An Excellent Strategy: VMware Server

As many of you know, VMware has released VMware Server for FREE!  I think it is an excellent strategy for VMware. VMware Workstation is already a favorite of most leading edge developers, and this move has a good chance of cementing VMware Server into developer’s psyche as well!  Many of my loyal blog readers know that, even though I founded and run1 a .NET component and tools reseller at Xtras.Net, I am a huge proponent of infrastructure and middleware software needing to be open source or at least free. 

I commend VMware for embracing the competitive challenge of Microsoft and open-source moving into their backyard and offering the GSX Server for free. This will almost certainly help VMware establish their virtual images as the defacto standard for VMs as Adobe did their PDFs for digitized documents.  With VMware Server becoming free, software vendors will now be able to deliver complete server-based solutions as virtual images that will require almost not configuration to bring online. Hosting companies can start offering Virtual Machine hosting where you upload your VMs (but this will ideally need some excellent differencing software to cut down on huge upload times.)  Installation vendors can start adding VM deployment to their feature list.  And I’m sure there are hundreds of other things this will enable that I haven’t even concieved of!

Of course this will put huge competitve pressure on Microsoft with it’s Virtual Server, and has a chance of rendering the open source Xen project still-borne.  I’m not sure how I would suggest Xen counter this move, but if I were Microsoft I would be releasing so fast as to make the industry pundits head’s spin a Windows 2003 Server Option Pack for free that included Microsoft Virtual Server.  I’d even go so far as to release a free Windows XP Option Pack that included Virtual PC too.  Minimally they need to roll it into the next major version of Windows Server. Given VMware’s stronger market position in this type of software, the fact they VMware offered theirs for free first, and the fact EMC is no startup and can hold it’s own with Microsoft, I doubt Microsoft would run afoul of anti-trust regulations for offering their Virtual Server/Virtual PC duo for free.  If Microsoft does do this it will create a three-way competition for freely deployable VM server software and the likely competition should benefit everyone.

Now if VMware would just create some rational pricing options for VMware ESX Server instead of charging a minimum suggested retail price of $3750 for a 2CPU system!!!  I’m thinking they will do much better if they allow their pricing to scale down as low as $199 for a version that supports 1CPU and 2Gb RAM. As is, a company will have to be able to gain some serious benefit from VM before they can even consider upgrading to ESX Server.  But with the former GSX Server going free, maybe it’s in the cards.

P.S. It would also be great to see them create a lesser expensive VMware Workstation to encourage more people to try it out too.

1 UPDATE: As of May 18th, 2006, I am no longer run Xtras.Net nor did I retain any association with Xtras.Net.

2 Replies to “An Excellent Strategy: VMware Server”

  1. Mike, I don’t understand why you want your infrastructure and middleware to be free… runs almost fully on open source, expect for their load balancing software.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I don’t understand how your comment about relates to your initial comment, but let me answer the question it implies although I doubt I will do it justice here as it is a manifesto level concept, IMO.

    In a word, defacto-standardization. If not free, oit won’t be used by the majority or even a large minority. Yes, there is non-free software that is commonly used, but there are many times more needs that could benefit from standardization for which there is no clear #1. Have you seen Ruby On Rails and it’s groundswell? I think is it a nice concept, with a bit too many flaws, but it would be nowhere today in terms of adoption if its creator had decided to charge $995.

    This standardization benefits the industry because developers and systems implementors often don’t have to think about which infrastructure and middleware to use, they just use the one that’s most widely used (or a #2 in some cases.)

    Where this really helps is that is allows new infrastructure and middleware or even applications to be developed that layer on top of the existing free software. This allows rapid evolution of applicable solutions; just look at the Linux world.

    Certainly there are many arguments you can make against infrastructure and middleware being free, but I’d say what is relevent is there is room for both free and non-free, and both have their purposes in the world. Commodity infrastructure and middleware should be free to allow the broadest use, and commercial infrastructure and middleware is needed to give companies incentive to push the envelope.

    I hope one day to write a book on this subject so I can do a much better job, but at the moment I’ve got my handsfull with other things. :)

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