VMware is meeting Microsoft's challenge to its dominance of the server virtualization market with a counterattack plan to offer free downloads of its hypervisor-based server virtualization technology.
Announcing its third-quarter numbers last month, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtualization stalwart said it plans to start offering free downloads of its ESXi server virtualization technology. ESXi, formerly known as VMware ESX Server 3i, is the embedded version of VMware ESX. ESXi has all the functionality of ESX Server, but was shrunk to fit in 32 MB of memory instead of the previous 2 GB in order to let it be embedded on server motherboards.
"We want to make virtualization available to everybody," said VMware's vice president of products and solutions Raghu Raghuram. "So with advances in hardware and now software, we've eliminated any technology hurdles."
Raghuram didn't mention specific competing vendors by name, but VMware is seeing its 80-plus percent share of the server virtualization market challenged by none other than Microsoft. Microsoft's Hyper-V includes Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 operating system at no extra charge, increasing pressure on VMware, whose hypervisor licenses have traditionally cost over $400 each. Other companies, including Citrix Systems Inc. with its XenServer technology, are also in the market with low-cost or no-cost hypervisors.
Rolf Strasheim, director of client solutions at Peak Uptime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider, called VMware's action a brilliant move that will allow it to continue its dominance of the marketplace.
"Why would you buy what you can get free?" Strasheim asked.
With ESXi, customers can manage multiple virtual servers on a single hardware server. However, in order to tie the virtual servers provisioned on multiple hardware servers, customers will require the VMware Infrastructure Suite.
Despite making ESXi available free of charge, VMware is still continuing to develop its VMware Server product, a free version of its server virtualization technology.
Version 2.0 of VMware Server is in beta testing, Raghuram said. "It's for customers who want virtualization that runs on top of Windows or Linux operating systems," he said.