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VMware Server 2.0: Paving the way to ESX Server adoption?

Currently in beta 2, VMware Server 2.0 offers cool new features. It may also ultimately prompt small and medium-sized users to purchase ESX Server.

David Davis

VMware Server offers many features for its $0 price tag. Although version 1.0.5 has everything that most of us need, I was impressed with the new features that VMware came up with for the new VMware Server 2.0 version, currently in beta 2. In this article, I will talk about the stand-out new features and show where VMware is heading with the release of the latest edition of their server virtualization product.

Similarities with VMware Workstation
VMware Server gives administrators a lot of functionality:

  • You can run virtual guest operating systems inside your existing desktop/server operating system
  • It is ideal for software development, testing and evaluation, and as a SMB virtualization solution
  • It offers a long list of supported operating systems including Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and many Linux versions
  • It comes with 64-bit guest OS support
  • The $0 price tag is tough to beat.

The most comparable product in the VMware arsenal is VMware Workstation. The difference between VMware Server and Workstation starts at the price point. While VMware Server is free, Workstation starts at $189, though it can go much higher. Workstation, however, is primarily designed to be a desktop virtualization platform, not a server. Additionally, it is designed to be used for desktop application or OS testing and development - not for permanent infrastructure virtual servers or server consolidation.

VMware Server 2.0 feature highlights
Anyone can visit the VMware Server beta website and see a complete list of features for beta 1 and beta 2, so there is no need to go into detail on every new feature offered. I will, however, identify a couple of those features that I find to be particularly useful. Later, I will explain how this rolls into VMware's grand plan for enlarging their customer base.

Some of the coolest features, however, didn't make that official list and I will talk about those features more, later. Some of my favorite new features of VMware Server 2.0 and of Beta 2 include the following:

  • An updated and more reliable Web Management Interface with a few more functions

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  • Independent virtual machine consoles that can be used to control the console of every guest VM without going into the web interface. You can even create shortcut icons for each guest VM console.

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  • Support for USB 2.0
  • Boot a VM into the BIOS. It was always difficult to catch the console at the right time to go into the BIOS. While this is a small feature, it is also helpful in that respect.
  • Ability to automatically start your VMs on boot
  • VMware Server can scale to 8 GB of RAM per VM, up to two virtual SMP processors per host, and up to 64 virtual machines per host.
  • VMware Server 2.0 offers support for all versions of Vista, Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Ubuntu 7.1

The greatest hurdles for businesses to adopt virtualization are two-fold. First, becoming comfortable with the concept of virtualization is an obstacle because many of us fight change. That is, unless you are forced to change to a virtualization platform by your organization.

Second, justifying your virtualization investment can be difficult, especially if there is uncertainty about the return on your investment. Companies seem to throw ROI numbers around all the time, so why should I believe anyone who says that virtualization will save my company time and money?

This brings me to what VMware is planning with VMware Server 2.0. This new version not only serves as an SMB-level virtualization platform, but with the new features available in version 2.0, VMware Server bridges the gap between the free VMware Server and the enterprise-grade VMware ESX Server.

How VMware Server 2.0 bridges the enterprise SMB gap
VMware earns about $100M per year and is under pressure to continue growing. To do so they need to innovate and release new products, maintain excitement over virtualization and continue to motivate businesses to consolidate their servers using VMware's virtualization software.

Because VMware Server is free, it doesn't help VMware's stock value one cent. From a business perspective, VMware Server needs to bring VMware two things. First, it needs to introduce customers to virtualization. Second, it needs to make it easier for existing VMware Server customers/users to move to the commercial product - VMware ESX Server.

The good news for VMware SMB users interested in trying out free virtualization software, as well as VMware stock holders (not me), is that the new VMware Server 2.0 does both via a virtual guest OS console icon on your desktop for remote control of each virtual guest in just a single click. This is a great improvement over having to open the old VMware Management console or the VMware Web Interface.

VMware Server 2.0 comes with the VMware Infrastructure Client. If you already have a VirtualCenter server, you can very quickly add your new VMware Server 2.0 to VirtualCenter and manage it with the VI Client. In fact, VMware Server 2.0 Beta 2 comes with an undocumented version of the VI Client that can only manage VMware Server 2.0 Beta 2 servers. As you can see below, it is located at C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Server\hostd\docroot\client\VMware-viclient.exe

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You will be able to "drag and drop" VMware Server 2.0 guest systems to an ESX Server, inside VirtualCenter, to easily and quickly move guest VMs from the free platform to the ESX enterprise platform. Even without using VirtualCenter, with VMware Server 2.0, you can easily create ESX Server compatible virtual guest operating systems that can very easily be moved to ESX Server.

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The new data store concept where your virtual machines and ISO images are stored in a data store makes more sense for organization. And it is the same way that ESX Server organizes virtual machines and ISO images.

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VMware Server 2.0 makes great strides in helping VMware to continue their growth by helping enterprise and SMB customers alike to get started more easily with virtualization and eventually move to a commercial VMware ESX virtualization platform. As I did, if you want to try out the latest version of VMware Server 2.0, you can download it at their VMware Server beta download site.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Davis (CCIE #9369, VCP, CWNA, MCSE, CISSP, Linux+, CEH) has been in the IT industry for 15 years. Currently, he manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and authors IT-related material in his spare time. He has written hundreds of articles, six video training courses - including the Train Signal VMware ESX Server video training series. His websites are and VMware

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