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A VMware licensing guide to expanding your environment

Aside from initial budgeting for VMware products, there are some practical aspects of licensing to consider, including different configurations and maintenance.

No vendor is going to make licensing easy. Licensing is how vendors make money, and as hardware, configurations...

and overall use change, they have to keep up while ensuring they remain profitable. Knowing this is one thing, but actually staying ahead of the licensing game is another. With this VMware licensing guide, you'll be better able to manage costs.

Balance licensing configurations

When it comes to VMware licensing features, there are typically two different configurations: the per-CPU socket or the per-guest/node method. Most of the time, you will see the per-CPU socket for the infrastructure software and the per-guest method for desktops or mobile devices. Though this isn't exclusive, most VMware software falls into these two pools. While hardware has driven some licensing choices, it's really come to the forefront this year with the introduction of Windows Server 2016. Microsoft's switch to a per-core model can greatly affect licensing costs for your virtual guests. The cost can be so high that it can affect your hardware choices for CPUs, which can then affect your other licensing. Licensing in a virtual environment requires triangulation between your virtual infrastructure, OS and applications. Any change to how one of these is licensed can greatly affect the other two. To top it off, you have to balance the software licensing with your hardware choices. While change can be good, licensing changes often won't be because of this ripple effect.

Prepare for change ahead of time

When it comes to VMware licensing features, there are typically two different configurations: the per-CPU socket or the per-guest/node method.

Like with many other vendors, one of the VMware licensing features is to use bundles to combine key products and make it easier for environments to incorporate a suite of products by providing a discounted price. Bundles that save on costs can be ideal for organizations looking to fit a certain set of products for a fixed set of assets. The problem with this is that most things in IT grow rather than stay static, and bundles can become costly when you need to add to them. In fact, some bundles from VMware have size limits, so expanding beyond them can become especially costly because you might need to replace key parts of the package. This isn't to say that bundles aren't important, but you have to know the limitations and decide if you can live with any possible restrictions.

Be wary of maintenance costs

Another key aspect to the VMware licensing guide is knowing if you'll really use all of the products that come in these bundles. While bundles might save money on initial purchase price, the maintenance costs per year can add up quickly ­-- especially for products you might not use. If you only use one or two items, you will still pay for maintenance on the entire bundle, and those bundles can encompass a lot of products. Besides the maintenance fees on those products, you also have to be aware of upgrade costs. Simply put, if you purchase a bundle, then you have to upgrade that bundle, even if you only want one or two items in it. This can lead to unexpected costs if you're not prepared, so keep a close eye on your usage and needs before getting wide-eyed looking at bundles.

The hidden costs of free software

When vendors like VMware introduce new software packages, they will often give existing customers free copies of the product so they can try it out. Though this can be a great benefit, it's important to remember that those licenses are often added to existing VMware licensing portals. This means that they can come up for maintenance renewals. Despite avoiding the initial purchase price, the maintenance can become expensive if you aren't using the product. Additionally, removing it from your VMware licensing portal can be a challenge in itself. Unlike bundles, these free products don't have to be upgraded, but most likely will because they are included in an umbrella renewal or upgrade quote, and the details of a larger umbrella quote can be staggering.

Get agreements in writing

Gone are the days when licensing models benefited the customer and you could get away with a few gray-line approaches when it came to licenses, hence this VMware licensing guide. Today's agreements are nothing short of small books requiring legal teams to decrypt them. Care and caution are needed. Take the time to study the agreements and always get things in writing. While a handshake can seal a friendship, licensing requires clearly spelled-out legal agreements in writing.

Next Steps

Choose between four editions of VMware Horizon

Navigate VMware hyper-converged software options

Understand VMware vSAN 6.6 updates

This was last published in August 2017

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What are some other important VMware licensing considerations?
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  1. Country of usage 
  2. Type of Usage
  3. version of Vcenter etc
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