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organizations don't have the same relationship with VMware because the process of virtualization happens over several years and doesn't involve a single large purchase. Even so, you don't need a value-added reseller to deploy and understand VMware software; with the right training and understanding, you can deploy VMware software on your own.
VMware software pricing is readily available, which makes evaluating the mark-up by a value-added retailer (VAR) easier. VARs typically add value to VMware through hardware, design or installation support.
Even without the help of a VAR, you can still deploy vCenter and vSphere and optimize them to suit your organization's needs. By implementing vSphere, vCenter and virtualized environment design best practices, you can create a strong ecosystem.
What is a value-added reseller?
Each VAR has specific skills and product expertise and acts as a single point of contact for IT administrators. This makes it possible for organizations to adopt, deploy and integrate several different technologies.
VARs enhance products in a number of ways. Traditionally, VARs created applications for specific platforms and sold the combined product as a turnkey. Nowadays, as managed service models and OEMs compete with VARs, many resellers rely on a mixture of product and service sales, and several VARs have even transitioned to consulting.
ESXi and vSphere: VMware's foundational software
VMware software resembles a Linux OS more than it does Windows software. When you use Windows software, you can count on Active Directory (AD) and wizards to run tasks smoothly. The same doesn't apply to VMware. Although many VMware tools -- such as vSphere and vCenter -- have web interfaces, they feature command-line interfaces without GUIs, and you must do more manual work than Windows software requires.
VMware built its complex enterprise software on the ESXi hypervisor. You can easily install ESXi and vSphere on supported hardware. However, you can do very little with ESXi from the direct console. You can create VMs and do most management tasks through the web interface on a per-host basis for up to three VMs, but any more than that and management becomes unwieldy. Much like a disk OS menu with no mouse, you must pair it with a management tool.
What deploying vCenter brings to the table
VMware vCenter functions as VMware's central management product, and pulls together multiple ESXi hosts under one umbrella. It enables advanced functions such as vMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduler and High Availability at the enterprise level.
Although vCenter isn't required to virtualize your environment, you might find it necessary if you need more than just a few VMs. You can deploy vCenter as a VM on the ESXi hosts you create, which eases the deployment of regular VMs.
Although you can connect VMware vCenter to Microsoft AD, you might encounter problems with single sign-on (SSO). Even seasoned IT folks might not find it worth the effort, depending on how much time you invest in SSO. To get vCenter, ESXi and other VMware products working and communicating properly, you must use forward and reverse DNS, because VMware uses certificates.
Design and training for VMware deployments
VMware does more than simple virtualization. When you implement VMware software, you essentially create a software-defined data center, which means you have to put as much thought into the deployment as you would a traditional data center. You must consider storage, IOPS, networking, Ethernet support, host density and failover in your design, as well as virtualized components such as virtual LANs.
Training can provide you with a wealth of knowledge to help you add value to your deployment. VMware provides training content for all levels, from beginner admins to advanced design and support. If you don't have hands-on experience, you can likely find a class that provides it. Some trainings come at a cost, but both VMware and third parties also have extensive video libraries with free content.
You can also use an at-home or personal lab to learn on your own. You can set one up with older equipment or with VMware Workstation. The VMware User Group offers yearlong software licenses for a low cost, so you can practice on a smaller scale before implementing something across a whole environment or pushing a change into production.