Decision Maker

Virtualization Licensing: Time To Take a Fresh Look at Your Virtual Infrastructure

Virtualization licensing is changing -- take time now to review your infrastructure (and all the vendor options) now to make sure you're getting the best deal going forward.

The recent licensing changes for VMware vSphere 5 have sparked a great deal of conversation. While VMware claims that less than 2 percent of its customers will be negatively affected by the new terms, the general buzz in the industry suggests a much broader impact.

With the new licensing focused on processor sockets as well as assigned virtual memory, customers at the very least will have to look at their situations carefully. The ability to pool memory limits across hosts running the same edition of vSphere further complicates the issue, forcing customers to look at memory allocation in a way they've likely never done before. Tricks like memory overcommit also come into play, making a vSphere 5 upgrade something that companies will have to carefully examine before proceeding.

It's also time to take a completely fresh look at your virtual infrastructure. With markedly less-expensive licensing, Microsoft Hyper-V may suddenly become more interesting. I have one client who's always believed Hyper-V doesn't perform as well as vSphere. Under the new licensing terms, however, he says it would be cheaper for his company to run Hyper-V even if doing so means having a significantly higher number of hosts in order to fill that performance gap.

He then admits he's never tested Hyper-V performance in his company's environment, so it's possible the company could save even more. Hyper-V gives him all the management features he feels he needs, so he'll take that fresh look and see how the numbers -- both performance and financial -- fall out.

Even if you have no desire or intent to switch virtualization vendors, it's worth taking a look at your numbers. Can Microsoft save you a ton of money? Would Citrix be substantially less? If so, having those numbers handy can at least give you some negotiating leverage with VMware -- and maybe VMware can offer you more competitive pricing. Look carefully at the features you're using, especially those that you can't get from the competition. Figure out what those unique features are worth to you in dollars and cents, and then see if VMware pricing still makes sense for your organization.

Single-Supplier System
I have another client who's been struggling with what I call the "homogeneous issue." It's a VMware shop from a long way back. Its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in particular relies on capabilities and features that are more or less unique to VMware, so moving off of that platform isn't feasible, no matter what the cost. In looking at its server virtualization, though, the organization realized that from a feature perspective, it could easily move to Windows or even Xen and save a lot of money in licensing without giving up any critical capabilities.

Make Smart Decisions
I'm not trying to knock VMware, here. The fact is that more of us should have our eye on the financial picture in our datacenters, even when it comes to other vendors -- and especially when there's about to be an expense due to upgrades or new licensing terms. Part of being an IT decision maker is making smart financial decisions as well as smart technical ones. One reason that competition is good for the IT marketplace is that it helps keep prices under control -- but only if, as customers, we're willing to consider the competition at all times.

Sometimes, having those financial numbers in mind can help you get things you've wanted but have had trouble getting approval for. Can you save a few thousand dollars on virtualization licensing? That's money that might be put toward other IT projects, bringing in new skills through training and so on.

Too often, I see frontline IT folks becoming champions of a particular product or vendor out of what I call "religious fervor." We like the products we have, and we want to keep them. Marketplace hype -- often fueled by vendors, although that's not always obvious -- can make us believe inaccurate things about products' capabilities. Focus on hard facts, hard numbers and your own testing to make smarter decisions for your organization.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. He’s the President of, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. Follow Don on Twitter at @ConcentratedDon.


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