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VMware launching developer program

Plan will grant developers cheaper and easier access to products that let computers run multiple OSes simultaneously.

VMware, a pioneer in software that lets computers run multiple operating systems simultaneously, plans to unveil a subscription plan Monday to grant developers cheaper and easier access to the company's products.

The VMware Technology Network subscription costs $299 per person per year, the EMC subsidiary plans to announce. Subscribers will be able to use all VMware's major projects--Workstation, the lower-end GSX Server and the top-end ESX Server--instead of having to pay individually for each one, said Srinivas Krishnamurti, a VMware group product manager.

The option will give people much cheaper access to the software: GSX Server costs $1,694 for a dual-processor machine. Under the new subscription, though, the software may only be used for development purposes; production use requires a customer to buy separate licenses.

Although the ability to run multiple operating systems on higher-end Unix and mainframe servers has been available for years, VMware runs on more mainstream systems using x86 processors such as Intel's Pentium and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron.

With VMware, programs run in "virtual machines" instead of directly on a computer's actual hardware. Although that causes performance and sometimes compatibility problems, one advantage of this approach is that a virtual machine's state can be stored and retrieved for later use.

Through the network, subscribers will be able to download prebuilt virtual machines with software installed from VMware business partners, including Oracle, Novell, Red Hat and SpikeSource, Krishnamurti said. Other such partnerships are expected, he added. Here, too, the software may be used only for development purposes.

VMware will launch the VMware Technology Network Web site Monday. The subscriptions and prebuilt application examples will become available June 13.

VMware faces competition today chiefly from Microsoft's Virtual PC and Virtual Server products, though an open-source project called Xen has widespread support.