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5/24/2010
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Daniel Dern
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VM6 VMex Reduces Virtualization Cost, Complexity For SMBs

For SMBs looking at server and possibly desktop virtualization but wanting to avoid the cost, complexity and additional IT skills of a VMware-based solution, VM6 VMex offers its Windows Server based software.

For SMBs looking at server and possibly desktop virtualization but wanting to avoid the cost, complexity and additional IT skills of a VMware-based solution, VM6 VMex offers its Windows Server based software.Companies of all sizes are looking to server virtualization for server consolidation, often as part of a refresh, and to virtualized desktop infrastructures, for the various touted benefits. But for many small-to-medium companies, there may still be real or perceived cost, complexity or expertise barriers, e.g., setting up a SAN to provide required shared storage.

One company working to make virtualization available, affordable and manageable to Microsoft-oriented SMBs is VM6 Software, Inc., through its VMex software, which the company calls an "all-in-one virtualized IT infrastructure."

Founded in 2005, VM6 originally focused on system integration and consulting for large VMware deployments in data centers. "As part of this, we came across customers with smaller and satellite offices with smaller footprints," says Eric Courville, Founder and COO of VM6 Software, Inc., who previously worked at Platespin. "When we tried to bring virtualization to them, we realized it was suited to large environments with economies of scale and necessary skills. For smaller offices with primarily Microsoft expertise, and few IT resources on-site, we hit roadblocks in validating and justifying virtualization for them."

According to Courville, VM6's initial software version aimed at that audience was based on VMware GSX, and required a SAN infrastructure -- which turned out to still pose barriers to adoption by SMBs and small sites. Version 2.0, released in September 2009, "was entirely redone and rewritten based on Microsoft technology, and removed the dependency on an external SAN."

While still using two hosts -- for redundancy and availability, VMex could be used to provide virtualized servers and even VDI (Virtualized Desktop Infrastructure) without separate hardware for management consoles, VDI, or connection brokers, or IT expertise in SANs or clustering. According to Courville, this meant that a company could get into the virtualization game starting in the $30,000 to $40,000 range rather than $100,000 to $130,000.

Using a pair of x86 servers (that are VT-enabled) running 64-bit Windows Server 2008 Standard, it takes about fifteen minutes to install VMex, Courville claims. "We provide our own active-active clustering environment, SAN, VDI broker, and management."

On Tuesday, May 25, 2010, VM6 will be announcing version 2.1 of VMex, "which brings more simplicity and ease of use to the target audience." "We've simplified the interface and the management console even more, and are providing more information, e.g., so that the customer has a better sense in real time about what is happening, can get email alerts, has dashboards that let you drill down and fix things. We've added more dashboard on the storage side, more management of our VDI, and simplified event monitoring so that it's now like setting up rules in Outlook."

Additionally, according to the press release, VMex 2.1 adds "a multi-array hub-witness that improves protection against unexpected crashes caused by power outages of entire sites. This also eliminates the need for manual intervention, which is required by competitive products to respond to certain crash scenarios. if a component like a motherboard or power supply goes, you no longer need to manually intervene to crank up any of its VMs on the still-running machine.

According to analyst George Crump,Founder, Storage Switzerland, "If you look at the traditional virtualization infrastructure, you've got a myriad of components. VM6 has 'appliance-ized' the infrastructure into a pair of redundant boxes plus the network. This should drive down the cost for companies."

But it's still complicated. "You'll still need an integrator," says Crump. "But this enables a system integrator to do this within the Microsoft space."

I asked Courville whether cloud solutions might not be even simpler and more cost-effective. His reply -- legitimately but surprisingly: SMBs like to keep their data close to their chest. And there are big dependencies on LAN and WAN. And not all apps are well suited to being hosted in a cloud." (However, Courville adds, VM6's road map includes using the Microsoft Azure cloud, for VMs that are suitable for replication and extension to the cloud.)

Says analyst Crump, "This provides an option for companies not comfortable with cloud compute, and who want to stay local."

Couldn't a company do VMware-based virtualization using just two boxes? "Yes, of course," states Crump. But, he adds, "I haven't seen it done as well as how VMex does it. And this is doing it without VMware. It has to prove itself, but it sounds interesting."

Don't Miss: Guides Get Down And Dirty With Virtualization Tech

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