Opinion: What you need to know about vSphere 5's new pricing model

VMware is charging based on a 'pool' of memory in virtualized servers that can be shared as well as on the usual number of CPU cores.

The newly announced VMware vSphere 5 has a new "pooled" pricing model that charges customers based on the virtual memory configured in a virtual server. The model does away with limitations on the amount of RAM and number of cores, and it is the only way to buy the new vSphere version.

Announced on Tuesday, July 12 at the VMware Cloud Infrastructure event in San Francisco, vSphere 5 also sports numerous new features including storage distributed resource scheduler (SDRS), auto-deploy, a Linux-based virtual appliance option for vCenter and a Web-based vSphere client.

All of these features are beneficial and powerful (full disclosure: I was a beta-tester of vSphere 5), but of particular interest to many customers are the pricing changes because of the potential financial or administrative impact.

What is vRAM pooled pricing?

The per-virtual-machine (VM) pricing model has become standard for VMware products including vCenter Operations and vCloud Director. But some VMware shops don't like this pricing system, because it uses a flat price across all VMs, no matter the size of the VM -- and of course not all VMs are created equal. There was some speculation that the next version of vSphere would also be based on this model. Instead, VMware has added an entirely new variable to its pricing lineup, one that I don't believe has previously been used for software licensing.

With vSphere 4, for each socket license you purchased, there were restrictions on the number of CPU cores per CPU socket (6 cores for the Enterprise, Essentials and Essentials Plus versions of vSphere 4, and 12 cores for Advanced and Enterprise Plus). There was also a physical RAM limitation per host (256GB for Standard, Advanced, Enterprise, Essentials and Essentials Plus, and unlimited for Enterprise Plus).

This setup didn't work for some customers or for VMware. Sometimes customers would hit the core limits and couldn't easily grow their infrastructure.

On the other side of the issue, the Enterprise Plus edition of vSphere, in particular, meant that VMware didn't get any additional revenue even as the customer increased the number of CPU cores, or the amount of physical RAM on a host.

With vSphere 5, these core and memory limitations have been completely removed and customers now can use an unlimited number of cores and RAM. Besides the traditional licensing per CPU socket, the new variable that VMware added is that customers will now be charged based on the amount of virtual RAM (vRAM) the admin has configured for the VMs.

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