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VMware adds to virtualization suite for SMBs, VARs give mixed reviews

VMware's new downloadable software bundle includes a management console and support plan targeted at SMBs, but even with its lower price VARs doubt they can make it pay.

VMware Inc., is pushing ahead with plans to expand its small to midsized business (SMB) presence by introducing a downloadable software bundle that enhances its virtualization offering.

Today, the company announced a $1,500 bundle that includes VirtualCenter -- an enhanced management tool for the free version of VMware Server -- agents to manage three physical servers and an enterprise-class 30-day support plan.

The package, which will be available this week, is designed to extend the appeal of the free VMware Server that VMware released last July. The product has been downloaded 1.2 million times since then; 70% of downloaders identified themselves as working for SMBs, company officials said.

VMware Server runs on a Windows or Linux server and hosts a limited number of virtual servers that run Windows, Linux or Solaris. The higher-end VMware ESX Server and VMware VirtualCenter don't need to run on top of another operating system.

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According to Ben Matheson, director of product management at VMware, the bundle does not offer high-end functionality, but does let users provision virtual servers and manage both virtual and physical servers from a central point.

"Once a company has 18 or 20 physical servers they may combine those and consolidate them down to three physical server hosts," Matheson said. "We think buying Virtual Center for the VMware Server at $1,500 is a great management tool to actually manage those new three physical hosts," said Matheson.

While VMware executives said customers can download the product, they also said the bundle can purchase through the channel.

Some value-added reseller (VARs) are skeptical that they can sell it, however.

"I'm not sure how much money I can make from the bundle," said Francis Poeta, president, P & M Computers, Inc., a Cliffside Park, N.J.-based systems integrator.

The bundle is very easy to install, making it more likely that IT managers will handle the deployment themselves rather than call in technical experts, Poeta said.

Chandran Rajaratnam, senior vice president, of operations at ASAP Software, Buffalo Grove, Ill., said VARs should look at the overall picture. ASAP, along with VMware has been testing the VMware VirtualCenter for VMware Server with their customers for several months.

"If you are talking about VARs providing on-site services, this in itself might not generate a whole bunch of money for them," Rajaratnam said. "But customers heading down the virtualization path opens up the opportunity for a whole bunch of value-added services in a virtualization environment."

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