VMware’s Server 2 For Starter Virtualization

VMware has announced something of a teaser product designed to let companies dabble with virtualization technology on the cheap. On Tuesday, the company said VMware Server 2 is now available for free download from its Web site.

According to Ben Matheson, director of VMware’s small- and mid-sized business (SMB) group, more than 3 million companies downloaded the original VM Server after its release in June 2006, giving them not only their first taste of the technology but also priming the pump for customers looking to add more sophisticated features delivered on its core VM Infrastructure software.

Matheson said that more than 70 percent of the 3 million companies that downloaded the original VM Server product were SMBs.

“When you talk about SMBs, they really need a way to simplify their IT environments,” he said in an interview with InternetNews.com. “Virtualization delivers a return on investment and reduces the total cost of ownership from day one. It reduces capital costs, lowers power consumption and really helps simplify the management of the datacenter.”

VMware Server 2, which will be generally available next year, lets companies quickly provision new server capacity by breaking up a physical server into several virtual machines, freeing the original physical servers to take on new applications and operating systems and reducing the total number of servers needed in the datacenter.

It will include a new Web-based interface that supports more than 30 operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows Vista, the beta version of Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Ubuntu 7.10.

“It’s really an introductory virtualization experience,” Matheson said. “It lets people familiarize themselves with the technology and it’s a very easy way to get started.”

Wall Street responded heartily to the announcement, as the company’s shares rallied up $9.50, or 12 percent, to $89.86 in early afternoon trading.

At this point, it really goes without saying how popular virtualization software has become in both the enterprise and SMB markets.

In May, Gartner reported more than 500,000 virtual machines were already online, and it predicts that figure to grow to more than 3 million machines by 2009. Virtualization software enables IT managers to cram multiple computing environments onto one computer, allowing one physical server to perform the function of multiple servers.

On Monday, Oracle surprised some industry watchers when it announced it would make a free version of Oracle VM, its first virtualization product, available for free download from its Web site later this week.

Oracle VM will support Linux and Windows servers and is based on the Xen open-source hypervisor. Oracle, which isn’t charging for the software but plans to sell service contracts for updates, bug fixes and other support for either $499 or $999 a year, has tacked on a Web-based management console for server administrators to easily migrate and manage applications and operating systems running on both virtual and physical servers.

In October, VMware outlined several updates to its mainstay VMware Infrastructure software, set for release sometime later this year.

VMware Server 2 supports up to 8GB of RAM per virtual machine and up to two virtual SMP processors.

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