VMware for small business owners: The wrong kit could cost you

VMware virtualization is typically associated with enterprise IT. But, with the right kit, it's good for small business virtualization projects, too.

Using VMware for small-business IT environments may seem too pricey or heavy on unnecessary features. However, VMware's virtualization products for SMBs include enterprise-class features, with vSphere Essentials Kits for small businesses and Acceleration Kits for medium-sized or growing companies. With six CPU licenses, these kits primarily cater to licensing a trio of dual-processor servers.

VMware small-business essentials

The VMware vSphere Essentials Kit is a bare bones VMware offering. It ships with the unlocked hypervisor, offering small- and medium-sized business (SMB) VMware admins thin provisioning and full access by third-party applications to the VMware application program interface (API).

Veeam and Unitrends backup application users gravitate toward the vSphere Essentials Kit. Combined, the tools provide a production-ready and resilient infrastructure, although without high availability (HA).

VSphere Essentials Kits suit VMware small-business environments that incorporate third-party management tools. Priced just below $500, the kits lack management tools. They're only an unlocked hypervisor at a low price. As heterogeneous virtualization environments gain popularity, many admins are adopting management tools designed for mixed environments, most notably Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

For resiliency and HA, consider VMware vSphere Essentials Plus Kits. These add Data Protection Manager for backups, HA with active/passive failover, vMotion, the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) and site-to-site replication to the Essentials Kit. You can build a tight cluster of three systems or distribute your cluster across multiple physical locations. Essentials Plus allows small business IT to compete with large enterprises.

Growing small or medium-sized companies should consider VMware vSphere Acceleration Kits. These "gateways" to full VMware virtualization deployment offer six CPU licenses of vSphere Standard, Standard with Operations Management, Enterprise or Enterprise Plus. The kits include vCenter Server and VSA.

Once your virtualization requirements grow beyond the existing six CPU entitlement, adding new servers to the SMB VMware environment is as straightforward as obtaining the appropriate licenses.

Which VMware vSphere kit should SMBs start on?

If you are going to build a heterogeneous data center, Essentials Kit will be your license of choice. If you are going to build a VMware-managed data center, Acceleration Kits are where you want to be.

If the feature set is right for your SMB, purchase as many Essentials Kits as needed. After your first three instances, license three more instances of VMware's unlocked hypervisor, or more.

The upgrade path from Essentials Plus to an Acceleration Kit is costly. To move from a three-server Essentials Plus cluster to an Acceleration Kit is double the cost of the Enterprise Plus Kit. If you expect to have more than three VMware servers managed by VMware management tools, start with the vSphere Acceleration Kits, not Essentials Plus.

This was first published in December 2012

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