With Microsoft Hot On Its Heels, VMware Puts vRAM Out To Pasture

VMware's discontinuation of vRAM licensing in vSphere 5.1 shows it is shifting its focus beyond the hypervisor, and partners believe the move will reduce grumbling within its customer base.

With Microsoft coming on strong with Windows Server 2012 and simplifying its licensing by offering two primary SKUs for most customers, VMware could ill afford to allow negative sentiments about vRAM to fester. Microsoft also has had a field day with vRAM, using it as the basis of a marketing campaign focused on the higher costs of VMware's cloud infrastructure.

Owning the hypervisor layer is central to VMware's goal of selling the rest of its cloud stack, according to Blaine Kahle, director of engineering at Five Nines Technology Group, a Lincoln, Neb.-based VMware partner. "You can easily draw analogies to the 'razors and razor blades' business model," Kahle told CRN.

[Related: VMware Partners: Dirt-Napping Of vRAM Licensing Is Step In Right Direction ]

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The fact that customers perceived vRAM as a virtualization "tax" threatened that ownership, and the vRAM model also introduced a ton of licensing complexity. So, VMware is going back to its old CPU-based model, which couldn't be easier for customers to understand.

VMware is also bundling vSphere with several of its management, networking, security and storage products in a new integrated offering called vCloud Suite 5.1, which it will sell as a single SKU.

With vSphere 5, VMware introduced vRAM entitlements, which placed limits on the amount of memory that could be configured to virtual machines. Though VMware doubled its initial vRAM entitlements after customers went ballistic, many were still were peeved after realizing that maxing out their server capacity would be prohibitively expensive.

As a result, some VMware partners that led their customers down the vSphere path were forced to spend countless hours explaining vRAM to customers. This explains why VMworld attendees erupted in applause when incoming VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger announced Monday that vRAM had been put out to pasture.

"VMware is definitely making life easier for its customers, distributors and resellers by removing vRAM licensing," said Tom Szabo, a solutions architect at Exigent Technologies, a Mount Arlington, N.J.-based VMware partner. "It needlessly complicated the design and sales process and penalized customers for using one of the best features of vSphere: the ability to over allocate RAM."

NEXT: vRAM, A Bold But Untimely Move

vRAM still applies to VMware's service provider partners, but they are intimately familiar with the consumption-based model and actually prefer to purchase VMware infrastructure this way.

"[vRAM is] part and parcel to what service providers are used to," Jared Wray, founder and CTO of Tier 3, A Seattle-based service provider and VMware partner, told CRN in a Monday interview. "Every service provider wants to be usage based anyway. All the SPLA agreements are usage based, so I don't think it's really going to matter for us."

While vRAM creates headaches for many VMware partners, others saw it as a bold, future looking move that could have paid dividend had it been given a chance to take root.

"I don’t blame VMware for trying something new -- it’s a new space. There are a variety of issues, and we need be creative," said Ken Phelan, CTO of Montvale, N.J.-based Gotham Technology Partners. "As an industry, we need to try new things, keep the things that work and get rid of things that don’t."

However, with VMware entering new markets and fighting against improving competition to its core server virtualization business, it may have decided it did not have the luxury of waiting to see if customers would warm to vRAM.