Virtual Iron Launches Channel Program For Xen Platform


Channel One is being targeted at a core group of channel partners -- including VARs, system integrators and consulting firms -- in each region to sell and service the Virtual Iron platform, due for general availability in early October.

Virtual Iron plans a 100 percent channel model and has lined up a number of partners in North America, Europe and Asia, including Akibia, Foedus, Enterico, LogicsOne and Continental Resources. The Lowell, Mass.-based software vendor will provide professional support to customers but not professional services, and it may allow VARs to offer level one, level two and level three support, company executives said.

"In this world of virtualization, market coverage though the channel will be absolutely critical," said Mike Grandinetti, vice president and chief marketing officer at Virtual Iron. "It's the fundamentally best way to go to market."

The Virtual Iron platform, which is in final beta testing at 20 companies, offers advanced virtualization and policy-based management for the open-source Xen hypervisor. The platform also features support for hardware-assisted virtualization in Intel and Advanced Micro Devices chips, unmodified 32-bit and 64-bit Linux and Windows operating systems and applications, symmetric multiprocessing-based systems and very large memory (96 Gbytes).

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In the core virtualization arena, Virtual Iron will compete against other proprietary virtualization vendors, such as VMware and Microsoft. Virtual Iron also is trying to position itself as a high-end provider of virtual infrastructure management software for the data center, similar to VMware's VirtualCenter.

On the Xen front, Virtual Iron will compete against XenSource, a commercial spinoff of the open-source Xen project, which also is launching its first product next month. Virtual Iron, too, will take on Novell and Red Hat, which have incorporated the Xen hypervisor in their Linux distributions.

Solution providers say Virtual Iron will be a strong contender out of the gate because of its business model and robust technology. Ken Simon, vice president of sales at Enterico, a Bedford, Mass.-based IBM partner and division of Continental Resources, said Virtual Iron is a good choice because of its channel model, low cost of entry and technology. Xen is a key focus of IBM's virtualization strategy and is more cost-effective than proprietary solutions, he added.

"All of the Virtual Iron products and services go through the channel. So there will be no channel conflict, and there is also a low cost of entry to the program, which allows us to certify consultants and get training and materials without making a big up-front investment," Simon said. "There is a lot of interest in virtualization and Xen-based solutions out there right now, and we think Virtual Iron has the best one by far."

Akibia is implementing Virtual Iron's beta code in customer pilots and other noncritical infrastructure deployments, said Ken Mclaurin, senior marketing manager of open source and virtualization at the Westborough, Mass.-based data center services firm. The company will be comfortable recommending the platform for critical infrastructure once it ships, provided that it delivers on its promise, he added.

Virtual Iron has repositioned itself a number of times as the virtualization market has evolved, and the vendor must carve out a niche in the Xen market rather than try to wear many hats, said Stephen Elliot, an analyst at research firm IDC.

"They changed their model a couple of times, first as a provider of management of virtual infrastructure and multiple virtual machines across heterogeneous environments and then [they] had their own hypervisor and switched to Xen," he said.

But there's plenty of room for many vendors, with the virtualization software market now estimated at $50 million to $100 million this year and growing 20 percent annually, according to Elliot. Virtual Iron will go up against the likes of VMware and enterprise management players such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM in the management space, so it must define its core capabilities, he said.

"Whenever I hear data center virtualization, it's treading on multiple silos -- server, storage, network, application, desktop -- and that's a really a broad message that currently none of the leading vendors can deliver," Elliot said. "You don't want to be a jack-of-all-trades. You want to build expertise and credibility."