VMware Adds Virtual Machine-Based Licensing In vSphere 5


VMware is changing its licensing terms in its forthcoming release of vSphere 5, paying more attention to the virtual machine in a reflection of how customers utilize IT resources in cloud environments.

VMware on Tuesday unveiled a new virtual based licensing entitlement called vRAM, which pertains to the amount of physical memory configured to a virtual machine. Customers with vSphere Essentials, Essentials Plus and Standard will receive 24 GB of vRAM per CPU license, while vSphere Enterprise will get 32 GB and Enterprise Plus will get 48 GB per CPU license.

In a departure from the past, vSphere 5 licensing won't be tied to the physical characteristics of the server. Instead, customers will be able to pool vRAM across their entire data center, moving it as needed from one server to another based on resource and workload requirements.

VMware is imposing no restrictions on how the vRAM can be pooled, and customers can, if they desire, distribute it among several small virtual machines or to a single large virtual machine.

"Our technology allows customer to pool CPU, storage and networking, and now they can also pool the licensing so that the servers that require more capacity are getting that entitlement," said Tim Stephan, senior director of product marketing at VMware, in an interview.

In vSphere 4 and vSphere 4.1, VMware uses a per-CPU licensing model that's based on the number of server cores. In addition, every edition below vSphere Enterprise Plus limited customers to 256 GB of physical memory per physical server. In vSphere 5, however, VMware is allowing customers to deploy vSphere using any amount of physical memory on any physical server.

Stephan says the change will bring VMware's vSphere licensing model closer to a utility based or cloud model as a result of the pooling capability. "If we continued to entitled someone based on the physical characteristics of the server, that would go against what we're preaching with cloud computing and what our customers want to do," Stephan said.

Memory, not CPU capacity, is almost always the primary limitation in a virtual environment, says Dan Weiss, CEO and co-founder of Varrow, a virtualization solution provider in Greensboro, N.C. With the licensing changes, VMware is simply trying to match its revenue model to the benefit that their customers are deriving from virtualization, he added.

"This change will likely have lots of customers grumbling about higher licensing costs and limits on memory per VM. However, if you examine the recent marketing and product mix from VMware, it is moving toward helping IT organizations become service providers to their own organizations," said Weiss.

VMware is set to embark on a partner training program to explain the vSphere 5 licensing changes in advance of the product's launch in the third quarter of the year. Carl Eschenbach, VMware's president of customer operations, said the feedback VMware received during a recent pilot was largely positive, although he acknowledged that the vRAM licensing model will require some adjustment on the part of partners.

"It's a different mindset for solution providers, but it's not going to change the way they do business with us," Eschenbach said. "I actually think it's going to be received quite well because it's a better way to measure [resource utilization] than actually being tied to a physical device."

Scott Miller, director of business development for virtualization and cloud at World Wide Technology, a Maryland Heights, Mo.-based based solution provider, says it may take some time for VMware to make its case for vRAM licensing, and this could slow adoption of vSphere 5. However, the changes will ultimately benefit customers by forcing them to re-evaluate their IT architecture.

"There are a lot of organizations that have built their operations on reference architecture from several versions back and never evolved. The licensing changes will help force them to be more efficient, which will mean running a more efficient private cloud," Miller said.

Patrick Cronin, principal at Kovarus, a VMware partner in South San Francisco, Calif., says the new licensing model makes sense and will help eliminate licensing confusion.

"There has always been a lot of conflict with VMware's licensing because it has been so stringent," Cronin said. "The new licensing model will make it much easier to set up service catalogs within companies and have the flexibility to change those pools on the fly, without getting into licensing issues as we did in the past."