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Can you afford vSphere?

vSphere is out, and it contains lots of new features and functionality. But can companies afford to upgrade right now?

vSphere is a great release — if your hardware is supported and you have the money you may need to pay for additional licensing and training. If you do, then by all means upgrade and check out all the new features and functionality that is has to offer. If you don’t, consider these issues:

vSphere has different hardware requirements than the previous VI3 release. For starters, it only supports 64-bit server hardware. (VI3 supported both 32-bit and 64-bit server hardware.) Additionally, VMware’s Hardware Compatibility Guide, which lists the specific server models and storage and I/O hardware devices that support vSphere, only contains some of the most recent hardware. For example, with Hewlett-Packard servers, only the latest G5 and G6 models (as well as DL385 G2s, which are the equivalent of G5s) are supported.

Just because a server or device is not listed on VMware’s guide doesn’t mean it won’t work with vSphere — just that it’s not officially supported, and if you contact support with a hardware issue, they may not help you with it. vSphere will install and run OK on the HP G4 models (and also the DL385 G1s), but it’s not supported. But on most of the HP G3 and older servers, vSphere will not even install. Consequently many companies with older hardware may wait to upgrade to vSphere until they can afford to purchase new hardware.

Next there is vSphere licensing. You need to have active Support and Subscription (SnS) contracts with VMware to be eligible to upgrade from VI3 to vSphere. If you do not, you will need to renew them before you can get vSphere licenses. Additionally, for customers that have Enterprise licenses, VMware is pretty much forcing you to pay to upgrade to the new Enterprise Plus edition in vSphere. Sure, it’s not mandatory, but VMware is phasing out the Enterprise edition license at the end of the year, and any new license purchases will be Enterprise Plus licenses.

Therefore, if you have Enterprise Plus licenses and want to use their additional features like Host Profiles and Distributed vSwitches, you will not be able to effectively, because your other servers with Enterprise licenses will not support them. The only way to ensure all your hosts can use these features is to pay to upgrade your Enterprise licenses to Enterprise Plus.

Finally there is training. vSphere made many changes to VI3, and it’s best to be prepared before you start using it. VMware does offer two new classes that you can take to get up to speed on vSphere. The first is a two-day class entitled VMware vSphere: What’s New for $1,495, the other is a four-day class entitled VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage for $2,995.

VMware is pretty closed-lipped until they actually release the product, so many companies do not have the information they need to plan ahead and budget for these costs. Because of this some companies may have to hold off on upgrading to vSphere for now until they can include these additional costs in their budgets.

It would be nice if VMware could let customers know earlier about the requirements, release timeframes and costs of upcoming releases. That way customers can plan ahead, because many budgets are set before the year begins and are locked in afterwards.

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