Rather than basing all their decisions on the number of physical servers in the place and number of apps they could run on each (generally just one), VMware's virtual machines let them think of apps as separate workloads that could be stacked several to a server to use computing power more efficiently and spread across the enterprise to be close to the people who actually needed them.
vSphere 5 prices urged them to take that thinking a step further and think of all a data-center resources as one big pool that could be divvied out according to the needs of individual applications.
The basic pricing unit in the new plan is vRAM (virtual RAM). Each license gets you the right to use a certain amount of RAM, and adds costs when you go beyond that lowish limit to improve performance in one VM by adding more memory.
License costs rise or fall according to the amount of RAM is assigned to an app, but all the memory attached to all the vSphere 5 servers in the place can be included as part of the calculation, so no one is stuck just dividing up the RAM in one server or cluster.
That's a great way to get people thinking in terms of cloud computing – in which all computing resources are supposed to be accessible from any part of the enterprise, not locked up in one server or server cluster.
It's not great if it makes such a big change in the way customers spend money with you that they never get to the point of realizing the long-term benefit of "thinking cloud" because overspending their virtual-server budget means they'll be "thinking unemployment" long before they get any benefit from the fog.
The prices themselves weren't so different.
The new terms specifically punished users with extra cost for VMware traditions many counted on. There was limit on how much vRAM could be assigned under one license, so apps with ultra-high RAM requirements (some have as much as a terabyte) would require sometimes a dozen or more licenses.
Capacity plans that relied on the ability to launch extra VMs to cover usage spikes or for test/dev teams, would also be punished because the memory required for those apps meant they were no longer free.
They also punished those with long-term plans for virtualization or cloud projects that would rely on more powerful servers that could support a far higher amount of RAM than current models.
Barring any changes to existing VM infrastructures, pricing under the two plans didn't product huge bottom-line differences.
Under license requirements for vSphere 4.1, users paid according to total number of cores in the CPUs in the host server. A server running vSphere 4.1 Standard on servers with 1 CPU with 8 cores and 24 GB of RAM would cost $795, compared to $995 with vSphere 5.