Virtualization technology—where software lets one server act as several “virtual” servers—isn’t just for enterprise data centers. Or so says VMware Inc., which is hoping to push virtualization further into the SMB market with the new vSphere 4 family of products. The company claims that vSphere 4 can reduce a company’s IT burden and costs by consolidating physical machines, while also delivering fail-over for always-on application availability, automated data backup, increased security and more.
The recent leaps in processor speed and multi-core processor technologies mean that most servers are vastly underutilized. Virtualization lets you run multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine, sharing the resources of that single computer across multiple applications. VMware’s solutions enable a machine’s hardware resources—namely the processor, memory, hard disk and network controller—to be shared among several virtual machines, transparently allocating those resources dynamically as required by each individual “machine.”
“Even in this economy, virtualization is growing thanks to the return on investment businesses can realize by consolidating servers,” said Joe Andrews, senior product marketing manager at VMware. “There are benefits delivered both around cost savings and business continuity. With vSphere 4, we’re lowering the barriers for SMBs to go virtual.”
VMware vSphere 4 is aimed at SMBs and branch offices and includes several features. Chief among them is VMware High Availability, which offers continuous availability for mission-critical applications (such as databases and line-of-business software) by running the application in lockstep across two virtual processors. If one instance of the software suffers a hiccup, the system seamlessly switches to the second instance. Another feature, VMware VMotion, reduces planned downtime from server maintenance activities by enabling the live migration of running virtual machines from one server to another with no disruption to end users.
Another benefit of virtualization is that it can provide disaster recovery. “We’ve found that many small businesses implement sub-optimal backup schedules—once a day or even less,” said Andrews. The VMware Data Recovery feature, new in vSphere 4, provides fully automated, always-on backup and recovery for all your applications and data. And since backups are stored on a hard drive, not to tape, recovering files is faster and easier. Another new feature in vSphere 4 is VMware vShield Zones, a dynamic firewall that secures your applications and data.
The vSphere 4 solution is available in three different configurations to match your business’ needs and budget. For businesses with fewer than 20 physical servers, VMware recommends either vSphere 4 Essentials or vSphere 4 Essentials Plus.
Essentials, which costs $995 for up to three server hosts, provides everything you need to consolidate servers and manage many application workloads. If you want both consolidation and business continuity features, Essentials Plus ($2,995 for three server hosts) adds the VMware High Availability and VMware Data Recovery to the mix.
For midsized businesses—those with 20 to 100 servers—VMware vSphere 4 Advanced ($2,245 per server license) offers more scalable consolidation and high availability along with the VMware VMotion and VMware vShield Zones features.
Andrews noted that vSphere is sold primarily through VARs (value-added resellers) and other OEM and channel partners that can assess your businesses needs and handle the software deployment. But he also emphasized that VMware’s central management console makes it possible for just about any IT administrator to monitor and manage the vSphere 4 setup.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
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