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Howard Marks
Howard Marks
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vSphere License Changes Bring Out Pitchforks

The twitterati have taken up torches and pitchforks against VMware and Netflix for changing their pricing models. With vSphere 5, VMware’s changed from licensing based on processor cores and physical memory to charging for vRAM, the amount of memory actually allocated to VMs across your server cluster.

During the past few days, Twitter and the blogosphere looked like the town square of Darmstadt, as torches and pitchforks were taken up not against Dr. Frankenstein's monster but against VMware and Netflix for changing their pricing models.

With vSphere 5, VMware has changed from licensing based on processor cores and physical memory to charging for vRAM, the amount of memory actually allocated to virtual machines across your server cluster. Netflix, meanwhile, is changing its primary business model from DVDs sent through the mail to streaming content. To expand its streaming inventory--and therefore quiet the complaints from folks who say that not everything on DVD is available online--Netflix is going to have to negotiate new contracts with the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone to get the rights to movies such as "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Clearly, Netflix is going to have to cough up some big bucks for this.

While I’m disappointed I’ll be paying another $6 per month for NetFlix, I get where the company is coming from and will suck it up. VMware’s license changes, on the other hand, have some users, especially those who have built servers with lots of memory, lighting the torches and planning to march on the castle.

The new VMware licensing model does have some pluses for users. The company has reduced the number of editions by killing off the Advanced Edition. That leaves the Standard, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions, with vMotion moving down to the Standard Edition. What everyone was complaining about was the vRAM "entitlements" of 24GB, 32GB and 48GB per processor for Standard, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus, respectively. Even more galling was the 8GB entitlement for the free ESXi, which severely limits its usefulness. After all, my desktop has 8GB of memory and is using 6.5GB right now.

If your systems are using more vRAM than their entitlements, you have to buy additional CPU licenses.

As the announcement webcast was still going on, tweets like, "This will triple my license costs," and, "That’s it, I’m switching to Hyper-V," started whizzing by. Luckily, after a few hours, some calmer heads prevailed, posting some salient points:

  • vRAM is the memory allocated to running VMs, not the RAM in your servers.
  • vRAM entitlements are pooled, so 10 dual-processor servers running enterprise plus can have 960GB of vRAM to allocate across all their VMs.
  • The limits on the number of cores for server processors are gone, but there are still limits on the number of vCPU cores a VM can use.

    Fellow Tech Field Day delegate Bob Plankers posted an analysis at Lone Sysadmin of how his infrastructure would be affected, showing he had plenty of headroom without additional CPU licenses. Blogger Rynardt Spies at posted a nice Excel calculator that computes your vSphere 4 and 5 license costs that you can download here.

    Howard Marks is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage ... View Full Bio
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