VMware faces increasing pressure on pricing

Like it or not, money is becoming a more important part of the decision-making process in the virtualisation market.

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A number of you have reminded me that, even at a fraction of the cost of a similar VMware setup, virtual infrastructures built on Microsoft's Hyper-V can be a lot more expensive than they look.

The consensus of VMware users is that it only makes sense to pay $28 (£15) per server for a hypervisor (plus the cost of Windows Server 2008 and all the upgrades, training, patches and add-ons required to make it run effectively in a data centre, rather than in an email server closet) for a standalone branch-office installation or test/development environment.

And they see the same amount as sensible for a company whose virtual infrastructures are going to be so simple that they don't need sophisticated management, configuration or automation.

And, yes, the depth, track record and capabilities of VMware's live migration, disaster recovery and other automation and management tools make VMware the clear favourite from a technical point of view, according to most of the analysts and all the VMware users I speak to.

The basic VI3 Foundation costs $995 (£536) per dual-CPU server; Standard Edition goes for $2,995 (£1,613) with Virtual Centre and Consolidated Backup; Enterprise lists for $5,750 (£3,098) complete with Distributed Power Manager, VMware High Availability, VMotion, Storage VMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduler.

Even somewhat fringe products like VMware's Lab Manager deliver so much oomph that, you'd think, few customers would think twice about Microsoft's virtualisation stuff.

Patrick Benson, senior systems engineer at financial software developer Trading Technologies, says there is no real competition if you compare VMware and Microsoft virtualisation software, but that does not mean he misses comparisons on cost and technical capabilities.

"I'm looking at Microsoft all the time, and testing out their stuff, and I make sure the VMware people know that," says Benson, an IT guy whose cadre of users is made up almost exclusively of programmers and networking geeks (not an audience likely to tolerate weak IT support).

Benson (and his users) love VMware and, more specifically, Lab Manager for the ability to automate the imaging, provisioning and administration of virtual machines. Unlike users at most companies, who ask for additional servers primarily when their workloads spike or when they launch new projects, developers ask for new VMs almost continually, to test minor configuration or coding changes side by side.

"[With Lab Manager] we went from taking 10 or 15 minutes to provision a new server to less than a minute; the developers love that for their testing," Benson says.

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