I present to you, VMware Server 1.0 beta 1

Wow, what a ride. We just put out this morning (or late last night, depending on time zone) beta 1 of our new VMware Server product. Now you know why I’ve been saying “I’m really busy, can we discuss this later?”

Yes, this is the one that you may have heard rumors about on CNET, Slashdot, etc., but those sites didn’t all have the facts right.

What VMware Server Is:

  • Free virtualization for servers.
  • A way to give people free virtualization with the hope that they’ll consider eventually moving up to ESX for the enterprise.
  • Based on VMware GSX.
  • The successor to GSX.
  • Capable of 64-bit guests, Virtual SMP, new guests like Ubuntu, auto-detect devices, etc.
  • Capable of opening Workstation 5.5 VMs.
  • Available for Linux and Windows hosts. It should be the same set that Workstation 5.5 works on.
  • Ported to GTK2 (using a slightly more evolved Workstation 5.5-based UI).
  • Beta!

What VMware Server Is Not:

  • A stripped down or crippled version of VMware GSX. Server has even more capabilities than GSX did.
  • A replacement for Workstation. VMware Server has no support for multiple snapshots or team functionality, and while Server is a server product, Workstation is a good desktop and development product.
  • A replacement for Player. Player is still high on our priority list, and we useful for the average person who just wants to run VMs.
  • A response to an apparent Xen or QEMU threat. While Xen has potential, it’s primarily just a hypervisor, and we’ve had one of those for ages. The interesting work is built on top of that (as XenSource, another proprietary software company, is doing).
  • A sign that VMware is doomed. I’ve heard this one a lot, and it just makes me chuckle. This should be taken as a sign that we’re doing pretty good. How many companies have the insight and abilities to give away their products for free and still make money?
  • A dead product before it begins. I don’t think there’s a worry about that. We’ve put a lot of effort into it so far, and are already hard at work on beta 2.
  • A money sink for us. We’ll be making money through optional support contracts.

I’m especially proud of this product. I’ve invested a lot of time into it, and so has everybody else involved. I’d like to thank everybody who has had to put up with me telling them I’m too busy for this or that lately 🙂 We’ll be working hard on getting this to a mature 1.0 state.

33 thoughts on “I present to you, VMware Server 1.0 beta 1

  1. From the FAQ:

    Q: Will patches and new releases for VMware Server be provided for free in the future?

    A: Generally available VMware Server patches, minor and major releases will be provided by VMware on a regular basis only to customers that have purchased a VMware Server Support and Subscription contract. At a later time, VMware may, at its discretion, include the functionality improvements contained in these patches, minor and major releases in the freely downloadable product

    So does this mean if people start using VMWare server and there is a major security problem (like the one not that long ago where guest OS’s could trap down into the host OS) then only those with support contracts might get the fix in a reliable fashion? This seems quite troublesome.

  2. Jay: We have release schedules for our products, same as always, and a lot goes into a release. Sometimes there are refresh releases for important bug fixes, and I imagine anything real important will go out as soon as possible. What this entry in the FAQ means is that if there’s some major problem and there’s a company deploying Server throughout their network, we’ll try to get them a custom build with the fix fast. It won’t be a brand new release kind of thing, but more or less just a custom build to get it out to them. Then we’d attempt to get it into a refresh build when possible and get that out, ideally with other bug fixes.

    We’re not out to screw people, but people paying relatively large sums of money do deserve support and quick fixes.

  3. Has anyone been able to download this yet? I’ve been eagerly trying since early morning GMT, and all I’ve been getting are internal server errors on the http://www.vmware.com/programs/ProgramCustomerProfile.do page when I try to register (and even with a pre-registered user adding the extra two server questions to the profile). So far webmaster@vmware.com hasn’t responded, so I’m trying here just in case anyone here can shed any light on the topic. Thanks…

  4. Mike: We have a bug that our web guys are working on fixing as we speak. For now, just use California for the state and 90210 or something for the zipcode, and specify the US.

