BEA switches to virtualization-friendly licensing

BEA Systems has changed its licensing model from per-CPU pricing to per-instance pricing for WebLogic Server Virtual Edition. Will other companies follow suit?

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Enterprise infrastructure software provider BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., has changed its licensing format for its BEA WebLogic Server Virtual Edition from per-CPU pricing to per-instance pricing.

BEA previously licensed per processor, but when asked about it in April, the company mentioned plans to change the way it charges for licensing. Now BEA charges $13,000 per instance.

In this case, an "instance" is a copy of the BEA WebLogic Server Virtual Edition software running in its own Java Virtual Machine environment.

Loosening the constraints
Most of BEA's competitors use per-CPU licensing models for virtual machines (VMs), but the company sees greater flexibility in the per-instance model, said Mark Prichard, director of product marketing at BEA.

"Virtualization equals the need for a new pricing model that doesn't restrict the opportunities and flexibility that virtualization allows," said Prichard.

The technology market does not need a clever new licensing model.
Kurt Daniel,
vice president of marketing and alliancesSWsoft Inc.

CPU-based pricing is restrictive; if a customer runs an application on a two-CPU server but wants to move that application to run on a newer, four-CPU system, the customer has to pay an additional license fee. With per-instance pricing, the customer is free to run the same number of application instances on the new hardware without incurring additional licensing fees.

Users can also redeploy to run per-instance applications on multiple servers combined to form a virtual resource pool. The customer doesn't pay more unless it wants to run additional instances of the application to increase the workload, Prichard said. If a customer simply wants to run the same application -- only deployed differently in a virtualized environment -- per-instance pricing enables that capability. BEA's virtual appliance model has the added benefit of greater efficiency, which helps increase new server utilization even further and also reduces total cost of ownership, Prichard said.

Analyst Chris Wolf of Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group commends BEA on its licensing model, saying per-instance-based and per-connection-based licensing models are the easiest way to track and manage virtual machine licenses.

"From a planning and management perspective, paying per instance is easier, because you can move the VM from one physical machine to another without worrying about licensing issues," said Wolf.

Microsoft also offers per-instance pricing of its operating systems running under VMware or Microsoft's own Virtual Server virtualization products. The license fees are charged per virtual machine, and users don't have to pay a license fee for backup virtual machines that are not running.

Per-instance licensing detractors
Though Prichard said he believes virtualization providers would support the new licensing model, not all virtualization providers agree.

Herndon, Va.-based SWsoft Inc., which provides its Virtuozzo virtualization software per user for applications and per CPU for server infrastructure, disagrees with BEA's new policy.

Kurt Daniel, vice president of marketing and alliances at SWsoft, said that licensing should be structured irrespective of instances. He said license costs should be tied generally to underlying hardware resources -- per CPU, per server, per user or per device, for example.

"The technology market does not need a clever new licensing model, particularly if not all major ISVs [independent software vendors] will immediately jump to it," Daniel said. "We do not support per-instance licensing and believe it is more complicated to track for customers than existing methods. Licensing needs to strike an important balance between simplicity -- easy to understand and track and pay for -- and scalability -- pay more if you use more, pay less if you use less. In our opinion, per-instance licensing does not meet the simplicity test."

VMware Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., the leading virtualization software provider, advises end users to license software within virtual machines as they would for physical hardware, so normal software policies and licensing rules apply, Bogomil Balkansky, director of product marketing for VMware, said in a June article.

At press time, VMware had not responded to a request for comment on per-instance licensing.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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