Virtualization vendor VMware is hoping to shake off its enterprise image and push its technology into the small and midsize enterprise market in Europe, mirroring a move it made in the U.S. recently.

The Palo Alto, Calif., vendor will use the entry-level version of its software suite to entice smaller businesses in Europe and is recruiting solution providers to help drive sales.

Channel Insider also understands that the vendor is on the verge of signing a distribution agreement with Tech Data’s UK-based subsidiary, Computer 2000. However, the firm declined to comment on this.

Matt Piercy, director of VMware’s partner organization for Northern EMEA, said the vendor would not change or reduce the functionality of its product suites, but that its flagship suite—VI3 (Virtual Infrastructure 3)—already has three elements: entry level, standard and enterprise, and the entry-level software would be at the right price point for SMEs.

"Through our research we realized that SME customers want the same things as enterprise customers; they want the same technology and the same support," he said. "We are broadening our partner program in Europe into the SME space so the technology that was only available to a small number of partners is now available to many more."

Piercy also said VMware has no limit on the number of partners it is looking to recruit to its tiered partner program.

"Previously we have only focused on our enterprise level partners, but our focus for this year and next will be on our professional level partners with just one or two servers upwards. We have lowered the criteria for entry; now we only require one sales person inside the VAR to be certified on our free online training course," he said.

He claimed the market opportunity for the vendor was such that there is no limit to the number of partners who can join the program. "If the sector grows as predicted then we will need as many partners as possible to fulfill demand."

Andy Binding, managing director of European VMware distributor Magirus, said: "VMware is looking to get much greater penetration into the SME market, and has opened up its channel to allow that to happen. For us, it means we have a much greater pool of resellers to offer our services to."

He added that the distributor is planning on three recruitment days around the UK to recruit up to 60 partners.

VMWare is also in a rush to target the SME space before Microsoft launches its own virtualization technology, Binding said. "Microsoft has been working on virtualization that will be embedded into the operating system. VMWare knows this is coming and that Microsoft is a huge potential threat."