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vSphere 5.0 and 2TB of memory

 CartoonCalvin100X100.JPG By Calvin Zito, @HPStorageGuy vmw-vexpert.jpg


This is a tough blog post to write.  Last week when I heard about the support for 2TB of memory on several of our high-end servers in a VMware environment and heard about the benefits, I decided that it was worth having an "HP Storage Guy" - that would be me - cover the topic on the blog.  As I watched the Twitter conversation during the VMware launch event (on July 12), the comments turned mostly negative when the topic of VMware's new licensing came up.  Licensing and pricing of VMware's products is FAR from my expertise so I'm not the guy to listen to on this topic but I've tried to understand as best I can. 


You can read about the new licensing in this "VMware vSphere 5.0 - Licensing, Pricing, and Packaging" white paper. Here are a few things I see:


  • The licensing change boils down to this:  vSphere 5.0 will be licensed on a per-processor basis with a vRAM entitlement. Each vSphere 5.0 CPU license will entitle the purchaser to a specific amount of vRAM, or memory configured to virtual machines. The vRAM entitlement can be pooled across a vSphere environment to enable a true cloud or utility based IT consumption model. (page 3)
  • With vSphere 5.0, previous hardware limits have been removed (page 4).  Now you are free to pay for exactly what you need. 

A couple of bloggers have written articles with their perspective and trying sample calculations of what licensing fees look like with vSphere 5.0's new licensing versus vSphere 4.1.  Here's links to those blogs:


Why did I address this on my blog?  As you'll hear in my podcast, we talked a lot about the benefits of this larger memory.  I tweeted that we had support for this larger memory during the VMware webcast and several people responded directly to me, very upset at the licensing costs for this memory.  One of the responses I got said "That's 21 licenses of Enterprise Plus at $20k a pop." That works out to a bit over $400K in license fees to use the memory. 


Well, from our vantage point, that isn't what it would cost.  Consider that with vSphere 5.0 Enterprise Plus comes with a 48GB vRAM license.  The publish cost of a single Enterprise Plus license is $3495 (not sure where the "$20K a pop" came from) so in a 4P system, you would get 192GB vRAM entitlement. With your 2TB memory, you would need 39 additional licenses to use all 2TB (2048GB-192GB=1856GB and 1856GB/48GB = 38.67 additional licenses). At a license price of $3,495, it would be about $150K.


I'm the last person you want figuring this out - but I wanted to give more context before I shared the podcast with you.  So here it is - give it a listen:



You can download the podcast for your MP3 player by clicking here.


I'm planning one more podcast on the VMware announcement - I'll talk about the enhancement to our P9000 Application Performance eXtender (APEX) software to support VMware.  APEX allows customers to assign specific service level targets to VMs and prioritize all storage system resources to meet them and I believe this is an industry first (and only) for VMware.  More on that later this week.

Derek Balling | ‎07-14-2011 12:18 PM

You don't think it's ridiculous that someone on a SnS contract, who has a not unreasonable expectation of "my SnS contract will keep my current installed infrastructure working through the future", will be understandably pissed when they're told "Yeah, you paid $14,000 list for those licenses you've got, AND your SnS is up to date, but if you want to continue using the product in the new version you need to pony up an additional $150,000, 10x more than your original investment. Oh, and don't forget your new SnS agreements on those licenses!"

| ‎07-14-2011 04:28 PM

Derek - I understand the outcry.  I'm not sure I understand the licensing well enough to agree or disagree with anyone's point of view.  I'm sure we'll hear more from VMware on this topic.

| ‎07-14-2011 08:32 PM

Just saw a blog post from VMware Senior Technical Marketing Architect Alan Renouf.  His blog post includes a script you can run on your current VMware environment and it will help with what you currently have licensed and what you'd need for vSphere 5.  His blog is here:

Vidar | ‎07-16-2011 04:37 PM

It's interesting to see how some people make weird calculations to defend VMware like in this podcast.


8 machines with 256GB RAM -> 1 machine with 2TB RAM?


if moving 8 machines into 1 machine is the action plan then I simply have to assume those are 2 CPU machines at the most. That would in a vSphere 4 world mean I need 16 licenses costin 3500 a piece to ta total of 56000.


Assuming that it is a DL980 we are moving to then the server hardware for a start doesn't come cheap but the vsphere 5 licensing vs vsphere 4 licensing is horrifying different.

vsphere 4 licensing would mean you on a DL980 need 8 CPU licenses at a total cost of 28000

vsphere 5 licensing would mean you need 2048/48=43 CPU licenses at a total cost of 150500.


That's more than a 5 times price increase!!!!

| ‎07-16-2011 05:08 PM

Hi Vidar - I'm not defending VMware's licensing.  I think everyone acknowledges that something had to change from the way the were licensing in vSphere 4.1. Additionally, as I said, I'm not an expert in their licensing but if I can get someone from VMware (or maybe a vExpert) to look at your comment, I will. 


