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VMware Gets SAP's Vote of Confidence

VMware on Tuesday got even more validation for its virtualization software suite, thanks to a deal that will see SAP providing support for all of its business applications running on VMware's ESX Server software.

As a result of the agreement, the German software giant will support its virtualized enterprise resource planning (ERP) software running on VMware and 64-bit Windows, Linux and Solaris platforms.

The two companies said servers from leading manufacturers such as IBM, Dell, HP and Fujitsu-Siemens will also be certified for SAP applications running on VMware.

"We feel like we just climbed Mount Everest," Parag Patel, VMware's vice president of alliances, said in an interview with InternetNews.com. "SAP is one of the most demanding workloads in the enterprise and they don't give out certification and support very easily. If you can virtualize on SAP, you can virtualize on anything."

Along with the sense of reassurance that SAP's stamp of approval brings, the deal may also encourage CIOs and datacenter managers to do more testing in virtualized production environments. They'll also be able to better take advantage of the cost savings virtualization software can deliver by reducing the total number of servers deployed in the datacenter.

VMware engineers will now be on-site at SAP's headquarters in Waldorf, Germany to provide on-going support and development for enterprise customers who are increasingly upgrading from SAP's flagship R/3 ERP system to ERP 6.0.

"It's a good time right now for companies upgrading to ERP 6.0 to virtualize their remaining SAP production applications as part of the upgrade process," Patel said.

Most large companies have held off on virtualizing their mission-critical ERP systems, preferring to start with basic infrastructure applications, low-level applications and some ERP applications in pre-production mode before virtualizing their most important business applications.

"With any new platform, it's not a binary thing where you just flip the switch," Patel said. "Once you have SAP up and running, you don't really want to mess with it."

Having the world's largest business applications vendor green-light its software suite gives VMware a distinct advantage over other virtualization software vendors such as Virtual Iron, Citrix Systems' XenSource and other vendors who are jumping on the virtualization bandwagon.

Patel said Tuesday's announcement comes after more than three years of discourse and testing with SAP engineers.

It's unclear what other deals may be in VMware's immediate future, however. Last month, Oracle surprised some industry watchers when it announced a free version of Oracle VM, its first virtualization product, during its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

Oracle VM, which supports Linux and Windows servers, is based on the Xen open-source hypervisor. While it's free, the company is selling service contracts for $499 to $999 a year, and has tacked on a Web-based management console for server administrators to more easily migrate and manage applications and operating systems running on both virtual and physical servers.

That turn of events may have complicated plans VMware had for reaching a similar certification and support agreement with the world's second-largest business software vendor.

"We get mixed messages from [Oracle]," Patel said. "We're ready and willing to engage with them."