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for me, it's seems support will come from both vendors. VMware will support the OS, and issues surrounding the OS. The hardware vendor will support the hardware. At times there is going to have to be both vendors working with each other.
Troy is right. I have seen support coming from both the vendors. Infact, I was told once by dell about this, when I was asking for a support.
Support should come from both bvendors - hardware from Dell, ESX from VMware.
The hardware is never going to be supported by VMware (they have no interest here)
Also, Dell could provide some VMware support, but they are not a software provider, so their support is really limited to the hardware monitoring etc that they build into ESXi. Licensing for the VMWare portion will be from VMware and you'll need to pay them for your support.
if you buy licenses from VMware directly (through a partner other than OEM), the support will be provided to you directly by VMware and not OEM. In case of few OEM,(dont wanna name them), they provide you support instead of VMWare directly.
and one more thing..its not required to buy embedded system as ESXi can be installed later on all supported systems.
Hope this helps.
Here are couple of point to consider.
By default if you have an OEM version of VMware, VMware preffers you contact the OEM vendorfirst. I seen cases where they will refuse to assists as your warranty is with the OEM partner.
OEM vendors tend to do basic to advanced troubleshooting of VMware and will have more awareness of any hardware related issues.
Also a lot of vendors are selling actually more VMWare than Vmware.... and hence have to do more support.
THey ussually do not care what version of VMware you have so long as it is listed under your purchase order. So you could have ESX 3.5 but be using ESX 4.1. It is still under the OEM vendors warranty.
Finally in loads of cases you may have siftware support for your OS from the vendor but you might not have SNS so vmware are even less likelly to help.
Finally Vmware has arrangement with OEM Vendors so that if they do call in for support they are engaging directly with higher level VMware techs, OEM vendors will do L1 and L2 support so when they call Vmware they deall with L2 or L3s. Which is better than you would get by calling vmware directly.