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  6. I love GSX so far for my needs but I am jealous of Virtual Server’s feature of Web based – I can remote control the VM guest through my browser. Will this be a feature of VM Server? Thank you.

  7. Great product btw, been playing with it since I first opened my eyes this morning!
    Any chance VMWare Server will support running more than 24 concurrent VMs?

    –Carlos

  8. Great news – we have been very impressed with our evaluations of GSX Server (versus you know what), so this looks like a good move!

    I am interested if VMware intends to official support other host operatings systems? Obviously FreeBSD/OpenBSD would be the first that we would like to see. I would personally also like to see Player/Workstation ported to OS X (MS are dragging their feet, it may be possible to beat them to market?).

  9. In the VMWARE Server press release it states support for Intel Virutal Technology extensions (VT-x or Vandapool), do you know if AMD’s Pacifica will be supported?

    -Richard.

  10. Ok, it worked from Mike response above (california state/90210). I\’ll post a email for the webmaster too — international customers don\’t enter the state field.

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  12. I really like VMWARE both as a product and a company, but I just do not understand how this makes sense from a business perspective. I want VMWARE to survive and thrive. Look I like cool free stuff like everybody else. But I have seen so many companies buy into the seductive mantra of the free software movement and end up ruining their business and products.

    If you wanted to expanded marketshare wouldn’t it have made more sense to simply reduce the price, rather than lurch into the free zone? I want high quality, professional developers to be able to make a good living making products that I want to use. The main problem I see with the free software movement is that the software that is generated by it tends to be the software that the programmer wants to write, versus the product I want to use.

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  14. Sparrow: The concern is appreciated, but we’re doing just fine. This was a strategic move more than anything, and certainly not a desperation move. Virtualization is being commoditized, and we saw more value in the long term by getting lots of people to use virtualization through VMware Server than for a smaller amount to to pay a bit for a product.

  15. A product I suggested was a low cost single instance ESX (as many processors as you need) to promote virtualization and I would still like to see it. A controlled LINUX core with the ability to run one OS VM. That, I think, would make VMOTION, VC and the full ESX package very appealing. I think it would inspire server and hardware manufacturers to create virtual drivers etc. Anyway server is a great start and I am going to recommend everyone begin using server as the underpinning for every server OS install. Just the ability to move an image to another platform is comforting.

  16. Here is a suggestion for you to gain market share & loyalty! I work in the SMB space, often with MS SBS. These folk have a problem with hardware upgrades – it is a lengthy process (and a big chunk out of their often inadequate IT budget for the consulting dollars to undertake such a move) to migrate servers to a new hardware platform. Here’s the opportuntiy – build a “one button” installer based on OpenSource Host OS that runs VMWare Server. SMB customers can then have their servers, SBS or whatever, installed as VM’s. When it comes time to replace the hardware, just copy the VM to the new box. Painless. As these guys grow, they will be educated to the benefits of Virtualisation systems & likely to move to support contarcts and/or ESX. They will be less likely to move to competing VM platforms.

    The key is to provide an easy-to-install host OS environment that keeps their costs to a minimum.

  17. re: Pacifica support.

    I just attended a VmWare/Sun/Amd presentation this morning and many mentions were made about upcoming Pacifica support and (2007) AMD 4-core Opteron chips.

  18. Thanks for your reply and your assurance that Vmware is going strong. My small company runs on two dual processor servers both running GSX. For our needs ESX is real overkill, in fact we only run the second GSX environment for testing and disaster recovery purposes. I really hope you are right that this move does not hearld a downturn for Vmware. Your product is lightyears ahead of what your competitors offer both in terms of maturity and capability. With all of your emphasis on large enterprises I hope that Vmware can continue to support products for smaller installations such as ours.

  19. What is the “beta” status of this product, if it is just GSX server modified a bit. Should we be hesitant to use this in a live environment until it comes out of beta? What other changes, fixes, etc. are supposed to take place until the final official release?

