Virtualisation vendors push for SME market

Large enterprises have long embraced virtualisation to more efficiently manage their IT systems, but now vendors are now targeting the small to medium-sized market.

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Large enterprises have long embraced virtualisation to more efficiently manage their IT systems, but now vendors are now targeting the small to medium-sized market.

VMware is introducing a new low-cost service plan to give small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a taste of what virtualisation can do for them. Its entry-level bundle includes a free download of the VMware Server software for virtualising servers and a $1,500 (£761.94) support plan called Virtual Centre.

Although less than the $5,000 (£2,540) support programme for enterprise customers, the $1,500 (£761.94) plan is limited to three two-socket physical servers that could be converted into multiple virtual servers. If an SMB customer wants to virtualise more servers, the support would cost an extra $400 (£203) for each extra server.

Virtualisation refers to the practice of managing a datacentre holistically to make the best use of the hardware available, reduce the capital cost of new servers and the operational cost of electricity to run them. Virtualization software like VMware Server makes it possible for one server to run multiple software applications at the same time.

VMware sees growth potential in the SME market, given that 70 per cent of 1.2 million downloads of the free VMware Server software since June 2006 have been to SMB customers, said Ben Matheson, vice-president of product management for VMware, a division of storage vendor EMC. He defines small-to-medium enterprises as those with fewer than 1,000 employees or an average of 100 physical servers in their businesses.

“There is a lot of market awareness of the value of virtualisation in the enterprise... but we think it’s useful for all companies,” said Matheson.

He anticipates many of the SMEs downloading the free VMware Server are just taking virtualisation out for a test drive. “There are definitely a lot of trials, getting it into their labs and using things like virtual appliances and testing them. But there is also quite a bit of production use,” he said.

Server vendors have also been making overtures to the SME market.

HP began offering a virtualisation assessment service 1 February to analyse an IT infrastructure to see how it might benefit from virtualisation. The service is being offered through HP’s resellers who typically serve its SME customers, while HP’s own sales and engineering force tends to large enterprise customers.

IBM even calls its initiative a “virtualisation test drive”. IBM launched in 2006 a virtualisation education and sales initiative targeted at SMEs. IBM said that more than 65 per cent of their virtualisation sales are driven by IBM partners targeting SMEs.

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