The Surly Admin

Father, husband, IT Pro, cancer survivor

VMware Loosing the SMB

I’ve been a VMware Virtualization Certified Professional for about 2 years now and I’ve been a fanboy even longer–a client actually introduced me to it out of the blue a few years back and opened my eyes to a new vista!  We never got along all that great–though we were hardly at each other’s throats–but I always thank him for showing me Virtualization.

As most of you know, I’m also a fanboy of Spiceworks which gives me a great window into the mind of the SMB IT department.  What I see is a lost opportunity for VMware because they are so focused on the Enterprise.  Microsoft’s Hyper-V and Citrix’s XenServer are making great strides in the virtualization space and offer many of the advanced features of VMware’s ESX for free.

VMware made some good strides with vSphere in creating some SMB minded license bundles, and for most SMB’s they are great packages.  But you can get the same stuff with more options for free or for less from both Microsoft and Citrix.

Want live migrations of VM’s between hosts?  Free from MS and Citrix.  ESX?  Nope, you need to purchase the VERY expensive Enterprise level licenses.  For 3 hosts with vCenter and vMotion you can easily drop $20,000 on VMware, but from Microsoft and Citrix it’s FREE.

Another thing I’ve noticed on Spiceworks is the number of SMB’s that are distributed across multiple sites.  VMware’s current licensing restricts the “SMB” bundles to a single site, essentially knocking themselves out of the race before they even get started.  And it’s a repeating pattern on Spiceworks, ESX is a good fit if you fall within the tight pocket of their licensing parameters but if you don’t then the other products are just better (not from a technical standpoint, but from a licensing one).

It kills me to watch VMware loose the SMB because of licensing policies.  It kills me to see people picking less mature products, just because they can’t afford VMware.  With a decent pricing structure, VMware could be killing this space, absolutely KILLING it.  They have a robust 3rd party application infrastructure, they have the name recognition.  Remember the old saying “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”… unless it was literally 10 times more expensive then the competitor.  Most SMB’s are more then willing to take that risk.  And frankly, with the latest XenServer and Hyper-V releases there isn’t all that much risk!

I evaluated Citrix XenServer and loved it, but I’m sticking with VMware because it’s what I’m trained on and what I know.  Because switching to XenServer would mean hours of weekend work for me.  Because the 3rd party infrastructure is superior and because I’m one of those lucky SMB’s that fall in the “window” where VMware’s licensing works for me.  And if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m NOT.  I have 2 remote sites that I just won’t be able to centrally managed in VMware, but it’s a hit I’m OK with taking!

But the window is closing and I just don’t see how VMware is going to keep itself from being locked outside.


April 7, 2010 - Posted by | Technical


  1. Couple of months back VMware “kinda” got it and they moved vMotion into the Essentials Plus SMB package. This is really great. It’s still quite a bit more expensive then their competition but at least it’s closer. Luckily for me, the Essentials Plus kit is exactly what I got so now I have vMotion!

    Comment by Martin | November 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. Great article.

    Spiceworks community is certainly a location with a great pool of knowledge.

    The issue is as you quite have rightly pointed out, is the support for the SMB market.

    I, same as you, have multiple sites. Currently are looking from moving everything from a hosted solution which costs us around 250k a year for 120 users to an internal solution.

    We are lucky for DR that we have more than one office.

    The issue that I have is which one to use, it get’s so confusing with everyone contradicting themselves, then when you phone up the vendors such as VMware, you have to go through a reseller who push who they “think” is best, and you are fully guided by them.

    Cost is a huge factor for SMB’s, and all the information out there makes it even more confusing.

    The question is, if you had to do it all over again Martin, considering multiple sites, would you now go for Citrix over VMware?

    Thanks again for posting this, it has been very helpful.


    Comment by Gabriel | November 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Great question! If I was completely green field, no virtualization in place at all, Citrix XenServer is a great option. BUT. It lacks a lot of 3rd party support and seems to be lagging behind Microsoft and VMware–such as backup software, disaster recovery, monitoring, etc. Still, it’s a really good product and the price is excellent. What I don’t know is how well the management runs over a WAN? If it sucks, then what’s the difference with going with VMware (especially now that Essentials Plus has vMotion)?

      Considering that I’m a VCP, and the cost difference between XenServer with HA and Essentials Plus is pretty small, and my remote sites all use Essentials ($500 per) but my third party options are so robust with VMware I’d probably stick with VMware for now. In a year or two, maybe that changes?

      Comment by Martin | November 8, 2010 | Reply

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