VMware Customers Fuming Over vSphere 5 Licensing Changes

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VMware customers are venting their spleen over the licensing changes coming in vSphere 5, which in some cases will amount to a significant price hike.

Evidence of customers' frustration can be found on Twitter, where the #Vtax hashtag has sprung up and attracted a steady stream of vitriolic -- and sometimes colorful -- commentary. "Meet us at Boston Harbor -- we are dumping copies of VMware Workstation. Can someone Photoshop [VMware CEO] Paul Maritz's head on King George the III?" tweeted 'rbergin.'

In vSphere 4 and vSphere 4.1, VMware uses a per-CPU licensing model that's based on the number of server cores. But in vSphere 5, VMware is pegging licensing cost to the amount of physical memory that customers allocate to virtual machines on the host. Customers can pool the allotment, called vRAM, across their entire data center, and VMware isn't imposing any size limits on the pooling.

Customers with vSphere 5 Essentials, Essentials Plus and Standard will receive 24 GB of vRAM per CPU license, each of which costs $995, while vSphere 5 Enterprise will receive 32 GB ($2,875 per license) and Enterprise Plus will receive 48 GB ($3,495 per license).

In vSphere 4.1, a customer that configured all the RAM on a 128-GB, two-socket server only needed two licenses. With vSphere 5, that customer will need three licenses, even if they're only using 96 GB of memory but have allocated the entire 128 GB of memory, according to Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider.

Shepard sees the vSphere 5 licensing terms as VMware's reaction to the industry trend of servers with higher numbers of CPU cores. "I think VMware is seeing their licensing revenue go down because RAM is so affordable and is really the primary driver for consolidation," he said. "The more virtual machines you fit on a server, the fewer CPU licenses you need."

On VMware's community forums, customers that have configured their hosts with large amounts of RAM are voicing their displeasure with the price hikes they're facing in vSphere 5. "We are going to have to pay over $50,000 to maintain the use of the memory in our current hardware with this licensing scheme," forum poster 'allenb1121" wrote Wednesday.

The vSPhere 5 licensing changes also raise the question of how much the performance and scalability improvements in vSphere 5 will actually benefit customers. vSphere 5's virtual machines support up to 32 virtual CPUs, compared to 8 virtual CPUs in vSphere 4. vSphere 5's virtual machines can also hold up to one terabyte of virtual RAM, compared to 256 gigabytes for their predecessor.

Next: Can Customers Afford vSphere 5's High-End Performance?

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