Yes, VMware’s License Change Is That Bad: It’s A Trap!

So VMware announced last week the new vSphere 5. There were lots of new features and improvements announced, but the conversation that has resulted isn’t quite what VMware had in mind. Virtually (get it? virtually?) all discussion has centered around the new licensing scheme.

And some of us feel that the change is, well… a trap.

For pete’s sake Tony, they’re going to take your VCP away for this

There have been many, many blog posts with people weighing in. Most of the feedback on blogs and messages boards has been fairly negative.  A few have been more positive, although the positive blogs (retweeted rapid fire by a somewhat desperate-sounding @vSphere5 twitter account) have enthusiastic sounding topics like 7 Reasons Why VMware vSphere 5 vRAM Licensing Is Not As Bad As It Looks At First Glance.

My thoughts on this are it’s actually much worse than at first glance. To quote a certain raspy-voiced naval officer: “It’s a trap”.

What Changed

At the heart of the change is the new concept of vRAM. vRAM is an allotment of RAM to use for powered-up VMs. If you have 10 4 GB VMs, you’d need 40 GB of vRAM allotments to power them up.

With the old licensing, you could use as much RAM as you could cram into a box. You only paid per CPU (with limits on the number of cores per CPU depending on the license).  As RAM prices dropped, it made it very attractive to cram lots and lots of VMs into fewer hosts, requiring less power and cooling. Servers with 128-512 GB of RAM from Cisco, HP, and Dell are fairly common now.

With the new licensing, you pay for CPU like before, and they’ve removed any core limits. However you now get a limited vRAM allotment with each license. No more unlimited RAM. And that’s the part that’s a trap.

It’s About The Future

The @vsphere5 twitter account is busy retweeting posts from users who checked their licensing and found that to upgrade to vSphere 5, the current vRAM allotments are within the range of their physical RAM.  So yeah, right now your licensing may work out and you don’t need to purchase any extra licenses, especially if you’re running on hardware more than a year old.

But what about the hardware you were going to refresh too? Chances are, it’s a nice beefy blade dripping with RAM like jewels on an heiress. And that’s when you’ll need to buy more licenses to use all that RAM.

RAM Rules Every Thing Around Me (Get the DIMMS, Y’All)

We’ve gotten used to the idea that RAM was essentially free in terms of licensing. In physical terms, RAM had a cost associated to it, but it could easily offset those costs in terms of savings with regard increased density.

The biggest issue with vRAM allotments are that they’re too small today, and they’ll definitely be too small tomorrow. RAM is a depreciating asset.  RAM price continuously goes down, and servers are getting more and more of it. The issue isn’t if the new licensing model will screw you, it’s when.

VMware’s blog post on why they made the new licensing, and they included some graphs. Well here’s a graph I came up with.

Tony, you have a gift for visual aids.

The vRAM allotments are pretty small today, especially if you recently did a hardware refresh.  Chances are if you bought a brand new 2-way server recently, it probably came dripping with RAM like jewels on an heiress.

And RAM keeps getting less and less expensive.  A year or so from now, 1 TB systems (probably with no more than 2 or 4 10 core CPUs) won’t be that uncommon. And then the licensing for VMware will be really bad compared to vSphere 4.

Under current licensing, licensing a full 1TB system with 4 CPUs would cost $76,890 USD. That’s 22 licenses for a 4 CPU system.

“$76,890 a server? Our IT budgets can’t repel license increases of that magnitude!”

VMware’s Other Dick Move

I’ve already written about how VMware has dramatically changed the licensing for the free version of the vSphere 5 hypervisor (ESXi 5.0). The limit used to be 256 GB of RAM, now it’s 8 GB.  Was 256 GB too much? Sure. But 8 GB is way too low.

To those of us that have home labs, that means we’ll be looking elsewhere. I think this is going to have a dramatic impact on the number of virtual appliances released for VMware. The focus will then move to XenServer (since most virtual appliances are based on Linux).

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This

Let’s face it, this new licensing scheme (and the 8 GB limit on the free version of ESXi 5) are dick moves. Up until now, VMware has been very friendly to its customer base. Users have supported them, championed them, and advocated on their behalf. I’ve never felt the need to even look at another hypervisor, because VMware rocked it.

Now, I look at VMware like I look at vendors like Oracle and EMC. For IT managers and techies alike, we know there are some vendors where the relationship is symbiotic. We’ll sit at the same side of the table. Networking vendors like Juniper, F5, and even Cisco (with a few exceptions) take a cordial and symbiotic view of the customer/vendor relationship.  Some vendors *cough Oracle cough Checkpoint couch* take a more adversarial and parasitical view.

