VMware offering 'safe passage' to Virtual Iron users

VMware is trying to exploit uncertainty among customers of Virtual Iron, the virtualization vendor recently acquired by Oracle Corp., with a new "safe passage" plan that offers Virtual Iron users steep discounts on certain VMware products if they switch.

Specifically, VMware is offering 40% discounts off list price for its vSphere 4 Advanced Edition and Enterprise Plus Edition, as well as vCenter Server Foundation and vCenter Server Standard.

In addition, the vendor will take 10% off the cost of support and subscription contracts for one year on those products. Two or three-year contracts don't qualify for the discount, however.

The offer is valid through Sept. 30, according to VMware. Customers must prove they have a current Virtual Iron support contract, and the amount of Virtual Iron sockets listed on that contract must be the same or more than the number of CPUs of VMware product they buy.

"Migration from one platform to another is always challenging, irrespective of the tooling or resources applied to the task," said Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady. "Virtualization is no exception to this rule. That said, in situations such as this, where support has or will be discontinued, the drivers compelling migration often become more powerful than the obstacles to it."

However, VMware spokesman Nick Fuentes said via e-mail that the conversion process should be "pretty straightforward."

Customers would install VMware vSphere 4 and its management tools, then use the no-charge VMware Converter software to change their Virtual Iron virtual machines into VMware formats, according to Fuentes. The company is also providing online technical resources to help with the switch, he said.

Oracle bought Virtual Iron in May to round out its Oracle VM product family. It was specifically interested in Virtual Iron's dynamic resource management and rapid server provisioning capabilities, according to a FAQ document released earlier this year.

The FAQ sheet indicated Oracle has no intention of continuing to sell Virtual Iron's products in stand-alone form, saying the vendor will "fully integrate Virtual Iron technology into Oracle VM" and that any enhancements to Virtual Iron's software would be "delivered as a part of the combined solution."

But it is not clear when such a product will be released, or whether any components of Virtual Iron's technology will not survive, creating a cloudy picture for customers.

One Virtual Iron customer, the Baltimore law firm Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann LLP, is "absolutely" looking to migrate to another platform, said David Roden, director of technology.

"For us, it's almost like there's really no choice based on what we've seen from Oracle. So far, it's clear there's no future for Virtual Iron," Roden said.

Other than a few form letters, including an e-mail that told the company how to register for support through Oracle's network, the firm "hasn't really heard anything" from the vendor, according to Roden.

The firm is "not especially" interested in waiting for Oracle's merged product, because time is of the essence. "You just don't implement a new virtualization system overnight. There's no point in waiting."

Roden is starting to look at alternatives now, including VMware, but the field of prospects is small.

"The obstacle to VMware has always been price, not features or capabilities," he said. "It really comes down to, are we going to bite the bullet and spend the money for VMware or look at what is still an immature product in [Microsoft's] Hyper-V."

When it occurs, the conversion project will be a "huge" undertaking for the 135-employee firm, Roden said. "When we first put Virtual Iron in production we had zero virtual servers. Now I've got 25 of them that will have to be converted."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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