Software licensing how-tos for virtual server environments

Software licensing agreements pose new challenges in virtual server environments where virtual machine cloning and insufficient licensing is common. Let this guide help you understand how to license virtual products for your clients.

Supporting and navigating virtual server licensing presents VARs with interesting challenges. In addition to setting up servers, you are expected to manage and maintain the number of boxes virtualized. Because cloning is easy and virtual machines (VMs) are designed to be flexible, you'll likely have your hands full making sure software license agreements aren't broken. This guide offers best practices on how to license a product for a client and how to manage software license agreements for virtual servers.


   Virtual server licensing challenges
   How to license products for virtualization




  Virtual server licensing challenges  Return to Table of Contents


  • Software licensing requirements for multi-core processors and server virtualization

  • Should software be licensed by the core or by the whole processor? Different vendors have responded to this software licensing differently, so it's important to check the licensing restrictions for each vendor and product. From a hardware perspective, licensing multi-core processors as one processor would create incentive for users to move to multi-core, and save in licensing costs. But this causes problems for software vendors, who would lose significant revenue. Contributor Barb Goldworm explains some of these licensing challenges in this tip.
    Virtualization software licensing resources
    VMware end-user license agreements

    Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 FAQs


  • Maintaining software license agreements

  • Perhaps the biggest problem facing IT administrators is the virtualization platform's ability to clone and replicate virtual machines. Without a method to control the mass duplication and deployment process of virtual machines, an administrator will have a license compliance issue nightmare on his hands -- unless you provide services to help him get software licensing under control. Find out why it's so difficult to track virtual server licenses.


  • Software licensing in a multi-core processor, virtualization-enhanced data center

  • Not all companies want or can afford a software license for every user, so they use concurrent-user licenses that allows a company to buy 10 licenses for use by any employees, limited to 10 instances of the software running at any one moment in time. Vendors realized that by altering the license model, they could also control revenue. For products licensed per CPU, vendors could increase their pricing when dual, quad, etc., CPUs became common. With payment tied to the capability of the software, the argument was made that if you increased the processing power, you increased the software's ability, thus increasing its value.

    Considering today's dual-core processors, you see simply two processors on one chip rather than two separate processors. The pricing logic stays the same. Virtualization is the same issue -- if you can run more than one instance of a product, you should then supposedly have to pay for the increase in processing capacity.



      How to license products for virtualization  Return to Table of Contents


  • Caveman-proof VMware product licensing calculations

  • VMware licensing is based on server CPUs, with no additional charge for the number of CPU cores. The current VMware licensing policy covers CPUs with up to four cores. Licensing choice will likely vary with the size of the prospective client. Small and medium-sized (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.


  • Virtualization calculator for Windows Server

  • To help make accurate licensing assessments, Microsoft now offers the Windows Server Virtualization Calculator. To use the calculator, you just need to know the number of processor sockets (not cores) on each server, and the planned number of VMs that will run on the server.


  • Licensing Windows Vista Business and Vista Ultimate in virtual machines

  • Both Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, in both their retail and OEM versions, can be run in virtual machines. However, there are restrictions:
    1. Each distinct copy of Vista that is run in a VM must have its own license.
    2. Virtual machines cannot be copied.
    3. OEM copies of Vista that are run in VMs cannot be copied or moved to another machine.


  • Licensing Microsoft for customers in virtual environments

  • Problems do rise when working with Windows Enterprise Edition: What happens, for example, if you need to license just one physical server, but eight virtual machines? Official Microsoft documentation doesn't explain how to license the remaining four virtual machines not covered by the physical Windows license. Since this question is applicable to any virtualization platform, including Microsoft Virtual Server competitors such as VMware, the answer is critical.

    At first glance, the only way to legally run more than four licensed virtual instances seems to be to buy a Windows Datacenter Edition as the host OS. But even without the needed licensing guidelines, Microsoft allows another possibility: Use more than one Enterprise Edition license to obtain the rights to run the remaining virtual machines.

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