  20. Richard (Pacifica support): why do you want Pacifica (renamed SVM, a feature that is not out in the chips yet) when you have the VMware Player, Workstation 5.5, and Server all running 64-bit guests on AMD rev E and later today?

    Sparrow (VMware financial survival): VMware is now part of EMC, a public company. This means that anybody, including you, can look at VMware’s financial statements to convince yourself that making VMware Server free is not going to kill VMware.

  21. HPReg: Financial statements reflect that past. Forward looking disclosures are no guarantee of future performance. I obviously hope that VMWare continues to do well. I do wonder how much focus, attention, and mindshare VMServer will get as a non-revenue generating product. It seems to me that products which generate direct revenue will have to take precendence in terms of development resources when it comes to bug fixes and upgrades; especially if things do not go as well as planned.

  22. Sparrow: You have a point. But consider what follows.

    VMware has been doubling its revenue every year for the last 8 years. It shows that the management of the company is capable and has a good visibility of where the market is going. The market has been moving in the last 8 years, and VMware has adapted to follow the market: Windows on Linux back then, then Disaster Recovery, then Server Consolidation, and now Virtual Data Center.

    A few years ago, the management of the company has realized that the hypervisor would eventually be commoditized (we are seeing the beginning of this commodization right now), and they changed the business model of the company to make sure that the revenue stream of the company would not depend on selling the hypervisor anymore, but rather would depend on higher margin products such as VMware ESX Server and Professional Services (classes, support, …). Now that this business transition is over, the management of the company has decided that it gets more value (advertisement value) by giving its hypervisor for free, rather than selling it for a charge (money value).

  23. I really hope you are right and that my concerns are unwarranted. You make an excellent point regarding VMWare’s success over the past several years and I have no doubt that the people who manage VMWare are brilliant just like the folks who develop and support their products.

    It should be noted that despite all of the success that VMWare has had, not every initiative has been an overwelming success. For instance, I had huge hopes that VMWare Ace would usher in a new era of client application deployment, and perhaps it still will, but so far it seems that industry reaction has been muted at best. I guess what has shocked me about this move is that I thought that if VMWare was going to tinker with their business model it would be in the area of VMWare Ace rather than the server side where they seem to have had well recognized success. I also I would have believed that the margin on GSX would have been substantial enough for it not be considered “throw away” revenue. Perhaps I am wrong.

    As far as the commoditization of virtualization technology is concerned, I agree that the entire concept is just too powerful and useful for not to become deeply integrated into all forms of microcomputing hardware and software and from multiple vendors. However, I think we are many years away from any of VMWare’s competitors shipping a viable product that performs anywhere close to VMWare. And I would like to believe that VMWare will not be standing still as their competitors continue to improve.

    Oh well, I will stop my hand-wringing and simply enjoy the benefits of VMWare Server.

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  27. Why not release VMware Server as open-source (e.g. licensed under GPL or BSD) so that others in the community can help make it into an even better product? And while you’re at it, consider making the vmware-tools software open-source as well. This would allow people to enhance the interface in order to run a wider range of operating systems on your platform. Neither move would likely hurt your bottom line, yet widen the audience of your products, resulting in MORE income from support contracts or purchases of non-free products like ESX or Workstation.

  28. Mark: All of our products come from the same codebase (more or less). Open sourcing VMware Server means giving away the code to our products to everybody, which would kill us. It’s just not possible.

    Now, we do open source what we can. Parts of VMware Tools (the mouse and video drivers for Linux, namely) are open sourced, and exist in the xorg tree. Parts of our UI (the more interesting parts, such as some of our special custom widgets) are open source – see libview.

    If you’re a big business with an interest in developing additions to VMware, you can join our Community Source program.

    But open sourcing it all? If we do that, there probably wouldn’t be a VMware in another year. Is that really worth it?

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