There is this misconception that an SMB wants everything for Free or nearly Free. This is simply not the case. SMBs are willing to pay for products, it is just they want a great return on their investment. It is not be about “bells and whistles”, but it is about getting more bang for their buck as they have fewer bucks to put towards new products.

Most SMBs also want supported products, either direct from the vendor or through the consultant or consultancy which they hired to do the work. An average SMB will want everything to work while they are in the office and will utilize after hours time for any major upgrades, machine fixes, etc. Therefore, an SMB really needs VMware HA capability, but not necessarily VMware FT, VMotion, DRS, or Storage VMotion.

However, they DO want the option or ability to easily add on these features when they DO have the requirement or finances to do so. They do not want to in effect, purchase everything new just to get more advanced features.

SMBs on average may only need 3 nodes, but some need more than that, I personally know of one small business that has 5 nodes to handle all the work that happens within their environment. This includes a very heavily utilized SQL server. So for this SMB, VMware’s Essentials or Essentials Plus package will not work for them. They have had to get the more expensive Standard + HA bundle.

So what distinguishes an SMB from an Enterprise, it is NOT the number of virtual machines they need, but when they need the VMs to be available as well as the number of employees within the organization. The arbitrary limit of approximately 100 VMs defines an SMB is a number I have heard VMware uses to define an SMB, this is just NOT the case. I am aware of many Enterprise class customers that fall into this poorly defined definition of an SMB but they are NOT treated as an SMB by VMware.

The Enterprise has the clout to force VMware to lower their costs, yet the SMB gets hammered on costs because they do not have that necessary clout.

The pricing for hypervisors and the necessary ancillary features needs to take into consideration the SMB, an SMB may start small but by they will end up purchasing more than most people realize, but this will be on their schedule NOT the vendors schedule. They purchase when they have funds to do so. Therefore the products they purchase must show a return on investment.

If it saves them time, money, and hardship an SMB will be interested. This includes for those SMBs that run 24×7 shop DRS, EVC, VMotion, Storage VMotion, etc.

Microsoft has handled this pricing problem by including the price of Hyper-V into their Windows 2008 Server purchase which incidentally also includes extras like Live Migration. The price point for Windows 2008 Server is far less than VMware Essentials, which does not include VMotion, but if you purchase the Plus version can include HA. Yet the price hike from Essentials to Essentials Plus will prevent many SMBs from investing in HA at the start.

In essence, Microsoft does not have a product comparable to VMware and VMware’s products do not compare to the Microsoft products. However, people insist on making the comparison. Hyper-V’s pricing however is much simpler and that is a telling difference. A recent customer of mine remarked that the pricing policy alone is the reason you need to hire a consultant.

It should NOT be that hard. Make it simple, make it easy, and make it apples to apples. Also, most of all, give a good return on investment and do not alienate the SMB. The SMB is the next battleground and VMware is starting at a disadvantage.

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Edward Haletky (368 Posts)

Edward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is the author of VMware vSphere(TM) and Virtual Infrastructure Security: Securing the Virtual Environment as well as VMware ESX and ESXi in the Enterprise: Planning Deployment of Virtualization Servers, 2nd Edition. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and The Virtualization Practice where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization.

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