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VMware aims higher with new bundle

The virtualization software maker launches new software that it hopes will extend its market lead

VMware on Monday introduced a product bundle that it hopes will extend its lead in the virtualization software market.

The company released VMware Infrastructure 3, a software suite combining VMware's ESX Server product with VirtualCenter management tools, VMFS distributed file system software, the company's Distributed Resource Scheduler, and its High Availability and Consolidated Backup tools.

VMware sells software that lets a single server run multiple operating systems simultaneously. Such tools are becoming increasingly popular as companies seeks to save money. Products from VMware, and from rivals including Microsoft and the open source Xen Project, allow companies to consolidate the work of many physical servers onto fewer machines. Newcomers are also entering the field.

VMware hopes to move beyond server consolidation to become the default choice for companies looking to manage their entire infrastructure, as virtualized server "farms" become more common, Diane Greene, VMware's president, told CNET News.com.

Companies are becoming more savvy about how they use virtualization, Greene said. "Instead of building and configuring servers, companies can now aggregate their resources and deploy their business services," she said. "People used to replicate their physical, single-server worlds on virtualized servers. Now, they see they can do new things that weren't possible before."

Greene said the new software can help companies can rapidly shift computing resources to where they are most urgently needed. That's long been the promise behind concepts like utility and on-demand computing.

Greene said Infrastructure 3 has been in testing since last October by more than 6,400 participants.

VMware, a subsidiary of storage maker EMC, leads the virtualization market. But Microsoft has been making a concerted effort to catch up. The company last month updated its plans for new virtualization software and expanded its lineup through the acquisition of Softricity, a Boston-based company that specializes in application virtualization.

Even as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices add virtualization hardware support to make the technology mainstream, VMware is exerting price pressure on Microsoft while the Xen project is giving rival Linux a major lead over Windows.

Microsoft's Longhorn Server operating system, due next year, will include better virtualization tools, the company has said.

While Microsoft's approach to virtualization is to build key features into their server operating system, Greene argued that a better approach is to separate those features into infrastructure software. Underlying operating system decisions, in the future, "will not matter", she said. "The application writer will pick the operating system best suited to the application they want to deliver."

VMware said Infrastructure 3 will be available this month in three versions: Infrastructure Starter for small and medium-size companies costs $1,000 per two processors; Infrastructure Standard is for companies consolidating department-level environments and costs $3,750 per two processors; and Infrastructure Enterprise, aimed at large companies, sells for $5,750 per two processors.