"Working closely with customers, we decided to update our pricelists to remove the 'end of availability' date for vSphere Enterprise," a VMware spokesperson said via email.
The company circulated the news quietly, alerting its channel partners a few weeks ago and removing references to Enterprise Edition's end-of-life in pricing literature.
The spokesperson cited budget planning cycles as the reason behind the move. "Customers have asked us to make this change in policy as they plan out their 2010 budgets and plan their vSphere implementations. They want these items to align with their Enterprise Plus upgrades."A forced upgrade
Initially, VMware's plan were to phase out Enterprise for Enterprise Plus, which includes Host Profiles and the distributed virtual switch, but also offered other features that had previously been available in Enterprise, namely Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Storage VMotion. That led existing customers to complain about being forced into upgrading.
"We didn't see it as we're being asked to pay more for more features; we saw it as being forced to pay more to keep existing features," said Jason Boche, a senior systems engineer at a large legal company and a VMware Enterprise customer with some 250 VMware ESX hosts.
In Boche's organization, the jury's still out on the value of Enterprise Plus. Much of the functionality offered by Host Profiles, for example, can be achieved through scripting, Boche said. But "DRS and Storage VMotion are features that we are utilizing, and that we did budget for," he said.
In fact, for Boche, discontinuing Enterprise Edition felt like "a bit like a slap in the face. It's tough to swallow when you're an Enterprise customer and you're already at the top tier of licensing, and then find out you have to pay more."
VMware has not placed a new end date on the availability of Enterprise Edition. "We expect Enterprise sales to go down as customers upgrade to Enterprise Plus and higher-core processors enter the market but will keep Enterprise available as long as there is customer demand," the spokesperson said.Tempest in a virtual teapot?
But not everyone in the VMware ecosystem is so riled up about the VMware'Enterprise licensing. "I haven't seen any outrage; it's been more of a neutral response," said Rich Brambley, a senior infrastructure consultant at Softchoice Optimus Solutions, a VMware Authorized Consulting partner in Norcross, Va.
"The biggest gotcha that I can see is if you're a Enterprise customer todayand you wanted to add a new host to your cluster after Dec. 15, then you had to buy Enterprise Plus," Brambley said. "But then, your new host isn't consistent with the other hosts in your cluster, so you have to go back and buy Enterprise Plus for the other hosts."
But new vSphere 4 licensing may have prompted customers to look toward other virtualization hypervisors, said Gavin Jolliffe, the managing director at Xtravirt a virtualization consultancy in the U.K. "Everyone was complaining and being quite cynical about how they were pushing their best products up [to the top SKU], and it may have forced a lot of conversations about looking at another hypervisor," Jolliffe said. "We didn't used to see that."
But VMware may have averted the brunt of customers' anger by extending Enterprise before the Dec. 15 deadline, said Boche. "It's going to leave a little bit of bad taste in peoples' mouths, but by rolling back the decision [to discontinue Enterprise Edition], VMware did the right thing."
Others said competitive issues may have forced VMware into rethinking the deadline.
"In this environment, companies are really starting to push back on new licensing [costs] … they're sick of paying large increases for software licenses in the economic downturn," said an IT executive who negotiates software licenses for a large New York financial institution. "I expect the emergence of [Microsoft] Hyper-V might have something to do with this decision. VMware does cover most of our needs, but we do have some Hyper-V in house and are always looking at options," he said.
Barbara Darrow contributed to this report.
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