The Troposphere

Jul 12 2011   7:05PM GMT

VMware pricing changes add cost to cloud

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

VMware’s controversial licensing and pricing changes in vSphere 5, leaked today are positively uncloud-like when it comes to cost, casting a shadow over the new features and functions in the product.

Offering pooled RAM as a licensing component instead of charging for physical RAM per host will take away some of the complexity of licensing in a virtual environment but it will increase the cost, according to some analysts and expert bloggers. According to this post, Enterprise vSphere 5 adds licenses every 32GB of RAM.

practically speaking, this may not mean much for a lot of VMware users, and will actually benefit many; anyone running multi-core CPUs in servers with less than 64GB RAM at a standard complement of 10 VMS/physical host might actually see their license pool shrink, something akin to the sun moving backward, according to many VMware users. This covers many kinds of data center operations, from normal workaday servers to blade clusters of many shapes and sizes.

However, this license scheme carries a sharp prejudice against the increasingly common practice of commodity servers with massive amounts of RAM and heavy use of high memory multitenancy and in-memory applications.

For example, provisioning an Exchange server with 64GB of RAM is fairly standard; a hosted exchange provider might run dozens of Exchange VMs across a few machines and giant pool of RAM- that operator is royally screwed. Likewise anyone running a content management or distribution application, or anything with large caching/forwardng requirements.

That’s a dominant model in the cloud world, less so in enterprise, but enterprises are rapidly adopting cloud computing tricks and techniques. Did VMware make the wrong calculation on favoring its majority current customer base over the customer base it’s probably going to have(or not if the licensing remians biased this way) in a few years?

VMware’s CEO Paul Maritz said to get to cloud, users have to have this kind of licensing in order to scale, but this doesn’t jibe with the success Amazon Web Services has had. AWS internal licensing = none, it’s open source and it’s the most proven, scalable cloud on the planet.

Microsoft bundles Hyper-V free with Windows Server. Virtualizing mission critical applications on “free stuff from Microsoft” was never a super attractive option for IT pros, but if the option is an order of magnitude jump in your VMware licenses, that could change.

The question going forward for cloud-style users will be are the features and functions in VMware’s software enough to justify the extra cost?

Most of today’s news was around vSphere 5, but the company also announced vCloud Director 1.5, which now includes the capability to support linked clones. This reduces the time to provision VMs down to 5 seconds, VMware claimed, and cuts the storage costs associated with these VMs as it’s thinly provisioned, meaning only allocated when actually used.

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