VMware Capitulates, Shocking Critics (Including Me).

It’s a sad truth that once a company reaches a certain level of success they tend to stop listening to their users/customers, since by that point they have enough validation to continue down whatever path suits them. It’s a double edged sword for the company as whilst they now have much more freedom to experiment since they don’t have to fight for every customer they also have enough rope to hang themselves should they be too ambitious. This happens more in traditional business rather than say Web 2.0 companies since the latter’s bread and butter is their users and the community that surrounds them, leaving them a lot less wiggle room when it comes to going against the grain of their wishes.

I recently blogged about VMware’s upcoming release of vSphere 5 which whilst technologically awesome did have the rather unfortunate aspect of screwing over the small to medium size enterprises that had heavily invested in the platform. At the time I didn’t believe that VMware would change their mind on the issue, mostly because their largest customers would most likely be unaffected by it (especially the cloud providers) but just under three weeks later VMware has announced that they are changing the licensing model, and boy is it generous:

We are a company built on customer goodwill and we take customer feedback to heart.  Our primary objective is to do right by our customers, and we are announcing three changes to the vSphere 5 licensing model that address the three most recurring areas of customer feedback:

  • We’ve increased vRAM entitlements for all vSphere editions, including the doubling of the entitlements for vSphere Enterprise and Enterprise Plus.

  • We’ve capped the amount of vRAM we count in any given VM, so that no VM, not even the “monster” 1TB vRAM VM, would cost more than one vSphere Enterprise Plus license.

  • We adjusted our model to be much more flexible around transient workloads, and short-term spikes that are typical in test & dev environments for example.

The first 2 points are the ones that will matter to most people with the bottom end licenses getting a 33% boost to 32GB of vRAM allocation and every other licensing level getting their allocations doubled. Now for the lower end that doesn’t mean a whole bunch but the standard configuration just gained another 16GB of vRAM which is nothing to sneeze at. At the higher end however these massive increases start to really pile on, especially for a typical configuration that has 4 physical CPUs which now sports a healthy 384GB vRAM allocation with default licensing. The additional caveat of virtual machines not using more than 96GB of vRAM means that licensing costs won’t get out of hand for mega VMs but in all honesty if you’re running virtual machines that large I’d have to question your use of virtualization in the first place. Additionally the change from a monthly average to a 12 month average for the licensing check does go some way to alleviating the pain that some users will feel, even though they could’ve worked around it by asking VMware nicely for one of those unlimited evaluation licenses.

What these changes do is make vSphere 5 a lot more feasible for users who have already invested heavily in VMware’s platform. Whilst it’s no where near the current 2 processors + gobs of RAM deal that many have been used to it does now make the smaller end of the scale much more palatable, even if the cheapest option will leave you with a meagre 64GB of RAM to allocate. That’s still enough for many environments to get decent consolidation ratios of say 8 to 1 with 8GB VMs, even if that’s slightly below the desired industry average of 10 to 1. The higher end, whilst being a lot more feasible for a small number of ridiculously large VMs, still suffers somewhat as higher end servers will still need additional licenses to fully utilize their capacity. Of course not many places will need 4 processor, 512GB beasts in their environments but it’s still going to be a factor to count against VMware.

The licensing changes from VMware are very welcome and will go a long way for people like me who are trying to sell vSphere 5 to their higher ups. Whilst licensing was never an issue for me I do know that it was a big factor for the majority and these improvements will allow them to stay on the VMware platform without having to struggle with licensing concerns. I have to then give some major kudos to VMware for listening to their community and making these changes that will ultimately benefit both them and their customers as this kind of interaction is becoming increasingly rare as time goes on.

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  1. You have to try AIX some time. Dedicated hardware gives the same throughput as virtual (I tested). Between that and the 5Ghz CPU with 40Gb/sec backplane, we tend to sneer at the VMware stuff.
    As much as I like x86 for the cost per CPU cycle, there is only a peripheral place at the table when you’re counting CPUs by the dozen… when you’re talking CPUs by the hundred for a single application I start drooling over Sparc, by the thousand… we get to x86 again.

  2. I haven’t really had the privilege of working with applications that require that kind of CPU power, unless I’m dealing with poorly optimized systems (which is unfortunately, more often than I’d like). I did work alongside a decent sized SPARC system (I believe it was Unix though) when working with the Search and Rescue guys at AMSA, but my only involvement with them was getting their storage up and running. Not so much the actual application layer.

    The vast majority of VMware’s offerings aren’t really aimed at the kind of applications you’re describing, except for maybe vCloud but even that’s a world’s away from what I can only assume is a highly parallelized program. VMware’s power comes mostly from consolidation and automation, not so much in high performance systems.

    They all have their place, I just haven’t been in an environment where AIX would be the best fit…yet 😉

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