VMware relents, changes license model for vSphere 5. Here's a new analysis of the desktop pricing.

To quote Shawn Bass (when he joined Gabe & me on our radio show from BriForum two weeks ago), VMware has issued a CLA, "Corrective Licensing Action" to change the wildly unpopular licensing terms of their upcoming vSphere 5 product.

To quote Shawn Bass (when he joined Gabe & me on our radio show from BriForum two weeks ago), VMware has issued a CLA, "Corrective Licensing Action" to change the wildly unpopular licensing terms of their upcoming vSphere 5 product. If you're not familiar with the situation so far, you can catch up here:

Scolding lady

VMware announced the changes in their [ironically-titled] "Rethink IT" blog yesterday. The gist of the three changes they're making:

  • They're raising the vRAM entitlements per processor license (from 48 to 96, 32 to 64, and 24 to 32).
  • They're capping the amount of vRAM entitlement needed for any single VM to 96 GB (regardless of the size of the VM memory).
  • They're basing pricing on a 12-month average instead of the single highest spike (meaning spikes and testing won't really affect things).

I'm sure by now there are about 40 million blog posts commenting on these changes in general, so I'll just focus on how the pricing will affect the desktop / VDI use case.

The first thing to mention about the desktop use case is that the new "vSphere Desktop" license they announced will remain unchanged. (Recall the vSphere Desktop license gives you the vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus capabilities, but only for VMs running desktop OSes. The price is $6500 per 100 concurrent desktop VMs, with no limit on the amount of servers, processors, or vRAM you use.)

So this means that for customers who want to use vSphere as the basis for their VDI environments, they have a choice: they can buy the "regular" vSphere licenses, or they can buy the special vSphere Desktop licenses. (This decision doesn't apply to VMware View customers, as their View licenses already include the vSphere Desktop license. It's only for Citrix XenDesktop or Quest vWorkspace customers who want to run their VDI environments on vSphere.)

In my analysis of several scenarios comparing the potential costs of the vSphere Desktop versus the regular vSphere editions, I worked out that generally speaking, the vSphere Desktop edition was a good deal. So while the new vSphere 5 pricing was going to screw a lot of people in general, I didn't think it would have too much of an affect in VDI environments.

In fact the only fucked up thing about the new licensing for VDI environments was that VMware would not allow existing vSphere 4 customers to migrate their existing vSphere 4 licenses to the new vSphere 5 Desktop licenses. So customers were faced with the prospect of throwing away their old licenses and buying new Desktop licenses, or upgrading their old licenses and dealing with the new costs. (Well, that or if they were growing then maybe they could have allocated the existing vSphere 4 licenses to another department and then bought new vSphere 5 Desktop licenses for their VDI.)

So now that VMware is doubling the amount of vRAM entitlements per processor for the regular editions of vSphere 5, let's see how that affects the overall pricing and the decision as to whether a customer should use the Desktop edition or a regular edition:

In the old analysis we found that the vSphere Desktop license was almost always a better deal, regardless of the memory size of your VDI desktops. With the new licensing model, we find that the price point is closer. For example, if your desktop VMs have 1GB RAM each, we find that if you only need the capabilities of the Standard edition of vSphere, you can cut your per-desktop license cost in half by using vSphere 5 Standard instead of vSphere Desktop, regardless of the size of your environment:

Vsphere5 licensing 1gb round 2

Even with 1.5GB of RAM per desktop VM, you can still save about 25% by going with vSphere Standard instead of vSphere Desktop. (Again, this is assuming you don't need any of the vSphere Enterprise or Enterprise Plus capabilities, which are included in vSphere Desktop.)

Vsphere5 licensing 1 5gb round 2

If your VDI desktops have 2GB of RAM (which is more often the case these days), then it looks like vSphere Desktop is the way to go:

Vsphere5 licensing 2gb round 2

So the bottom line is that unless your VDI desktops are very small and you can get away with just the standard features of vSphere 5, you're better off going with the vSphere Desktop license. And in actuality, the per-user pricing model of the Desktop license is much more in-line with how desktop licensing costs are calculated anyway. (After all, if you buy one of the regular licenses, then you constantly have to worry about how future system changes will affect your licensing costs. But if you buy the Desktop license, it's a simple $6500 per 100 concurrent desktops. Simple.)


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Actually VMware threw out another bone to vSphere 4.0 customers and uncapped vRAM entitlements for customers upgrading to vSphere 5.0 w/o requiring the desktop SKU. Check out my blog for the details/restrictions of the offer:




There seems to be a glitch in the community server image module as this and a few past articles doesn't display any of the attached images.


So are there really any benefits that VMWare gives as the host for your VDI instead of doing XenDesktop with XenServer?

From what I have been seeing as of late, unless you are using 3rd party tools specifically for vmware, like veamm, then you are better off doing the Xenserver route.