VMware Set To Unveil vSphere 5 Licensing Changes, Again

Channel partners contacted by CRN confirmed that VMware had already alerted them to the licensing changes.

Industry speculation of coming changes to vSphere 5 licensing has been bubbling since last Thursday, when blogger Derek Seaman reported that VMware was planning to boost the amount of memory that customers can allocate to virtual machines running on the host, which VMware calls vRAM.

According to Seaman, vSphere 5 Enterprise's vRAM allotment will jump from 32 GB to 64 GB, vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus will go from 48 GB to 96 GB, and vSphere 5 Essentials and Essentials Plus will go from 24 GB to 32 GB. VMware will also limit the amount of vRAM that counts against a customer's licensed pool to 96 GB per virtual machine, even if the customer allocates more, Seaman reported.

The higher vRAM entitlements could help quell customer anger that flared in the wake of last month's vSphere 5 unveiling, but VMware isn't commenting on the vRAM changes outlined in Seaman's report.

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"There is nothing to announce at this time. If we make any refinements to the licensing model, we will certainly update the community and our customer base," a VMware spokesperson said in an e-mail.

However, VMware has communicated the vSphere 5 licensing changes to channel partners, who confirmed the Wednesday announcement and appear impressed with the adjustments the company has made.

"The deal is done at this point and customers will be thrilled," said one VMware partner with knowledge of the changes, who requested anonymity.

"If it is true, I think it would certainly mitigate any customer concerns," said Steve Kaplan, vice president of data center virtualization practices at INX, a Dallas, Texas-based solution provider.

"This would be a good move on VMware’s part and would show that they aren't tone deaf and they do listen to customers," said Keith Norbie, vice president and CTO at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider.

In VMware's Q2 earnings call last month, CEO Paul Maritz acknowledged customers' unhappiness with vSphere 5 licensing changes but insisted that 95 percent of customers would see no change in their licensing costs. "From our calculations, most customers will see no change and won't be required to pay us more money," Maritz said in the call.

Maritz acknowledged that customers that have configured their vSphere infrastructure for higher levels of utilization will be paying more, but called this "a fair bargain to make" because of the value they're getting from running their operations in more cloud-like fashion.

Still, VMware's switch to vRAM is one that some partners are still trying to get their heads around. Ken Phelan, CTO of Gotham Technology Partners, a solution provider based in Montvale, N.J., doesn't think the vRAM boost will be enough to appease customers.

"Regardless of the new entitlements, this new program is going to strike people as somewhat arbitrary. The amount of memory allocated to a server simply does not map to the server’s business value," said Phelan.

vSphere 5 is slated for launch in the third quarter, and the VMworld conference later this month would be a logical backdrop for VMware to officially release the first major update since launching its cloud operating system over two years ago.