VARs Choose VMware for Server Virtualization

By Jessica Davis  |  Posted 2008-06-04

It's been said "no one gets fired for buying IBM." These days you may want to add VMware to that vaunted list.

Solution providers have lined up in droves behind the market leader in virtualization – widely acknowledged to command about a 90-percent share. Rivals like Citrix's Xen technology and Virtual Iron have not come close to VMware's massive lead.

Of the half dozen solution providers contacted by Channel Insider for this story, not a single one preferred a server virtualization offering other than one from VMware.  A few gave their clients the option of alternative technologies. And some were keeping an eye on alternative technologies, in particular a much anticipated offering from Microsoft.

But no one was recommending anything other than VMware to customers for server virtualization.

"We have been a Citrix partner for a long time. They are an interesting bunch," says Rory Sanchez, president of solution provider SLPowers, who is looking to add a virtualization practice to his company. "We are not as deeply engaged with them as we would have liked to have been. We've seen the Xen virtualization technology that they acquired. But on my desk right now is a pile of paperwork from VMware. I love the energy from VMware."

Sanchez is in good company.  Solution providers say that VMware's server virtualization technology is superior, it offers more features, and the technical support from the company is rock solid. Competitors just don't measure up to that yet. And they may never catch up.

Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation Computing in San Diego, says that he prefers to ally his firm with the market-leading technology vendors, and that's true with VMware even though there's a big price difference.

"Other guys like Virtual Iron are something like one-tenth of the price of VMware but they don't show up in any charts in terms of market share or revenue or anything else," he says. "That's always a big factor for us."

Baldwin's Nth Generation is among the approximately 50 or so partners out of 14,000 that have achieved VMware's Premiere status. Nth Generation employs about 20 certified virtualization engineers, a number that has doubled in the last year as virtualization has taken off in the market.  It's been a lucrative play for the company. For every dollar of VMware licenses Nth Generation sells, they get between $5 and $6 dollars of hardware and services sales that go with it, Baldwin says.

Baldwin also says that competitors don't offer all features that VMware does, that VMware is continuously broadening its portfolio with products such as Lab Manager and Site Recovery Manager, and there are also more choices of third party software that work with VMware because ISVs prefer to work with market leaders too.

"If you are a software developer, are you going with someone who has 90 percent of market or someone who has 3 percent of market?" asks Baldwin. "There are so many more reasons to go with the leader."

Other partners echo that thinking.

"VMware was the first to mainstream virtualization, and they are the farthest down the line technology-wise," says Stu Sjouerman, co-founder and vice president of marketing at VMWare partner Sunbelt Software. 

"In emerging technology markets like this one, the market tends to quickly single out a market leader and that is the technology that wins, like VMware, and that's where we want to be," he says. "However, Microsoft obviously has discovered this is a market they are going after with HyperV and compete with VMware head-on, so it's going to get really interesting in the next year or so."

And even though he is a staunch VMware supporter, Baldwin has also monitored other virtualization technologies.  His company is interested in what Microsoft does with HyperV and has looked at Citrix's Xensource and at Virtual Iron in its labs.

"We've tried them and they have similar capabilities," he says. "But they have maybe 60 to 75 percent of the functionality VMware has. Why would you want to go to a client and offer them only three-quarters of what they need? If you've got a less expensive product but it only does three-quarters of the job, what's it going to cost them to do the other quarter of it?"

It's not just the big solution providers who are fans of VMware.  Smaller VARs who cater to the SMB space are lining up with VMware too. 

"We've looked at Citrix's Xen," said Sanchez, "But we haven't looked at it extensively. As a small player we've never been able to engage with them all that well.  I don't know if it's because they were concentrating on bigger badder businesses. But VMware is starting to look to guys like us and say 'we want to engage with you.'"

David Bennett's company, Connections for Business, focuses on serving SMBs with 10 to 100 seats, and has been a VMware partner for two years. 

"Historically we never felt like Citrix or VMware understood the SMB space," he says. "VMware considers a small deployment a company with 1,000-plus users."

That changed last fall when VMware rolled out its Foundation bundle promotion, allowing small businesses to get VMware SX for just under $1,000, according to Bennett.  "We are rolling out VMware in companies that are 20 to 30 users. Every server that went out my door last year had VMware on it."

As for Citrix's virtualization technology, Bennett says that his company is investigating new uses for it on the desktop, an area that most VARs say is still wide open to VMware competitors.

"We are vendor-agnostic from a client standpoint," says Mike Healey, CTO at GreenPages Technology Solutions, a Microsoft Gold Partner. "But VMware has an early lead in terms of stability of products and depth of offering. When you contrast that to Citrix, that company has a collection or aggregation of different virtualization technologies it has acquired."

For VARs looking to establish a virtualization practice, or choosing a vender for any technology, Healey recommends going with a company that has a solid product roadmap in place.  For example, he says, Windows 2000 was the core product that became Windows 2008 today.

"When you pick a technology, make sure it has the stability to grow with you over the next 5 to 7 years," Healey says. "Make sure the vendor has a roadmap that won't leave you behind."