Virtualization Pro

Jun 4 2009   5:27PM GMT

Licensing complications frustrate vSphere users

Eric Siebert Eric Siebert Profile: Eric Siebert

VMware vSphere is a free upgrade for licensed customers with active Support and Subscription (SnS), but many users have reported problems obtaining their new vSphere licenses from VMware. Because VMware decided to go with a simpler license key instead of a more complex license file, new license keys are needed to use vSphere. When vSphere went GA on May 21st, VMware did license upgrades for its customers, creating vSphere license keys for them. Presumably this process looked at customers’ existing licenses, checked if their maintenance was current to see if they were entitled to the upgrade and, if so, generated keys for all the hosts and vCenter Servers that qualified.

My own experience with obtaining vSphere licenses was frustrating as well. On May 21st, when vSphere was first posted to VMware’s website, I logged into the website, went to download the vSphere bits and found I was unable to — the licensing portal claimed I had no active contracts and therefore was not entitled to the upgrade. There was also a big note at the top that stated that the license upgrades were in progress and could take some time to complete. OK, I figured, I’ll give them some time and try again later in the day. I was anxious to get the new GA code, however, and found I could download it right away by choosing to evaluate vSphere instead. The download process was fairly smooth, downloads were quick despite the large file sizes and they had a download manager utility that allowed multiple file downloads at once.

Anxious to get my licenses, I tried again several times that day at regular intervals, and each time, the license portal stated that I had no active contracts. I gave up for the day and decided to try again the next day. The next day I tried again and received the same message about no active contracts, so I did some more digging through the licensing portal and found that all our SnS contracts were indeed expired, despite the fact that we’d renewed the SnS each year. I could see the original purchases from several years ago but no renewals since then. Now, we had bought our licenses through Hewlett-Packard (HP) as part of our hardware purchases and had paid the SnS contract renewals each year through HP as well. I suspected that this might have something to do with why our contracts were showing expired, so I contacted VMware’s licensing support.

The first person I talked to said he saw my original contracts and because we bought through a reseller — HP — I would have to manually do something to update our contracts so we could access our vSphere licenses, and was told to try again in 24 hours. Being Friday, I waited until the following week and tried again — same thing, no active contracts, so I called back and got a different story, claiming that we weren’t paying our renewals and weren’t entitled to vSphere. Well now I was starting to get a bit angry and frustrated. The person I was dealing with said he would run a domain report to look for all of our contracts and renewals. That turned up the same result — all our contracts were expired, so I was told they’d investigate further, presumably with HP, and get back to me.

Sensing I was in for a long battle, I contacted someone I knew at VMware who put me in touch with someone in the renewal department who could make things happen. He told me that HP was responsible for keeping VMware up to date on contract renewals; clearly this wasn’t happening in my case. He said he would contact HP, verify our renewals and get the system updated right away. A few days later, VMware had the information from HP on our renewals and had its systems updated. The following days I was able to log into the licensing portal and our contracts showed as active and our vSphere licenses were available.

While I think VMware did a great job on most of the GA launch, it definitely could have done a better job with the licensing upgrades. As I mentioned before, I heard from many other users who also experienced problems getting their vSphere licenses. This experience has made me re-think buying VMware licenses through a third-party vendor like HP, who dropped the ball with our renewals and was not doing what it was supposed to be doing. I found out from VMware that we do have the option to renew our contracts directly through VMware instead, so that is what we will do when they come up for renewal again next month. By dealing directly with VMware for our SnS, hopefully we will not experience this type of issue again in the future when the successor to vSphere is released.

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