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VMware, which has been a leader in virtualization software in the enterprise, is making a bolder move into the small and midsize business space.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company on Feb. 5 is rolling out a bundle of software, along with support, with a price that the VMware officials hope will attract SMBs that face some of the same problems as their larger enterprise cousins do in the data center.

This SMB software bundle includes VirtualCenter, the company’s server management software, for VMware Server—the software that allows users to partition a single server into multiple virtual servers. For $1,500, VMware customers can purchase the bundle, three agents and company support, said Ben Matheson, the director of product management and marketing.

“In the next couple of years, we believe there will be a tremendous amount of growth in virtualization use with this group,” Matheson said, referring to SMBs.

“What this is trying to do is create a ramp for virtualization for SMBs,” Matheson added. “We have been talking to these businesses about their product needs and what their requirements are and then we want to introduce them to a cost effective way of virtualization along with an easy to use management experience.”

Click here to read more about the growing demand for virtualization.

In the past several months, VMware has tried to make itself and its products more accessible to a large audience outside its traditional enterprise customers. In July, the company made its VMware server available as free download from its Web site. Later, in January, the company released its Converter 3 software, which allows both physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual conversion, as a free download for SMBs as well.

While the virtualization market is expected to grow about 26 percent annually, VMware is trying to make its software more appealing to SMBs, which might want to use virtualization but could find it difficult to afford.

The company has also been challenged from competitors like Virtual Iron and other vendors that use open-source virtualization hypervisor Xen as a low-cost alternative.

Jean Bozman, an analyst with IDC, based in Framingham, Mass., said the SMBs are a prime market for virtualization since owners are worried about cost and the IT personnel worry that if systems are not upgraded then mission-critical application could fail.

“The danger is falling behind the curve,” Bozman said.

VMware considers an SMB as a business with fewer than a 1,000 employees and anywhere from 10 to 100 servers.

While it might not be a small business, the Perimeter Church of Duluth, Ga., has the IT needs of one. The church has anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 worshipers attending services on Sunday, a school and offices with about 250 PCs, said John Dolan, who works in Perimeter’s small IT department.

“We have a lot of the same issues that all businesses have,” said Dolan. Some of those problems include a mobile work force that puts pressure on the network and older legacy systems that still run mission-critical applications.

Click here to read more about VMware’s rival, Virtual Iron.

Using some of VMware’s software, Dolan was able to condense several of the church’s applications down onto only a few physical servers. Dolan estimates that the church now has about 17 virtual machines running most of the critical applications.

There was also a time factor. Instead of the month it would take to set up a server, test and then migrate the application, the VMware software, which he started using about 18 months ago, allowed him to move several images off of physical servers within a day.

“We were also able to achieve a tremendous amount of savings in hardware and purchasing costs,” Dolan said.

Matheson told eWEEK that VMware plans to make an aggressive push into the SMB market with this bundle offering. While he could not provide specifics, he said the company was making a “substantial” investment with its 5,000 channel partners and advertising to create awareness of the product.

“We will have a big drive with our partners,” Matheson said. “The VARs that work in the part of the channel [the SMB market] are hugely influential.”

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