VMware has made its server product generally available from today.

The product, previously the paid-for GSX Server, has been free to download in beta form for months but is now cooked according to VMware. It remains free to download but, if you want technical support, you'll have to pay for it. The company is using the same model as Red Hat for its Enterprise Linux. According to VMware, 700,000 copies of the product have already been downloaded.

VMware Server for x86 platforms supports all main OSes in both 32- and 64-bit form as guests, including Solaris, although it'll only run on either Linux or Windows hosts. Features include the ability to take snapshots and roll back to a previous state, to manage either local or remote VMs, and import Microsoft VMs as well as Symantec LiveState Recovery images using the company's VM Importer utility. It also includes what the company calls experimental support for Intel's VT (Virtualisation Technology), and for two-way virtual SMP, which enables a single virtual machine to span multiple physical processors.

VMware said its approach is to build an ecosystem of users and partners with the aim of spreading the word about the benefits of virtualisation. That the company will be able shut out its competition and increase its market share, already considerable, at the expense of its key rival Microsoft in the process is no coincidence.

VMware sees VMware Server as a virtualisation starter pack, hoping that enterprises will eventually upgrade to ESX Server, which has performance and robustness advantages over Server, since the hypervisor-based system doesn't need an underlying OS to support guest OSes.

Other companies already snapping at its heels include Parallels and SWsoft. The former is offering similar functionality but is making waves in the Apple Mac market while SWsoft's Virtuozzo product takes a semi-hypervisor approach to virtualisation, using a single kernel to support multiple guest images. Expect to read a review of Virtuozzo on Techworld soon.

Support for VMware starts at $350 for a one-year subscription per two processors.