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Two Thumbs Up on VMware vSphere 5 Features, Thumbs Down on New Licensing

I have been fortunate enough to be part of the beta program testing and evaluating VMware vSphere 5 for the past few months, one of the many perks of the VMware vExpert program. During this entire time, I have been very excited about all the features that I was testing and evaluating and had been very excited, counting the days to this big announcement, and now that this day is here, I can very happily say, "The best just got better." vSphere 5 is definitely a very feature rich upgrade to its predecessor satisfying most of the features on our wish list.

In this series of blogs, I'll examine all the features of vSphere 5. Today, however, let's dispose of the disappointing licensing news and take a look at what this crown jewel will cost.

While I gave vSphere 5 two thumbs up from a feature standpoint, I cannot but voice my utmost disappointment at the licensing changes that are being introduced with vSphere 5. It's as if someone at VMware took a look at these features and told the technical team, "Awesome job!" and then started whispering into the business ears, "We can charge premium for these quality features and make a killing!"

What is vRAM?
Prior vSphere 5, the licensing model for vSphere was based on processor with the Enterprise Edition having a maximum of six cores with 256GB, while Enterprise Plus was licensed for 12 cores with virtually unlimited memory.

The new licensing is still based on processor, except all limitation on cores and memory has been removed. Instead, licensing is now per-processor with memory entitlements as follows:

  • Standard Edition with 24GB of vRAM
  • Enterprise Edition with 32GB of vRAM
  • Enterprise Plus Edition with 48GB of vRAM

vRAM or virtual memory refers to the memory assigned to a virtual machine. Each edition of vSphere allows a specific amount of vRAM, so if you buy the Enterprise Edition of vSphere with 32GB of vRAM, then you can power up eight virtual machines, assuming each virtual machines is assigned 4GB of ram. That being said, vCenter will pool all the available vRAM from all the ESXi hosts that it manages and is able to compensate for one hosts' lack of vRAM.

So, if you have two ESXi hosts with Enterprise Edition licensing, you would be entitled to 64GB of vRAM. If one host is low on vRAM, and the other host has available vRAM, you can compensate for it. All licenses are aggregated in vCenter in a pool and vCenter will manage the licensing needs based on total available vRAM. When you buy and add an Enterprise license, you increase the pool by 32GB.

I completely understand why VMware changed the licensing model from a per-processor-with-core-limitation to the new model, given Intel's forecast for CPUs with 12 cores or more being a standard -- the old licensing model won't work. But what VMware failed to understand is that it will cost me about three times as much to upgrade to vSphere 5 or to roll out a new environment.

Let's take an example: If you have a 2-socket, 6-core server with 96GB of RAM, you need two vSphere 4 Enterprise licenses. To do the same thing with vSphere 5, you will need three vSphere 5 licenses assuming that all the memory that you have in your servers is allocated to VMs that are powered on.

VMware also must have realized by now that CPU is not the most valuable resource in a virtualized environment. Memory is. So, Intel can increase the number of cores all they want, but we still have about 50 percent or less CPU utilization, even with virtualization. I wish VMware would have left the price the way it was and would encourage enterprises to invest in additional tools that VMware offers, like vShield Endpoint, vCloud Director, SRM and others. Why put a premium on a cloud OS?

Unfortunately, VMware gave Microsoft -- and Citrix, for that matter -- ammo to strike at the cost issue of vSphere 5. I hope that VMware does not suffer from the "greatness" syndrome and think no one will be able to topple it as "cloud king" Citrix just acquired, so you can rest assured XenServer will get significant feature boost. And Microsoft is investing heaviliy in cloud.

Aside from licensing, VMware should be very warmly congratulated on hosting the first real virtual event and generating enough buzz and social interaction, which is only a reflection of how much the community appreciates the hard work and quality software that VMware delivers.

Now, if only at VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas, Stephen Herrod would stand up and announce that based on popular demand, they would be modifying the licensing model to reflect what is in vsphere 4. I suggest VMware keep the vRAM concept, except do it as follows:

  • Standard Edition with 64GB vRAM
  • Enterprise Edition with 256GB vRAM
  • Enterprise Plus Edition with 1TB of vRAM

This more accurately resembles what we are deploying today, makes the customer base happy and encourages an upgrade to vSphere 5.

In my next blog, I'll finally get down to highlighting all the great new features of vSphere 5. Stay tuned!

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 07/12/2011 at 12:49 PM


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