VMware Has Ambitious Product Road Map

Don’t count VMware as among those companies cutting back in a down economy. The virtualization kingpin will respond to challenges, from the competition and from the economy, by releasing new products, said executives on VMware’s earnings call earlier this week.

VMware will be betting heavily on its new vSphere 4.0 product to give it the competitive advantage it says will help it remain on top of the virtualization market.

“Expect us to introduce major products that will build on the vSphere foundation,” said Paul Maritz, VMware’s president and CEO. “There is no compute load that cannot be virtualized. As all x86 servers move into the cloud, there is no reasonable technological reason for customers not to reach for 100 percent virtualization.”

A cloud of virtual servers will require virtual appliances, such as the Cisco Nexus 1000V. “Cisco has taken one of the leading mainstream physical switches and converted it to a software module that plugs into vSphere,” said Maritz.

While Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and VMware address the high end of the market with premium products, VMware is targeting the SMB with small products, cheap and free. For free, see VMware’s free ESXi server which Maritz said, is getting 10,000 downloads per week. For cheap, there’s a product you won’t find yet on the company Web site that Maritz described as “always on IT in a box.”

What about the desktop?

Desktop virtualization is also in the picture, although the company understands that its enterprise companies will wait for better times before buying it. VMware View (formerly called VDI, or virtual desktop infrastructure) will “contribute to growth when mainstream deployments kick in in 2010,” Maritz said.

VMware claims that customers will want the vSphere 4.0 because the company has delivered a system that is far more easy to use. “vSphere can seem intimidating, with all the new features,” said Maritz. “But we worked hard to improve usability. Those who were watching our launch yesterday saw the results. A feature like fault tolerance that would have required expertise to set up is virtually like turning on a property now.”

He added that VMware is moving some of its technology to customers who pay less. “We think the more advanced features will receive a strong reception at the lower end of the market,” he said. “They dramatically simplify things.”

Asked whether VMware’s new VMotion and Thin Provisioning features would step on the toes of storage vendors, Maritz insisted that they enhance rather than replace storage products. “They’re complementary,” he said. “Thin Provisioning is like virtual memory for storage and VMotion allows you to migrate information from one array to another without starting or stopping virtual machines.”

For the channel, Maritz said, expect more local language support. VMware already provides local language support in Japan, China, South Korea, and South and Central America in addition to support in English all over the world.

Even with all of this activity, the future remains cloudy for VMware.
“In an uncertain environment, we are adding more uncertainty with a new product,” admitted Mark Peek, chief financial officer of VMware, on the call.

Clearly, the company is planning for growth. It just completed a new Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters and it added 50 people during the quarter. Customers have faith in the company, Maritz said. “Companies continue to show confidence in VMware and our products particularly in those sectors where spending is still strong,” he said.

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