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VMware product calculations

VMware product licensing is simple with the company's three virtual machine licensing levels for ESX Server, as part of VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3).

Calculating VMware product licensing is surprisingly simple.

Often times when I need to calculate virtual machine licensing, I find myself preparing Excel spreadsheets and loading many complicated formulas before I start. Thankfully VMware has shown mercy on those of us who prefer to be able to calculate product licensing with tools like an abacus.

VMware now licenses ESX Server as part of VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3). VI3 offers three licensing levels:

  • Starter
  • Standard
  • Enterprise

The feature and price differences between the three VI3 product versions are outlined in Table 1.

VI3 edition Cost (per 2 CPUs) Included features
Starter $1,000
  • Virtual Center agent
  • VMs can be stored locally or on a NAS appliance
  • No cluster file system
Standard $3,750
  • Virtual Center agent
  • Local and SAN storage
  • Cluster file system
  • Virtual SMP
Enterprise $5,750

Table 1: VI3 edition comparison

VMware licensing is based on server CPUs, with no additional charge for the number of CPU cores. The current licensing policy covers CPUs with up to four cores.

More VMware resources
VMware vs. Virtual Server Fast Guide 

Virtual service station: Packaging virtualization services for SMBs 

Installing and deploying VMs on enterprise servers

Starter edition is limited in features in comparison to the other VI3 editions, and only allows VMs to be stored locally on their physical host server or on a NAS appliance. Note that Starter edition can be upgraded to Standard edition for $2,750. Standard edition offers more storage options and allows features in Enterprise edition to be added a la carte. For example, an organization wishing to run ESX servers with Vmotion support could purchase a Standard edition license ($3,750) and a Vmotion additive license ($1,400). More information on a-la-carte additive licenses is available at the VMware Store.

Licensing choice will likely vary with the size of the prospective client. Small SMB customers may prefer the VI3 Starter edition, or may look to virtualize on the free VMware Server. Products such as Double-Take Software can be bundled with VMware Server deployments as a means to automate VM data protection and failover to a local standby server or alternate site.

To sum up how VMware VI3 licensing is calculated, let's look at a couple of examples. For starters, assume that a small business is looking to consolidate its eight servers down to two 2-way quad-core physical systems, use Virtual SMP in three VMs and store VMs on local SCSI hard disks. In this example, two VI3 Standard edition licenses would be needed.

Next, assume that a medium business would like to consolidate 40 servers down to five 4-way dual-core physical systems, store VMs on a Fibre Channel SAN and automate VM failover. Since dynamic VM failover requires the VMware HA product (included in the VI3 Enterprise edition), the organization would need to purchase 10 VI3 Enterprise edition licenses. Since each license can be applied to 2 CPUs, two VI3 Enterprise edition licenses would be needed for each 4-way server. Also, VMware HA is managed using the VMware VirtualCenter Management Server, so a VirtualCenter Management Server license would need to be purchased as well. Note that VirtualCenter Management Server is also required to use Vmotion and DRS, and is licensed per management server installation (VirtualCenter agent licenses are already included in all VI3 editions). So in this example, a single VirtualCenter Management Server license would be needed.

As you can see, licensing calculations for VMware Virtual Infrastructure environments can be a relatively painless process. For more information on VMware licensing and deployment requirements, take a look at the ESX 3.0.1 and VirtualCenter 2.0.1 Installation and Upgrade Guide or the VMware Infrastructure 3 Pricing, Packaging, and Licensing Overview.

About the author: Chris Wolf, MCSE, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, is a Microsoft MVP for Windows Server-File System/Storage and the Computer and Information Systems Department Head for the ECPI College of Technology online campus. He also works as an independent consultant, specializing in the areas of virtualization, enterprise storage, and network infrastructure management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).


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