VM6 Intros Technology, Channel Program For SMB Hyper-V Deployments

Former integrator turned software developer VM6 Software next week plans to unveil a new version of its VM6 VMex technology for helping SMBs add low-cost services on top of Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization software.

The new version of VMex eliminates the need for a SAN, shared storage, or high-performance networking when using Hyper-V, said Eric Courville, COO and founder of the Toronto-based company.

VMex is targeted at SMB customers, or at remote or satellite offices, where clients may have tried free versions of virtualization software such as Hyper-V, which is included with every copy of Microsoft's Windows Server 2008, or VMware's ESXi, Courville said.

"They may have played with the free versions, but they want the same benefits as the full versions including fast deployment, backups, and high availability," he said.

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To get those benefits with Microsoft or VMware, a customer traditionally would require two servers for high availability, plus a third server to handle the management, Courville said. They would also need at least one SAN to handle the storage, or two SANs for storage replication, he said.

With VMex, all that is condensed into a single software package which can be run on any two x86-based servers with Windows Server 2008, each with four network interface cards, Courville said. The two servers are connected together over a network, and leverage Microsoft's Hyper-V to virtualize their internal disks to create a virtual SAN with performance similar to that of Dell's EqualLogic appliances, he said.

Such a deployment provides a virtual SAN using only the two servers, as well a full active-active clustering, a single management console, and the ability to add virtual desktop technology, he said.

VM6 decided to focus its technology on the Hyper-V virtualization platform because it is included with Windows Server 2008, Courville said.

"SMBs don't care what's under the hood, VMware or Microsoft," he said. "But that's not to say we won't go back to working with VMware someday."

Next: Aiming For The SMB Channel

For Novacc Technology, a Toronto-based solution provider which signed with VM6 about eight months ago, VMex makes Microsoft's Hyper-V the best alternative to VMware in the SMB market.

Novacc got half-way through the VMware certification process, but then felt that it was not suitable for its SMB customers, said Brian Cruickshank, president of the solution provider.

With VMex, customers can take advantage of the Hyper-V kernel within Windows Server 2008.

"If a customer is putting in a new server, they'll use Windows Server 2008, which already has native virtualization built-in," he said. "But Microsoft, as it usually does, splits up the virtualization management part into several components. That makes it hard for customers who don't know what components they need or how to deploy them."

VMex makes it easy, Cruickshank said. "When you can show a small business customer a single console that can manage their virtual machines and their storage, it's easier for them to grasp."

VMex is much less expensive than VMware or a full-blown Hyper-V implementation, and provides high availability, Cruickshank said. Its active-active clustering capability is also very important, he said.

"When we have to react to a failed server, we used to have to move applications to the failover server," he said. "VMex does this automatically, giving us a better chance to respond to customer's problems."

VM6 originally started out as a VMware system integrator partner. However, as it moved into the SMB market, it realized that VMware could be very expensive for smaller customers, Courville said.

Eventually it developed VMex, sold its consulting business, got $4 million in outside investment, and became an independent software vendor, he said.

However, Courville said, VM6 never forgot its channel roots. The company recently developed a formal channel partner in order to provide the resources including a partner portal and a deal-registration program in order recruit a wider range of partners.

The company's formal channel program will be presented to solution providers at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, which is being held from July 11-15 in Washington, D.C.