VMware offers free virtualization server

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"Split personality"

VMware has released a beta version of its VMware Server, a virtualization technology for servers running Linux or Microsoft Windows. Users can download the VMware software at no cost.

VMware Server lets users partition a single physical server into multiple virtual servers. The company is offering the product free as a marketing strategy. Officials hope that users who are responsible for enterprise operations will like what they see in the free product and purchase the company's ESX Server and VirtualCenter. Those products provide similar but larger-scale capabilities for server consolidation, business continuity and a variety of other uses.

“We want to give users the full experience of what it means to have their applications run in a virtualized environment,” said Raghu Raghuram, vice president of desktop platform products at VMware. “It has to be very easy. They’ve got to get a high-quality experience.”

Customers who find the free product suits their needs can keep it, and VMware will offer additional services to support it, Raghuram said. The free product is fully functional.

“Our experience over seven or eight years has been that when customers start using virtualization, they have a preliminary notion of what virtualization is," Raghuram said. “But once they get in and start using it, they see it’s like a Swiss Army knife, and they can use it in many different ways.”

Company officials said they will release the final general version of VMware Server in the first half of 2006.

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