At its inaugural VMworld Europe conference in Cannes, virtual server specialist VMware (NYSE: VMW) announced that its "hypervisor" virtual machine manager will ship pre-installed on server systems from some of the biggest names in the data center.

Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM), and Fujitsu-Siemens will all package servers with the ESX 3i hypervisor.

It's a "bare metal" system, meaning that it doesn't run on top of an installed operating system. Instead, the machine's resources can be sliced and diced into virtual servers directly from the hardware interfaces themselves.

"Just plug it in, and it's ready to run virtual machines," as one happy customer puts it.

The hardware partners all sound appropriately happy to be a part of this launch; their customers have been asking for bare-metal hypervisors for some time. It's all about enabling the enterprise user to build a custom server farm out of off-the-shelf systems, without having to rip out pre-installed software that they don't need.

If you still want a single virtual image per machine, I'm sure HP and Dell will still be happy to sell you a non-virtualized box -- or you can simply set the system up to manage just one image with all of its resources. You'd lose nearly nothing, and gain management flexibility.

All of these system builders were already on VMware's list of fully supported partners, so this doesn't exactly break new ground. The launch does put VMware hypervisors in easy reach of curious IT managers, and it lends even more credibility to the technology.

As if that were needed after Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) essentially acknowledged that VMware is a credible threat with its own virtual server launches, but still. Every scrap of street cred helps. VMware has an impressive collection of that by now.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any companies discussed here, but uses virtual machines every day. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is the real deal.