VMware takes two shots at cost of its products

Acquisition give it better cost showback; vFabric makes licensing flexible as a cloud

VMware took two big swings at the cost of running its products by loosening license restrictions on its app virtualization development suite and announcing it would buy a company that specializes in tools that track, define and allocate the cost of IT services.

The acquisition is Digital Fuel Technologies, which builds SAAS-based IT financial-monitoring and optimization apps designed to provide detailed usage-level reports on servers, storage and other resources, layered with the cost of buying, maintaining or replacing them.

The approach is designed to give IT managers detailed cost analysis for virtual infrastructures that allows them to decide according to the cost of a piece of hardware what workloads or storage blocks should live in it, which can be consolidated into a smaller number of machines, and the specific percentage of total capacity on each machine is being taken up by VMs or business processes from particular business units, according to Digital Fuel materials.

Application and data-center management tools designed to track the use of IT resources by monitoring application usage levels on physical servers, storage and network devices have trouble keeping track of the resources used by the same applications running within virtual machines that move from server to server or disappear completely if a problem forces users to provision a new one.

Being able to monitor and provide detailed reports of the total resource use of particular business units is more than just a convenience for companies that bother to charge back IT costs to the business units, according to Ramin Sayar, VP of marketing at VMware.

They allow CIOs to defend themselves and their spending decisions, demonstrate they're complying with service level agreements and that their expensive cloud- and virtualization projects actually save money in the long run, he wrote in a blog post yesterday about the acquisition.

Because processes, workloads and costs are so slippery that half of IT budget managers surveyed for a March report only give generalized, all-in-one cost reports to their bosses, not details that could show how effective the projects are.

Failing to live up to cost-saving expectations is one of the major points of dissatisfaction with cloud and virtual computing among both IT and business-unit managers, according to a report released by Symantec this week.

The inability to define costs, benefit and usage levels in enough detail to create realistic expectations is one big reason for the disparity between what virtualization buyers expect and what they get, according to John McGee, VP of product marketing for Symantec, who is responsible for the report.

Besides buying better reporting and analysis tools, the VMware division that used to be the Springsource Java dev tool company loosened up licensing for the newest version of its vFabric application development and deployment platform.

Rather than having to pay license fees for a set number of CPUs – set manually when the application is deployed – buyers of the new vFabric 5 allows customers to pay for licenses according to the number of VMs in which it is launched.

That's a far more accurate way to measure actual use than the previous method, which was based on a physical resource the apps don't use consistently, according to David McJannet, director of product marketing for VMware applications.

"When you have an application deployed across pools of infrastructure, it will be spread across virtual machines on 16 CPUs at some times of day, and on only 10 at other times," he said. "That is a very complex way to license applications when the resources they use shrink and grow over time, so we think the virtual-machine-based approach to licensing makes more sense."

It allows apps written for internal VM infrastructures run and be accounted for according to the resources they use – just as SAAS or cloud-based apps are designed to be.

Current vFabric customers can switch existing licenses from per-CPU to per-VM, mix the two methods, or switch from one to the other with relative freedom, McJannet said.

vFabric 5 has other additions, too: Better integration with VMware's vSphere virtualization servers that allow Java and vSphere more power to negotiate memory use according to demand of the applications, which conserves RAM on the physical machines and reduces the total amount of hardware required, McJannet said.

vFabric 5 also got more support for mobile devices to let apps built for vFabric run or display on any device that supports a browser.

"We're trying to create more efficiencies to developing apps for vFabric, to eliminate sand in the gears of more development," he said.

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