-to-V) migration capabilities.

To fill those gaps, Virtual Iron partners with ISVs such as Visioncore and PlateSpin, said Mike Grandinetti, chief marketing officer at Virtual Iron.

The platform costs $499 per socket. A two-socket implementation costs about $1,000, whereas a comparable VMware ESX solution would be priced at about $5,900, according to Virtual Iron executives.

The company also maintains that its platform offers advanced virtualization and policy management capabilities that its Xen rivals don't offer, as well as large memory support (up to 96 Gbytes) and large SMP capabilities. For example, platform supports up to eight simultaneous processors per virtual server and can virtualize servers with as many as 32 CPUs.

Version 3.5, introduced last month, adds support for iSCSI storage, single server installation and support for LDAP.

iSCSI support makes it easier for customers to deploy shared storage solutions and use current virtualization services in the platform, such as LiveMigration, LiveRecovery, LiveCapacity and LiveMaintenance, according to the company.

Several Virtual Iron resellers said the vendor gives them a less costly and feature-rich Xen solution to pitch to enterprise and midmarket customers. XenSource, a spinoff of the open-source Xen project, also sells a platform called XenEnterprise.

"There is definitely strong demand for an alternative to VMware. Customers don't like paying high prices, and they don't like being limited in their options," said Dermot Reynolds, managing director at NewDatum, a U.K.-based virtualization consultancy.

"There are currently some gaps in functionality in XenSource products that have been in Virtual Iron since day one," Reynolds added. "From a management and performance point of view, Virtual Iron has a pretty big lead."

Virtual Iron and VMware are the only two companies that offer enterprise-class virtualization, and Virtual Iron's pricing is more compelling, said Aaron Schneider, director of sales engineering at The Pinnacle Group, Carlsbad, Calif.

"Virtual Iron's software license is currently about 20 percent of the cost of a VMware license. This helps position a customer's budget to be better-utilized in other areas needed to implement and support a virtualized computing environment," Schneider said. "For example, 10 sockets of Virtual Iron with Platinum support will cost $6,250 vs. 10 sockets of VMware VI3 Enterprise, which with Platinum support will cost $35,925."