VMware announced that is has shipped VMware vSphere 4, the latest version of its enterprise virtualization software platform. VMware vSphere is the successor to VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 product line, and is being positioned by the company as a virtualization solution for enterprises trying to bridge the gap between in-house office IT resources (which VMware dubs "the internal cloud") and off-premise hosted and cloud computing resources.

"With VMware vSphere 4, we are once again raising the bar significantly for businesses that desire to dramatically improve IT performance," said Raghu Raghuram, vice president and general manager, server business unit, VMware. "The cost savings associated with virtualization are undeniable, and as more customers standardize on VMware to drive 100 percent virtualization, they are realizing the additional benefits that our solutions deliver, including increased flexibility and agility."

VMware is locked in a struggle with Microsoft and Citrix over control of the market for virtualization software in the enterprise, and VMware hopes that six different editions of the vSphere product will help it meet "the requirements, use cases and budgets of customers of all sizes from small businesses to the largest enterprises and government organizations." Pricing begins at $166 per processor at the low end for the VMware vSphere 4 Essentials editions for small businesses, and tops out at $3,495 per processor for the feature-laden VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus edition. (See more about the available vSphere 4 editions here.)

Charles King, principal analyst for market research firm PUND-IT Inc, sees the launch of vSphere 4 as an attempt to outmaneuver Citrix and VMware in the virtualization market. "With vSphere 4 it's clear that the competiive game around virtualization is shifting pretty radically. A year and a half ago, the virtualization market was all about the hypervisor, with companies using VMware ESX Server product -- and now Microsoft's Hyper-V -- as tools for consolidating servers onto fewer machines," says King. "VMware vSphere is a much more ambituous approach. \[VMware\] isn't content with just providing virtualization services to consolidate servers -- they want to virtualize the entire data center and the cloud with a very systemic, integrated approach with vSphere."

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