It does appear to me that customers who want to use large CPU's and memory to consolidate servers with VMware are going to pay more than in vSphere 4.1.  Thanks for the comment.

Jeramiah Dooley | ‎07-16-2011 05:28 PM

The irony that VCE and HP have a common issue to address with customers here isn't lost on me. :-)


The reality is that, with some caveats, Vidar is correct.  It's important to note that the measurement for vRAM is actual vRAM consumed, not physical RAM in the server, and especially in environments with clusters that have N+1 or N+2 redundancy there's typically vRAM that is intentionally left unused and that should be accounted for.  Also, in companies with multiple clusters, not all of the clusters are production and run to their highest utilization and the licenses there count towards the total pool as well...


Don't mistake my understanding of the current licensing model as a sign that I agree with it. Personally, I'm OK with the vRAM concept, but tying it to physical CPU socket AND missing the consolidation ratios (IMO) so badly is going to make it painful, especially for shops that drive high consolidation rates (I've seen test/dev with 60:1) on boxes with dense RAM footprints, especially if those footprints come in servers with only 2 sockets.


This is the new reality and we'll all have to deal with it while hoping that the outcry makes some difference before GA.

Simon Bramfitt | ‎07-16-2011 05:56 PM

I can't say I'm a huge supporter of this licensing change (I think the direction VMware is heading in is right, but the execution is flawed), but I think the questions being asked about the change are wrong.


This shouldn't be a question of how big the price increase is, but how much value will be delivered.  Is $150,000 in vSphere inappropriate considering that the dl980 used in the example would cost about $200,000 - $250,000 depending proccessor and storage options. If the value isn't there, then consider Hyper-V or XenServer, if the value is there stick with vSphere. 






Vidar | ‎07-16-2011 06:21 PM

I think it was mostly your guest in the podcast that made these "defending" comments I am talking about.


I do not aggree that a whole lot had to change from the way licensing worked in vSphere 4.1.


VMware kept making money from SnS and could easily charge for new features and increase SnS cost but given their current market domination they couldn't grow much more which is why the profits didn't see the same increase every quarter lately.


That doesn't entitle them to charge more from performance advances made by hardware vendors though - especially not when it means changing licensing terms for existing customers with existing support contracts. A "normal" DL380 G7 doesn't cost more today than it did 10 years ago, does it? How much faster is it?


If they wanted to charge customers more by performance - why not just stick with core-limiting entitlements? For example like they used to have 1 CPU license valid for 6 cores. If you have more cores you need 2 licenses. One could create a pool of core-licenses similar to vRAM and it would be a lot more acceptable and similar to existing licensing terms.


The worst thing though is that once they went the vRAM-entitlement route they seem to have used some very old figures to determine what is the "normal" customer requirement is. I think 96GB per CPU license in Enterprise Plus is a minimum if I were to somewhat accept this new idea of vRAM licensing. For Enterprise it should be 72GB and for Standard it should be 64GB.



| ‎07-17-2011 06:20 AM

Vidar - I recorded the podcast with Paul Primmer before the announcement - and neither of us knew about the licensing change.  So what Paul was talking about was about consolidate more with more vCPUs and vRAM (new Virtual Machine 8 increases) independent of the licensing changes that we were unaware of. 


Simon - I agree with you that it shouldn't be a discussion that is focused on the price increase, but I think many people that are looking at vSphere 5.0 are evaluating it based on what they paid for their 4.1 licenses.  Ultimately the decision to upgrade should be based on the value for them.


Jerimiah - I think you're right about this being a problem for VCE and Cisco UCS.  From a Cisco website:  A crucial innovation of the Cisco Unified Computing System, Cisco Extended Memory Technology provides more than twice as much memory (384 GB) as traditional two-socket servers. I also just watched a video on Extended Memory Technology where they said they can support 4X the memory per CPU.   


I don't agree that this is as much of an issue for HP.  While we certainly have high-end systems that support large memory capacities, we have a much more robust portfolio of servers - many that only support 8GB of RAM on the low end.  Here's the ProLiant Family Guide - check it out. 


Additionally, we support all of the leading hypervisors.


We'll certainly all be watching closely to see what develops over the next several weeks.


Thanks for the comments!  I do appreciate the discussion and the sentiments being expressed. 

Jeramiah Dooley | ‎07-17-2011 02:29 PM

Calvin, I was a huge ProLiant customer (and fan) in my previous life!  Our challenge, with regard to the new VMware licensing, is the same in that both HP and Cisco have great solutions for companies looking to put the max amount of RAM possible into x86 servers.  My point was not to make a business or product comparison, but to say that the irony of having VMware put Cisco and HP on the same side of ANY discussion given their recent relationship is amusing. :-)  Business certainly makes for strange bedfellows!

wuffers | ‎07-20-2011 08:04 PM

How do the new vRAM entitlements affect you?

Please take 2 minutes of your time to fill out this vSphere 5 migration survey:

We need more data! Results will be posted in the main vSphere 5 licensing thread over at VMTN:

First round of results here:

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