VMware ROBO license usage

VMware ROBO license model was announced last year. Since the announcement, it was very difficult to get any clear information on how you actually use ROBO licenses. The licenses are sold in 25 packs and they keys are licensed “per site”.  I call support to get a definition of what “per site” meant. Was it a location, a data center, a cluster or a host? Support really couldn’t help, they only concluded that a site was a physical location.

The most difficult part of testing ROBO licenses is that there is no trial license, not even vExperts get a ROBO key.

I recently had an an opportunity to deploy two separate data centers with ROBO keys. When VMware says a key must be licensed per site, that means the key you purchase must be used in one location, just like you would with any other product key. But, the ROBO keys can be split up for the number of virtual machines you need to run in each location, just like an enterprise  or enterprise plus key can be broken up in to how many host sockets you need to license.

Lets say you have two different data centers with a requirement to run 10 virtual machines in one data center and 15 in another data center. You would log in to your VMware license portal at VMware.com and divide or combine your ROBO licenses to the amount you need for each key. You can do the same for vSphere Enterprise keys based on how many hosts you want to license. These license keys are then applied to each host. The license key keeps track of how many powered on virtual machines you have based on the ROBO license key applied to each host. So, you can have 10 hosts in one data center with a ROBO key for 10 virtual machines (but you must purchase the keys in 25 packs). A big cost savings vs purchasing licenses for each socket in each host. Imagine having 10 hosts with quad 16 core processors and only having to license based on the number of virtual machines you are running. I think VMware’s intention for this license model was meant for remote branch offices, but I have not found anything that says it cannot be used in a primary data center.

VMware has ROBO standard and advanced. Both have the same features you would expect to see in the host licenses for Enterprise and Enterprise Plus. After you install the license key in the host, it looks something like this:

ROBO key1

You then get a layout of the license key information:

ROBO key2

If you do have a remote branch that uses 25 virtual machines and you need to license the 26th, you then purchase a 25 pack of licenses. You would then combine your two 25 packs of licenses for one key of 50 licenses. You would then divide that key in to 26 and 24. That 26 key would then replace your existing key.