Virtual Iron, the open-source underdog to virtualization industry leader VMware, has been chosen to join a Hewlett-Packard (HP) partnership program and has landed the travel website Priceline.com as a customer.Virtual Iron has been admitted into the HP ProLiant Partner Program and BladeSystem Solution Builder Program, giving it access to HP\u2019s sales channel to sell its virtualization software in HP servers. HP is going to begin reselling Virtual Iron under its software license and management solution program, which has members including Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec and VMware, said Mike Grandinetti, Virtual Iron\u2019s chief marketing officer.HP ProLiant rack and BladeSystem c-Class blade servers will be able to be shipped with Virtual Iron already installed on them.By basing its virtualization products on the open-source Xen distribution for virtualization, and by using channel partners for distribution, Virtual Iron can provide virtualization support to customers at an average of just 20 percent of the cost of VMware, Grandinetti said.Open-source rivals like Virtual Iron, which give away the software and charge only for support, can put competitive pressure on the larger VMware by undercutting them on price, said Chris Wolf, an industry analyst with The Burton Group.However, Virtual Iron\u2019s product is not as "robust" as VMware\u2019s, and large enterprises fully invested in VMware are unlikely to switch to another provider just because the price is lower, Wolf said. But Virtual Iron and other open-source virtualization providers could make gains in the midsize market.Virtualization refers to technology that makes it possible to run multiple software applications and operating systems on one physical server, using more of that server\u2019s computing capacity. It also has applications in storage networks and other parts of an IT system.Priceline.com chose Virtual Iron to virtualize its ProLiant servers, although it also uses VMware on its Microsoft Windows servers and Sun Microsystems\u2019 Solaris Zones virtualization product on its Sun servers, said Ron Rose, Priceline\u2019s chief information officer."What Virtual Iron is trying to do is standardize configurations for virtualized servers in conjunction with HP," said Rose. "Anything that standardizes configuration is always a good thing in the industry."Rose cited a Gartner research report that said more than 50 percent of the problems encountered by commercial data center operators are related to "configuration variability." But with Virtual Iron\u2019s partnership with HP, the servers will be preconfigured to run Virtual Iron.-Robert Mullins, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.