VMware Updates Its Free Offering

The new beta of VMware's Server 2 will include expanded support for operating systems, including Microsoft Vista.

VMware wants users to try its virtualization software on the house.

On Nov. 13, VMware will offer the beta version of its VMware Server 2, a free virtualization tool that allows users to partition a single physical server into multiple virtual machines. The software works both within Microsoft Windows and Linux environments.

VMware released the first version of its free software in February 2006, and the company estimates that more than 3 million copies of the software has been downloaded since then. The new beta is available for download Nov. 13 and will become generally available in the first half of 2008.

The new version will offer new support for more operating systems, including Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Ubuntu 7.10. Unlike VMware products, such as the Virtual Infrastructure 3 suite that allows for bare-metal hardware virtualization, the free Server 2 beta runs on top of the operating system.

There are also new management tools, including a Web-based management interface, said Ben Matheson, director of VMwares Small and Medium Business Division.

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While virtualization is one of the most talked about topics in IT today, many companies, especially SMBs (small and midsize businesses), have little or no experience with the technology. A Forrester Research survey of 211 businesses showed that 29 percent had been using virtualization for less than a year, while 23 percent have used virtualization for only a year.

What free software such as VMware Server 2 tries to do is allow companies to experiment with virtualization on a small scale at little or no cost before delving into a more wide-scale deployment within the data center. For VMware, the free software is a way to entice new customers to get used to the software and then upgrade to the companys other offerings, such as VI3. Of the 3 million downloads of the first-generation of VMware Server, Matheson said 70 percent were from SMBs.

"The strategy is to proliferate virtualization in the data center and get users to advance to some of the other offerings we have, like VI3," he said. "We have tried to make its very simple and easy to migrate up to something like VI3."

Other virtualization companies, such as Virtual Iron and XenSource, which has been acquired by Citrix, have also used free downloads of virtualization technology to allow customers to experiment with the technology first before deploying it throughout a business.

In addition to some of the other features, the version will now support up to 8GB of RAM per VM and a up to two virtual SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) processors). The software also supports virtualization technology from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. The chip virtualization allows for better performance for VMs running the virtualization software.

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