Back in the old days of minicomputers and mainframes, we used to joke about IBM’s ability to, for all intents and purposes, get the customer to sign a blank check. They were better than anybody I’ve ever seen at getting people to commit to a solution when they really had no idea what the ultimate cost would be – and they were successful because of another cliche (which became a cliche because it was so accurate): “Nobody ever got fired for buying from IBM.” The message was basically, “Yes, we may be more expensive than everybody else, but we’ll take care of you.”
For the most part, those days are long gone, which made it all the more amazing to me to read that VMware is adopting per-VM licensing for most of its management products.
The article nails the basic problem with this licensing approach:
You know how many processors you have on a system, and that’s a fixed number. But the number of VMs on one host — let alone throughout your entire infrastructure — is regularly in flux. How do you plan your purchasing around that? And how do you make sure you don’t violate your licensing terms?
Hey, it’s easy – you just let VMware tell you what to put on your check at the end of the year:
You estimate your needs for the next year and buy licenses to meet those needs. Over the course of those 12 months, vCenter Server calculates the average number of concurrently powered-on VMs running the software. And if you end up needing more licenses to cover what you used, you just reconcile with VMware at the end of the year.
And, before you ask, no, you don’t get money back if you use fewer licenses than you originally purchased.
Sounds to me like a sweet deal – for VMware.
By comparison, the most expensive version of XenServer is $5,000 per server (not per processor, not per VM), and all of the management functionality is included. And the basic version of XenServer, which includes live motion, is free, and still includes the XenCenter distributed management software. (Here’s a helpful comparison chart of which features are included in which version of XenServer.)
A number of years ago, I attended a seminar that discussed the product adoption curve, and how products moved from the “innovation” phase to the “commodity” phase. The inflection point for a particular market was referred to as the “point of most” – where most of the products met most of the needs of most of the customers most of the time. When this point is reached, additional feature innovation no longer justifies a premium price.
The fact is that XenServer and Hyper-V are rapidly achieving feature parity with VMware. If we haven’t reached the “point of most” yet, we certainly will before much more time goes by. So even if you have a substantial investment in VMware already, at some point you have to re-examine what it’s costing every year, don’t you? Or are you OK with just signing a check and letting them fill in the amount later?