VMware Licensing Isn’t As Simple As It Seems

Ben Rayner of Phoenix Software discusses VMware License Management, falling foul of the more subtle licensing requirements, and avoiding non-compliance.

To many, VMware is one software vendor whose licensing is easier to understand, however scratching below the surface can reveal unexpected complexities, and customers are often found to be non-compliant, tripped up by some of the subtler licensing requirements stipulated by VMware.

Changes to VMware license management over time

Those who have been using their software for a number of years will remember when the amount of Virtual RAM assigned to VM’s on a vSphere host used to be a factor in VMware licensing! I have fond memories of the release of vSphere 5.1 in 2012 when VMware scrapped the vRAM tax to the sound of much rejoicing in data centres across the globe.

Thankfully, since vSphere 5.1, we no longer need to consider vRAM in vSphere licensing. Instead we are faced with many new licensing metrics due to VMware’s increasing product portfolio, as well as the adoption of their software in remote office and branch offices locations. VMware currently has products that are licensed per CPU, per VM, per Concurrent User (CCU), per Named User, Per Device and per OSI – managing VMware licensing has certainly become a little more complicated over the years! To cater for customers wanting to transition their licensing into the cloud, VMware has also come up with their own new licensing metric – the Portable License Unit (PLU) for certain vRealize management products.

A quick count of the CPUs in your vSphere hosts, and comparing this with your licenses is nowhere near good enough to maintain compliance these days. And running a discovery tool to understand what VMware software you have deployed on your network does not cut it either. It’s a far bigger job than many organizations anticipate, and, as such, it’s widely accepted now that advice and assistance from an experienced software licensing specialist is required. This specialist is required to not only ensure cost-effectiveness in license procurement and Support and Subscription (SnS) renewal, but also to reach and maintain compliance.

Why you must fix it, even if it ain’t broke

Maintaining compliance and ensuring you’ve got valid SnS on your critical VMware software is clearly the right choice, but meeting this criteria isn’t a prerequisite for obtaining technical support from VMware. VMware software has typically been rock solid over the years and many customers have taken the if it ain’t broke… philosophy when it comes to upgrades. Fortunately, it’s very rare to come across a customer today who is still bound by the vRAM tax in vSphere 5.0, but at Phoenix Software , we regularly get our Phoenix VMware Consultants to upgrade customers who are running v5.1, which went out of General Support in 2016!

It’s understandable, especially for these legacy customers, that recording the number of purchased licenses has been allowed to fall by the wayside over the years. The software specialists at Phoenix Software help manage VMWare licenses by bringing these records up-to-date, advising on qualification for discounted VMware Academic software, discovering any breach of VMware’s ‘consistent coverage’ policy requirement, and the risk of falling foul of the ‘use it or lose it’ clause VMware has built into thousands of Enterprise License Agreements (ELA).

The risk of VMware non-compliance is all too real

Having more users connecting into a Horizon View VDI desktop than there are CCU licenses would be an all-too-common example of non-compliance. In truth, despite VMware licensing appearing simple on the surface, this sort of scenario poses a very real risk of non-compliance within most organisations. Choosing a toolset such as License Dashboard will help detect non-compliance, with its connectors directly into VMware vCenter extracting license usage for some of the less straightforward products such as Site Recovery Manager (SRM). Add to that the human touch, and that risk is greatly reduced.

At Phoenix Software we’re able to take this headache away from customers and offer fully managed VMware license services via our Focus Service, which can be extended into other software vendors if required.

Ben Rayner

Ben Rayner

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