U.S. Army On Its Own Now As VMware Cuts Nearly All Customer Support

The U.S. Army, a heavy user of VMware software, is now operating without technical support and other services after its 18-month, $78.1 million enterprise licensing agreement (ELA) with the vendor expired March 30.

As CRN reported earlier this week, some Army commands have seen higher-than-expected costs from the VMware ELA, which began in September 2013 and covered software upgrades, maintenance renewals and unlimited downloads of VMware software licenses.

The Army National Guard earlier this year declared a moratorium on VMware purchases, which remains in effect today. Other Army commands have also seen higher-than-expected costs from the VMware ELA, sources told CRN.

VMware had been providing ELA-related technical support and other services on an interim basis since the ELA expired, but that coverage expired May 31, Army Spokesperson Dov Schwartz told CRN Friday.

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"The Army currently has no [support] agreement with VMware," Schwartz said in an email.

[Related: Army ELA: Weapon Of Mass Confusion?]

Schwartz said the Army and VMware have worked out a deal in which the Army will continue to have access to VMware security patches.

"This agreement does not include services previously provided under the VMware Support Agreement, such as product upgrades, warranties or support services," Schwartz said.

Meanwhile, VMware and the Army have been "fast-tracking" a new ELA that was supposed to be ready by the end of May, according to a notice posted in early April on the Army’s Computer Hardware Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS) website.

"The Army is preparing the required documentation to execute an order under an existing blanket purchase agreement for the procurement of VMware software licenses," Schwartz said in the email. "Since this requirement is in source selection, the identity of the contractor is procurement sensitive and cannot be released at this time."

Schwartz said the order is currently projected to be awarded in the fourth quarter of the federal government's fiscal 2015, which starts in July.

A VMware spokesman declined comment.

In the meantime, sources familiar with the matter told CRN the Army could face big support bills if it runs into a technical glitch in a mission-critical system running VMware.

"Normally, if a customer doesn't have an active support agreement, they can't call for tech support at all," said one industry executive. "Some companies let you do support calls 'by the drink,' but that's pretty rare these days."

"The Army currently has no [support] coverage. If an urgent requirement were to occur prior to the new order being awarded under the blanket purchase agreement, a separate purchase order would have to be executed and awarded to a reseller," Army spokesman Schwartz told CRN.

Given the problems the Army has experienced with the old VMware ELA, the sources said it might want different terms for the new ELA. The Army could opt for an ELA that just covers maintenance and support, and not product license downloads, to avoid running into the same problems.

The Army was faced with a similar situation with a three-year $70.8 ELA it signed with Symantec in 2013, which was also a maintenance agreement that also allowed for unlimited software license downloads. For reasons that remain unclear, the Army opted out after the first year of the deal and went with a maintenance-only contract.