To spur the adoption of virtualization, VMware is offering its stand-alone ESXi hypervisor for free. ESXi was built to run virtual machines, minimizing configuration requirements and simplifying deployment, according to the company.
Leading server manufacturers have all embedded ESXi, including Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hitachi, HP, IBM and NEC.
"Virtualization is one of the most impactful trends in computing," said Gartner Vice President Distinguished Analyst Tom Bittman. "The availability of free hypervisors will undoubtedly grow the market and provide a compelling reason for companies that have not virtualized their environment to begin doing so. This is especially true for small to medium business customers and customers in emerging markets."
Making Virtualization Ubiquitous
More than 800 virtual appliances have been created for the VMware hypervisor on the VMware Virtual Appliance Marketplace, and ESXi now incorporates a direct integration with the Virtual Appliance Marketplace to allow users to download and run virtual appliances.
"VMware has always believed that virtualization needs to be ubiquitous. We want to accelerate the day that x86 servers and desktops are fully virtualized," said Raghu Raghuram, vice president of products and solutions for VMware. "With the explosive growth of multi-core capacity, improvements in virtualization-aware hardware, and performance improvements in our virtualization software, we believe that no technical hurdles remain for 100 percent virtualization."
Built on the mature technology of the ESX hypervisor, ESXi offers an operating system with independent architecture that minimizes attack surface area, according to the company. ESXi offers features, such as four virtual CPUs, 256GB hosts, and memory deduplication, for running resource-intensive applications. The features work with leading operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Netware, and Solaris.
Is VMware's Real Motive Competitive?
VMware clearly leads the x86 virtualization market in both share and revenues. But significant challenges have arisen during the past year. First, Citrix acquired XenSource and its solutions based on the Open Source Xen hypervisor. Second, Microsoft made good on its promises and the delivery schedule for its Hyper-V hypervisor solutions. Finally, vendors from specialist Virtual Iron to larger companies, including Oracle and Red Hat, are delivering their own branded solutions based on the Xen hypervisor.
Are these events precursors to brutal price cutting of virtualization products that mirror similar events in the PC market? Perhaps, according to Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Research. If so, then what is VMware's best course of action? In short, to provide a basic hypervisor -- ESXi -- as a no-cost commodity, he answered.
"This should allow the company to counter aggressive pricing for competing solutions, such as Microsoft's Hyper-V, and also provide VMware a platform for highlighting the superiority and value-added attributes of its other products and services," King noted. "That said, a free or cheap hypervisor alone is not enough for any vendor to find success."
While VMware's solutions enjoy richer features and functionalities than competing offerings, that gap is likely to narrow over time. Despite those issues and pressures, VMware's ESXi strategy demonstrates that the company intends to meet opponents head to head, King said.
"One thing is virtually certain: Virtualization will eventually be another example of a one-time enterprise technology that, freed from the data center, became a useful ubiquitous solution benefiting broader business and consumer markets," King said.