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Microsoft small business specialists get free virtual manager

By giving away Virtual Machine Manager to Small Business Specialist Community partners, Microsoft hopes they will recommend the software to their customers.

Microsoft will attack the server virtualization market from the low end by offering its virtual machine management software to its small business specialist partners for free.

Microsoft will include System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) in April's Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) toolkit update. Many SBSC partners are small, Windows-only shops that cater to small and medium-sized business customers. A lot of those customers are just beginning to enter the server virtualization market, and this offer means less of an uphill climb for Microsoft.

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"There isn't the same competitive advantage that VMware has in the data center," said Dave Sobel, CEO of Microsoft partner Evolve Technologies in Fairfax, Va.

Sobel offers virtualization training to Microsoft small business specialists with a recent focus on SCVMM.

"This isn't a situation where I'm saying 'Switch from VMware to Microsoft,'" he said. "These are sessions where I'm saying 'This is what virtualization is.'"

Virtual Machine Manager is Microsoft's software for managing physical and virtual machines in data centers and other virtual environments. Earlier this month, Microsoft released the beta version of SCVMM 2008 R2.

SCVMM competes with VMware Infrastructure and other virtualization management tools.

By giving away the full, enterprise version -- an $869 value -- Microsoft is planting the seeds for small business specialists to recommend the software to their customers. As these partners use and learn the software, they'll begin to recognize opportunities for their customers, Sobel said.

"These are partners that typically embrace the Microsoft stack," he added. "These are customers that go with what their solutions provider recommends."

Microsoft will also offer specific sales and technical training around SCVMM. The company said it has 17,000 Small Business Specialist Community partners.

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