If you were like me, you had to do a double take on the new vSphere 5 licensing model. Sure, there are a ton of new and great features in the latest version of vSphere 5, but it is really going to be hard to polish this vRAM turd of a license model that claims "it gives customers the greatest flexibility for vSphere configuration and usage". If anything, it has caused more confusion. The blogosphere has been on fire with posts from many blogs (including vExperts) and the VMware communities detailing this latest license model from VMware. I have no doubt that this will be a hot topic that everyone at VMworld 2011 will be grumbling about. I really can't see anyone saying "hooray! I'm so glad VMware came out with a license model that gives customers greater flexibility for vSphere configurations and usage, it's so much more cost effective than the old model". I'm sure like many of the blogs, everyone will be saying "dang, I'm gonna have to start deploying Hyper-v and some Xen".
This really makes me want to stop wearing my VMware shirts around the datacenter. I don't want to get questioned about this licensing model by some angry customer.
So what is this vRAM entitlement? It's essentially the RAM that is assigned to your virtual machines. Here is an example:
I have two dual core Dell R710's with 96GB of RAM and VMware enterprise licensing.
– Under vSphere 4.x licensing I would only have to buy 4 licenses based on the physical sockets. Wow, that was easy!
– Under vSphere 5.x licensing, the limit on the physical CPU socket is gone and replaced with vRAM (kinda). Under the Enterprise licenses that I own, I'm entitled to 32GB of RAM per physical socket on my servers. This means I'm entitled to 128GB of RAM for my "powered on" virtual machines. So this "pool" of vRAM entitlement can be used by my virtual machines. But, the physical RAM on my hosts equals 192GB. As long as the vRAM assigned to my virtual machines stays under 128GB, I do not need to buy any additional licenses. But if I want to take advantage of that extra 64GB of RAM, I will need to upgrade to Enterprise Plus, which entitles me to 192GB of vRAM (48GB per proc). It is not clear yet if I would be able to just buy additional Enterprise licenses to to make up for that missing 64GB of RAM. My guess is no since the entitlement is by physical socket on the server. Remember, you still need to account for hypervisor overhead with your physical RAM (which does not count against your vRAM entitlement).
So there it is in a nut shell. Companies with heavy amounts of RAM in host servers are going to be the real ones that suffer in this scenario. All those companies that virtualized those Tier 1 RAM hungry apps are put in a really difficult position here. How do you now cost justify moving those to VMware? Or is this just a way to force those apps out to cloud providers?