With Tuesday's unveiling of its new vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), VMware is courting small and medium businesses that have remained on the virtualization sidelines due to the cost and complexity of deploying shared storage hardware.
Shared storage hardware is commonplace in larger organizations, but smaller ones typically can't justify the expense. But shared storage is required for many core virtualization features, including VMware VMotion and high availability, and this has inhibited adoption of virtualization in the SMB segment.
VSA is aimed at SMBs that either don’t have the budget to buy shared storage hardware or lack the skills to manage a more complex storage environment, said Edward Hsu, group manager of product marketing at VMware, in an interview.
"With VSA installed, they're able to use VMotion, data recovery, and all the features they need for business continuity and improved utilization that previously weren't accessible to them," Hsu said.
VMware has previously addressed the SMB space with vSphere Essentials Plus, an offering that allows organizations to virtualize up to three physical servers.
In a typical vSphere Essentials environment, an organization's shared storage, hosts and virtual machines are all managed by vCenter. With VSA, VMware is taking the drives in each of these servers and enabling them to talk to each other in a way that mimics this functionality, said Tim Stephan, senior director of product marketing at VMware.
VMware will begin selling VSA in late Q3, and as a standalone product it's priced at $5,995. VMware will also offer a limited-time promotional bundle of vSphere 5 Essentials Plus and the vSphere Storage Appliance for $7,995.
"We see Essentials Plus as the main sale. So for the channel, the transactional sale will be a single SKU," said Stephan.
VSA is also a way for customers to graduate to a shared storage environment down the road, according to Stephan. "Having VSA work with our storage VMotion feature was something we made sure was baked into the product. So is an SMB's business grows and they need more capacity, they add shared storage hardware and migrate the virtual machine and all their data," he said.
With VSA, an SMB organization could use internal storage in their existing servers and have it work like a storage area network (SAN), says Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider. "It's an interesting angle, but they’re going to be competing with companies that want to sell SAN into that space," he said.
Stephan acknowledges that in the past, VMware's SMB's strategy has involved taking enterprise offerings and pricing and packaging them for smaller organizations. However, the same can't be said of VSA, which is built from the ground up to get SMBs to try virtualization, Stephan said.
"We are continuing to focus on SMBs, it's an important segment for us, and you'll see more packages created to meet the needs of that customer base, which we see as very different from the enterprise," said Stephan.