I’m not saying VMware is quite at the level of parasitic right now, but they’ve suddenly taken a step in that direction. And that means the honeymoon is over. There is a general feeling that the loyal customer base is being taken for granted, as if somehow we owe VMware for the awesomeness they provide us. Well it’s the IT managers and nerdarati that helped make VMware the company it is today. And I can’t help but feel they’ve turned on us. One might say even say, turned to the dark side.

Wandering Eye

Look VMware, I’ve got to be honest. I’ve been… I’ve been seeing other people. I downloaded XenServer the other day. It asked me to download it, and I was being polite, but considering you might limit us to 8 GB, I went ahead and installed it. And I’m liking what I see.

Don’t Uninstall Angry

A wise sysadmin once said: “Never uninstall angry”.  So I’m not making any moves yet. I’m not quite ready to break up with VMware. It’s still a dynamic ecosystem, and I hope its not too damaged by all this. It’s been almost a week since the announcements so I’ve been able to get a little perspective. I’m still disappointed, to be sure, but I’m not quite as aggro.

It’s clear VMware felt it was getting the short end of the stick with the trend towards high server density. And perhaps VMware licensing needed to be changed to reflect this. I’m not all together against vRAM pools, but I do think they need to be dramatically increased. Today they’re too small, and a year or two from now they’ll be laughable.

7 Responses to Yes, VMware’s License Change Is That Bad: It’s A Trap!

  1. Pingback: Welcome to vSphere-land! » vSphere 5 Links

  2. gcballard says:

    Great post. Summarizes my feelings quite well. We’re not screwed now (w/ only half of our vram allocation used) but we will be next year as our SAP implementation eats all that is left.

  3. L says:

    In 2-4 years, Hyper-V and or XenServer will reach parity in features with VMWare. It’s licensing decisions will be short-lived at a cost of losing many customers, evangelists, and future opportunities. They are thinking short-term instead of long-term. Great new features killed off by dumb management decisions. Great Engineering but, terrible management decisions…

  4. Pingback: VMware Licensing: You Changed, VMware. You Used To Be Cool. | The Data Center Overlords

  5. vmware-is-going-to-suck-hard says:

    Great post, just one correction.

    VMware has NOT always been nice to their customer base, far from it. With 2.5 and before we could manage our ESX environments from linux. Yes, supported by vmware…

    Then EMC bought them, EMC is of course buddies with MS (who in turn only pretends to be friends with anyone). EMC forced VMware to develop in .fastfordevshittyforperf. Err I mean .NET. And guess what, linux was no longer supported for managing your environment.

    Especially for the many companies that host nothing but linux machines, this has been a hard bullet to bite. You really don’t want to buy windows to manage your linux only datacenter.

    So they promised a version would come out. At some point there was a preview/beta sort of thing, but it quickly died, never to be heared from again (did I mention it arrived late (I mean extremely late?)). Of course, this functionality didn’t return in 4.0, nor 4.1 either… (there are rumors on 5 though… yippie…).

    Some interesting point is of course, although it’s a guess whether EMC actually had some agreement with MS on moving to .NET is that MS of course bit them in their private parts with HyperV.

    Personally I feel like being screwed once again by VMware. Don’t get me wrong, they still have the edge (technically… money wise is another) and whilst I don’t like MS I hope they will !@%! VMware so hard they come back crying on their knees to all the peope that supported them for years. Obviously, they won’t come back however, because once you switch, you don’t go back that easily, something that VMware appears completely oblivious to.

    HyperV is coming with live migration vmware… live, you know, like vmotion and the storage vmotion equivalent too. You have other nice features, sure, but we’ll never earn them back (we don’t even use most of em) compared to HyperV. HyperV will cost us only 15-25% of what you cost. Once we go (and management IS going to force it down my throat, whether I like it or not), we will NOT come back. Ever. Too much work, too much hassle, too much historical pain you caused. I am NOT your rape-donkey and many feel the same about it.

    I do have hope. I hope you become the rape-donkey for a bit and come to your senses before it’s too late. The competition is working hard and becoming more attractive by the day…

  6. Pingback: VMware Getting Rid of vRAM Licensing (vTax)? | The Data Center Overlords

  7. Pingback: Hey, Remember vTax? | The Data Center Overlords

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