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VMware users suggest changes to vSphere 5 licensing model

Upping the memory limits per licensing level or shifting to pure vRAM licensing SKUs are popular suggestions for making the new vSphere 5 licensing model more palatable for users.

Most VMware vSphere users won’t see an immediate cost difference in upgrading to vSphere 5, but the new vRAM licensing doesn’t have many fans. Not surprisingly, VMware users have plenty of ideas for making it better.

The most popular suggestions for making the licensing model more palatable are moving to vRAM entitlement SKUs that aren’t tied to CPU licenses, and raising the memory limits per licensing level.

 “If VMware doesn’t adjust vRAM entitlements as RAM becomes cheaper…I can see organizations getting hurt by this down the road,” said Matthew Liebowitz, a solutions architect for Manhattan-based Kraft & Kennedy Inc. “I am sure this will be a moving target.”

"I’m almost certain that they’ll tweak this model.”

Gary Chen, IDC research manager

What could VMware do?
Tom Howarth, an independent contractor and consultant based in the U.K., said he hopes VMware will go to separate SKUs just for vRAM in 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB chunks which do not require users to pay service and support (SnS). “I think it’s okay that you pay SnS on your CPUs, but I don’t see why you pay SnS on your memory.”

“Everyone can understand why they’ve moved to this model,” Howarth said. “I just think…it’s unequitable that you have to buy extra processor licenses to get extra vRAM.”

Selling separate vRAM entitlement packs could make the licensing more palatable, said Kraft & Kennedy’s Liebowitz. “If they sell those cheaper than CPU licenses, then I think that could work in the short term for those that are over their vRAM entitlements.”

Also, Howarth said, he’d like to see VMware offer 48 GB base entitlements across Standard, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions of vSphere.

The Enterprise Plus licensing level in particular could use a boost, some experts say. According to Mark Vaughn, a consultant and vExpert based in the Southwest, memory pools of 48 GB, the current entitlement per Enterprise Plus license, are more common at the Enterprise level of licensing.

“I would like to see Enterprise Plus [entitlements] go up to 64 gigabytes,” he said.

As another alternative, VMware could grandfather in all existing vSphere licenses and upgrade them to vSphere 5, and move to the new licensing level for subsequent purchases, said Rod Gabriel, IT infrastructure engineer at UFS, a Wisconsin financial services company.

Purchasing service and support entitles users to an upgrade, Gabriel pointed out. VSphere 4 shops “have been paying for that right all along,” he said, but if they don’t sufficient vRAM entitlements, “they still have to pay.”

What will VMware do?
VMware is sticking to its guns right now, but on a webinar about the new licensing program earlier this week, Tim Stephan, senior director of vSphere product marketing, talked about vRAM in “evolutionary” terms. VRAM licensing, he said, “lays the foundation for a pay-for-consumption model without disrupting established purchasing.”

VMware did consider just selling vRAM, not tied to processors or any other physical concept, but “that would be too disruptive, because how do we convert people with CPU licenses to this new abstract model?” Stephan said. Keeping things consistent “enables us to evolve to a pay-per-use model more effectively.”

“I think they’re going to stay the course,” said Bob Plankers, virtualization architect at a large Midwestern university. “Their model is what it is, and they’re going to stick with it -- unless renewals for ELAs start bowing out.”

Others aren’t so sure.

“I’m almost certain that they’ll tweak this model,” said Gary Chen, IDC research manager for enterprise virtualization software. “This is a big change for them, and we expect them to address customer concerns.”

At the very least, Chen said he expected VMware to increase vRAM entitlements to keep pace with hardware advances. “If there’s one thing you can count on,” he added, “it’s that licensing always changes.”

Some users also predict the model will shift again soon.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if VMware came back just before GA and made some other announcement about the way they’re going to handle this,” said an IT systems engineer for a health care company in the Southwest.

VSphere 5 is expected to become generally available in August, at which point VMware has said it will stop selling vSphere 4.

Indeed, with VMworld 2011 right around the corner, users would like to see rapid progress on the licensing front.

“One of the most disappointing things [about the licensing snafu] is that it’s completely taken away the focus from the features,” said UFS’s Gabriel. “It would be really disappointing if there were still a lot of licensing talk at VMworld.”

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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