VMware vSphere 5: Licensing hubbub When VMware announced the new licensing scheme for vSphere 5, the hue and cry from existing users was deafening. By tying licensing to virtual RAM utilization rather than physical host sockets and RAM, VMware had many customers looking down the barrel at a massive increase in licensing costs to support their existing infrastructure, much less any additional capacity they may have been planning on.
In fact, the pushback was so severe that VMware backed down and made significant changes to the licensing plan. It doubled the RAM entitlements in the Enterprise and Enterprise+ levels, to 64GB and 96GB respectively, and increased the entitlements in Essentials and Essentials+ to 32GB, versus 24GB in the original plan.
VMware also capped the licensing limit to 96GB per VM, so companies running those monster 1TB VMs pay for only the first 96GB. In addition, it shifted the virtual RAM calculation from current usage to a 12-month average. This was a particularly significant change, because prior to this modification, bringing backup and disaster recovery VMs up for testing and compliance checks could have instantly doubled the RAM utilization, throwing all licensing calculations out the window.
While many folks are still not thrilled with the new licensing scheme, these concessions make it usable. Had the original plan been maintained, it's likely that VMware would have priced itself into oblivion, sparking a mass exodus of users to competing products. In fact, the startling number of customers who began evaluating other solutions after the new licensing was unveiled may have forced VMware's hand and led to these changes.
VMware vSphere 5 gives larger shops many reasons to consider an upgrade, while smaller outfits might want to stick with vSphere 4 for the time. I have vSphere 5 running on several boxes in the lab and will be putting it through its paces for a full hands-on review soon. It's too soon in the testing to know for sure, but I've already encountered a few problems that may point to the common situation of a problematic x.0 release, including what appears to be a tricky spontaneous reboot issue. Stay tuned for that review in the coming weeks.