VM6 To Ship Updated SMB Virtualization Software

Thursday Jun 3rd 2010 by Stuart J. Johnston
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The latest upgrade to VM6's VMex small business virtualization package aims to streamline the user interface in order to help customers reduce operating costs.

VM6 Software announced it will begin shipping version 2.1 of its VMex virtualization system for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) on June 7.

The package, which runs on top of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Hyper-V hypervisor technology, provides desktop and server virtualization tools aimed at SMBs -- particularly, for small business computing where projects are constrained by IT resources, time, and budget, company officials said.

According to VM6, VMex provides "clustering, network, storage, virtualization management and monitoring capabilities" to SMBs' IT infrastructure.

Four Pillars of Virtualization

VMex builds upon what VM6 calls the system's four pillars: virtual shared storage, high-availability clustering, virtual desktop infrastructure, and virtualization management and monitoring, the company said in a statement.

According to the company: "VMex [is] the only all-in-one IT virtualization infrastructure [package] ... that fully leverages the benefits of virtualization to manage, provision, consolidate, and protect distributed servers and desktop environments at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions." That includes disaster recovery and business continuity.

The latest version, VMex 2.1 adds features directed towards making virtualization more accessible to SMBs -- companies with between 20 and 1,000 workers and from five up to 150 servers -- that otherwise might not be able to afford to set up and run a virtualized environment like much larger IT shops do, Eric Courville, founder and COO of Montreal-based VM6, told Small Business Computing.

"Version 2.1 focuses on ease of use for the SMB that's looking for one simple user interface," Courville said. "It takes only three hours of training to set up and learn the environment."

What's New in Version 2.1

Additions in version 2.1 include enhancements to the product's high availability and storage recovery systems aimed at providing protection against facility-wide power outages, as well as the capability to have alerts sent to support staff via email, company statements said. That adds up to better disaster recovery planning and leads to improved business continuity.

Other new and updated features meant to simplify management of virtualized systems include enhancements to the system's dashboards. For instance, in the storage virtualization manager, a new integrated dashboard provides information about storage virtualization objects.

A virtual desktop session manager also provides a dashboard for monitoring and managing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) sessions in order to help administrators monitor and reset virtual sessions, VM6 statements said.

In addition, VMex 2.1 doesn't require a high-end edition of Windows Server 2008 -- instead, it only needs the standard edition of Windows Server 2008, Courville said. That leads to cost savings for customers because VMex provides its own high-availability features such as clustering, which helps to keep the IT budget in check, he added.

Real Estate Site Buys VMex

Cost and simplicity were big selling points for Christian Boivin, vice president for Canadian real estate site JLR Recherche Immobilière.

The site provides real estate listings throughout much of the (as PDF) U.S. and Canada. Much of the time put in by the firm's 25 to 30 employees, who work from home via virtual private networking (VPN), keeps the real estate data up to date.

The site's customers include governments, banks and other financial institutions, and real estate agents.

With all that input time as well as the need to provide high availability to customers, the site's uptime becomes mission critical, especially for a small business like JLR. "We have 20,000 clients come to our website every day," he said.

"I first looked at VMware (NYSE: VMW), but it was too expensive for us," Boivin told Small Business Computing.

"My investment was about $40,000 and that included $20,000 for two Dell servers," Boivin said. "It went very well [and] it was very easy for us ... the performance is okay and, with virtualization, it's easier to manage [software] licensing."

One analyst thinks VMex could prove to be a smart choice for small business computing.

"I did some quick math and it does appear like it will [save customers money] -- especially when storage is factored in," George Crump, founder and principal analyst at Storage Switzerland, said in an email to Small Business Computing. "There should also be some cost savings on time spent doing management," Crump added.

The choice of VMex also let JLR leverage its technical base in Microsoft server technologies.

"We are a Microsoft platform company so I don't have any resources in Linux or Unix, and I didn't want to hire someone," Boivin said. The project went so well, in fact, that JLR is now expanding its system.

Indeed, besides lowered costs due to lowered complexity to set up and manage small business virtualization, one of VMex's selling points is that the system can eliminate hardware that more expensive virtualization solutions require.

"We just bought another cluster to provide disaster recovery offsite ... I will have a LAN extension to the real-time disaster recovery site," he said. If the main system goes down, the time for VMex to cutover to the DRP site will be one minute," Boivin added.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at Small Business Computing and at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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