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VMware in Desktop Virtualization Refresh

VMware Monday said it has significantly refreshed its desktop virtualization software -- and slashed its price by more than $100 -- as a result of the success of its enterprise server products.

VMware Product Marketing Manager Peter Giordano said VMware Workstation 4.5 is geared for developers and administrators who want to provision multiple instances of an operating system on a desktop, often to test them before moving them back to a server. Users can develop and test server applications running Microsoft Windows, Linux or Novell NetWare.

To ease the upgrade path and lure customers testing the basic Workstation to its high-end products Giordano said virtual machines created in Workstation can be deployed to the Palo Alto, Calif. EMC division's GSX Server platform and the ESX Server for data centers.

Virtualization software is attractive at a time when enterprise are looking to cut costs, because they allow users to provision multiple instances of an operating system, or "virtual machine" on one server. The idea is to reduce the number of servers, or in the case of Workstation, personal computers necessary for completing tasks.

Workstation is also offering "experimental" support for the forthcoming Windows Longhorn operating system, with which users can install and run beta versions, as well as integration with Windows Performance Monitor to track virtual machine performance.

Giordano said VMware has a history of supporting "the latest and greatest operating systems" and supported the Windows XP beta before the product was generally available.

Another heretofore unavailable feature in 4.5 is support for pre-boot execution environment (PXE) to boot and install operating systems into new virtual machines over an enterprise network. Other perks include support for guests using virtual machines that run experimental Linux 2.6 kernels.

Workstation currently has more than two million users, including Mass Mutual, which Giordano said uses the product to test patches and service packs before roll-outs. In an example of how Workstation is a kind of launch pad for the company's virtual servers, the company also uses GSX and ESX servers from VMware.

"They're taking advantage of the portability of a virtual machine across our products," Giordano said. "Their IT guys are able to pull down a virtual machine from a server, tweak it in Workstation, and then move that same virtual machine back up to the server."

Giordano said Workstation has done well, partially due to the popularity of ESX and GSX, that VMware has chopped the cost of the product from $299 to $189. VMware Workstation 4.5 is available now for Windows and Linux operating systems.