In a bid to get more small and medium businesses to adopt virtualization, VMware is launching a free beta service to help SMBs deploy it. Known as VMware Go, the Web-based service essentially automates the installation and configuration of VMware's ESXi hypervisor. This is on top of its ability to perform a physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration from existing physical servers into a virtual instance to be hosted by ESXi.
"We want SMBs who may be sitting on the fence to realize all the benefits of virtualization without burdening their limited IT resources," noted Dan Chu, who is the vice president, emerging products and markets at VMware.
ESXi is a small-footprint hypervisor that installs on a bare-metal server. ESXi differs from the original version of ESX, also known as ESX "Classic" or simply as the "full version" of ESX, in that it comes with a much smaller footprint and without a Linux-based service console. In addition, ESXi is free and supports the same breadth of guest operating systems -- ranging from Windows and Linux to Netware and Solaris -- that VMware has become known for.
While VMware has cited ESXi's superior architecture as a reason to upgrade to it, I can not help but note the clear upgrade path from ESXi to the rest of the vSphere family. It is clear that VMware wants its customers to eventually upgrade to the paid versions of its vSphere product range as their SMBs grow beyond the single server that ESXi supports.a
Not everyone is convinced though, and some IT professionals have cited the better backup and monitoring tools that support only ESX Classic as reasons not to go for ESXi. Still, the presence of a free tool like VMware Go to ease the P2V process makes ESXi a very attractive proposal for SMBs. This is due to the fact that ESX Classic can be an intimidating proposal to administrators without the requisite Linux background, or for SMBs working with virtualization for the first time.
Indeed, Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing for servers, told eWEEK that SMB customers can "fly through the ESXi setup process with just a few mouse clicks."
I do not have the spare server hardware to test it out, so I would be interested to hear from anyone who has tried out VMware Go. Feel free to post your feedback or experiences below. In the meantime, VMware Go beta can be downloaded here, with the final version expected to be ready before the end of the year.