VMware turns attention to small businesses with vSphere 5.1 Essentials Plus

New release offers enterprise-grade business continuity and management

Although most of the focus of VMworld 2012's Day 1 keynote two weeks ago was concentrated on the enterprise market, EMC VMware showed signs it's courting the small-business community as well, primarily with an updated version of vSphere 5.1 Essentials Plus. VMware seems to have a solid grip on the larger enterprise market with its server virtualization product, so it makes sense for it to try and expand by going after small and midsize businesses -- and it's still early enough to be anyone's game.

Microsoft just delivered Windows Server 2012, which comes with an updated, more powerful, and more feature-rich version of Hyper-V. The small-business market has been a pretty sweet spot for Microsoft over the years, and Hyper-V continues that focus while stoking the company's hopes of being able to later expand and displace VMware in the enterprise market. To do so, the Redmond giant has been spending a lot of marketing dollars to convince companies that its hypervisor product is just as good as vSphere but comes with a much cheaper price tag.

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Recent studies have shown that virtualization is now mainstream among small businesses, and those companies are becoming increasingly focused on extending the benefits of virtualization to improve IT availability and backup and recovery. Spiceworks, a company with more than 2 million IT pros in its community, recently found that 77 percent of small businesses are either using or planning to use virtualization software by the second half of 2012.

It therefore shouldn't come as much of a surprise that VMware is finally ready to go after the small-business market. VMware's vice president and general manager of small-business solutions, Russ Stockdale, said that small businesses face most of the same technical challenges as larger businesses and enterprises, but they have far fewer resources to devote to virtualization.

"The challenge [small businesses] face is to do it all with a small team of IT pros," said Stockdale. "VMware's [small-business] solutions make enterprise-class business continuity and management accessible to smaller IT teams and single practitioners by reducing the complexity of deploying, operating and securing these systems."

VMware announced at VMworld that it is offering vSphere 5.1 Essentials Plus -- which significantly extends the capabilities of VMware vSphere Essentials Plus -- to address these challenges.

The latest version includes vSphere Storage Appliance, which allows a server's internal storage to provide the same functionality of shared storage resources. Doing so makes it possible to use advanced VMware vSphere features such as vMotion, moving running virtual machines from one physical host server to another; and High Availability, which automatically restarts VMs when software or hardware fails. More important, it does so without requiring the purchase of expensive shared storage hardware and the management complexity.

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