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VMware Go Pro program launched to lure SMBs to private cloud

VMware worries that small and medium businesses might skip right past its hypervisor to the public cloud, so it's trying to hook them early with 'semi-cloud' services.

VMware is expanding its small business-focused VMware Go program to lure small IT shops into the private cloud fold.

There's a risk that as [SMBs] get big enough into public cloud, they'll simply never go to VMware.

George Reese, creator of cloud management tool enStratus,

It may face a tough sell, however, as recent surveys show that small and medium businesses (SMBs) don't necessarily want open-ended, granular control over virtualized infrastructure. They instead prefer targeted solutions and public cloud computing offerings.

Many already use virtualization; the Spiceworks State of SMB IT survey of over 3,000 IT professionals reported that more than half of the respondents (52%) use virtualized servers in some capacity. However, more than 80% plan to renew or purchase new IT services from outside providers rather than build out their own infrastructure. These companies are mostly interested in core capabilities like Internet service but also increasingly bedrock applications like email.

"Deployment with a service vendor is simpler and a lot less hassle than virtualizing operations [internally]" for SMBs, said George Reese, president of online marketing platform Valtira and creator of cloud management tool enStratus.

Reese said his own operation exemplifies the mindset of a typical small business owner: He wanted nothing to do with hardware if he could help it, and virtually all of his business needs were consumed as a service from outside. Only a few core parts of the business, like managing his customers' private encryption keys and similar data, were managed on servers owned by Reese.

Reese uses a managed service provider (MSP) that specializes in VMware for infrastructure needs. as well as other public cloud services like Amazon Web Services. That's no surprise given the nature of his business, but Reese said the economic calculations aren't much different for other small businesses. He thought the premise of VMware Go was a little weird and probably not going to rope in a lot of new business, although it might be good for MSPs since they are where SMBs turn when infrastructure needs outgrow the office server closet.

The revised VMware Go Pro program is now in beta release. The original, released last year, was designed for non-technical, seat-of-the-pants IT operators. It promised a Web-based, point-and-click virtualization experience. Users that signed up for the service were walked through a migration of existing servers and workloads on to virtual machines (VMs) running on VMware's free vSphere hypervisor.

What VMware is aiming for with Go Pro
The Go Pro enhancements, announced at VMworld Europe 2010 this week, build on that easy-peasy mentality but also offer additional tools from Windows IT management firm Shavlik. These tools let users patch VMs, keep track of software licenses and use and test compatibility for some applications before virtualizing them.

The resulting Go Pro implementations don't replicate the capabilities of VMware's high-end vCloud Director. But they could fulfill basic infrastructure needs and the resulting implementation could be called a crude private cloud platform, delivered as an online Web service. Users would keep their software and data on local machines and log into the Web portal to manage them. It remains to be seen if Go Pro will be able to hook new SMB customers, who may be getting comfortable with virtualized applications and appliances but still don't want to pay for new technology or pay other people to implement it for them.

"I don't see where it would end up going," Reese said. "You could get to the point where you have vCloud, but where's the drawing point where you say 'Screw it, I'm signing up for BlueLock'?" he said. BlueLock is a large VMware partner and cloud provider.

VMware is more than a little worried that new infrastructure buys for young or growing companies will be at Amazon or other cloud providers, Reese said. In his view, SMBs and startups could leapfrog right over internal virtualization and never buy a hypervisor at all.

"There's a risk that as [SMBs] get big enough into public cloud, they'll simply never go to VMware," he said.

VMware has hinted that its SMB user base is fairly large, but it does not break out those numbers. It also gives away a few of its core products, and that may account for a great deal of small time usage.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at Contact him at, and be sure to check out all of our VMworld Europe 2010 conference coverage here.

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