With Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 due out this week, VMware has outflanked its would-be rival by getting HP, IBM, Dell and Fujitsu Siemens to embed VMware in their x86 servers.

Microsoft is expected to crash the virtualisation party with its new server software, so the announcement marks a small coup for VMware in its attempts to build mainstream market share for its own product.

Dell will integrate the hypervisor into its PowerEdge line in April and HP will bring 10 ProLiant models at the end of March.

All the servers will feature support for VMware's thinned-down ESX 3i hypervisor, which will simplify configuration and increase security, the company said.

"You just start the server, answer a couple of questions, and you'll be up and running in a couple minutes," said Robin Prudholm, senior systems engineer at VMware.

The hypervisor has been hardened for improved security, according to Prudholm. The software's size, 32MB, also improves security by giving hackers a smaller attack surface.

Fujitsu Siemens Computers hoped its servers plus the ease of use of ESX 3i will convince small and medium-size companies to make the jump to virtualisation.

"Companies that have a smaller number of servers and still want to consolidate," said Erik Aldrin, product marketing manager, standard servers, at Fujitsu Siemens.

HP also said it that the introduction of servers with embedded virtualisation would open new doors for the technology.

"So far virtualisation has mainly been used by large enterprises. But with servers that are ready to go, we also see a potential for medium-sized companies," said Maarten Reinders, HP's industry standard server manager general in Western Europe. "Our added value is active hardware management, which means you can can update HP's version of 3i automatically, and it works across all our racks, blades and towers," said Ian Stephen, HP's European VP industry standard servers at VMworld this week.

Citing its ESX 3i “thin virtualisation” approach VMware said it had added security to virtualisation as it was a hypervisor which “does not require a general purpose operating system” and offered out of the box virtualisation for standalone servers.

Fujitsu Siemens' Primergy RX330 S1 and RX300 S4 servers, featuring embedded VMware software, began to ship on Tuesday with prices starting at €2,300 ($3,409).

HP has said it will start shipping 10 Proliant servers with the VMware technology, including current versions of the ProLiant DL360 and DL380, as well as its blade server BL460, on 31 March.

Additional reporting by Mikael Ricknäs, IDG News Service