VMware Ships New vSphere Version, Changes Pricing Model

vSphere 4.1 includes improvements most new data center software brings to the table: faster performance, more scaling capability and better management control. But an upcoming change in VMware's vCenter licensing model is also worth noting.

VMware on July 13 came out with a new version of its mainline vSphere virtualization platform that is aimed directly at cloud computing in markets it wants to penetrate more effectively: the small and midsize business sector.

VMware already has deployments in nearly 90 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies and in many other large enterprises not included in that listing. Where else is there to go but smaller for the world's largest virtualization software maker?

SMBs do most of the world's commerce, and the IT-selling upside in those markets over the next decade is huge. As more smaller and midrange businesses add to their IT deployments, more virtualization of assets is sure to follow.

VMware is stepping up the revs on its main product. vSphere 4.1 was released July 13, about 14 months after vSphere 4 started shipping. VMware hadn't updated the platform for three years prior to Version 4.

vSphere 4.1 includes improvements that most new data center software brings to the table: faster performance, more scaling capability and better management control. The continuing growth of data in all its forms and the need for more granular control over it demands these improvements.

"We have designed vSphere 4.1 to solidify its existing capabilities and to extend and enhance it to be the right platform to build cloud infrastructures," Bogomil Balkansky, vice president of product marketing in VMware's server unit, told eWEEK. "We've built vSphere 4.1 for enterprises and service providers alike."

Balkansky said the three biggest upgrades in vSphere 4.1 are that it can handle larger clusters of nodes and more virtual machines under a single instance of the vCenter Management Console; it has improved quality of storage and networking service for VMs running on vSphere; and it brings improvements in VM density and consolidation ratio that will save companies money over time.

vSphere 4.1 now can manage 3,000 VMs per cluster-up from 1,280-and it can now manage up to 1,000 physical hosts, up from 300, Balkansky said.

One VMware vCenter Server can now manage up to 15,000 VMs, three times as many as before, Balkansky said. With the addition of new memory compression technology, vSphere 4.1 improves the performance of systems processing heavy loads, resulting in up to 25 percent faster performance over previous implementations, he said.

Click here to read a technical analysis of vSphere 4.1by eWEEK's Cameron Sturdevant.

vSphere 4.1 also enables faster VM migrations through speed and scale enhancements to vMotion, Balkansky said. This improvement delivers faster platform response by migrating VMs up to five times faster and enabling up to eight concurrent vMotion events per source.

In vSphere 4.1, "The new efficiencies [help] decrease unit cost per virtual machine," Balkansky said.

With more and more VMs sprouting up anywhere and everywhere-especially in large IT systems-these improvements can lead to substantial cost savings for an enterprise, he said.

VMware changes pricing model for some customers

There was another significant development July 13 that will be affecting all VMware customers that use the company's management products.

Starting Sept. 1, VMware is changing its pricing model for customers that use the vCenter Site Recovery Manager, vCenter AppSpeed and vCenter Chargeback data center software. No longer will VMware charge a licensing fee per physical node; from now on, it will be billing customers on a per-VM-basis.

Specifically, it will bill on active VMs-not VMs that are sitting idle. VMware's management tools include a monitor that keeps track of all VM activity. Once per year, it will spit out a report that will serve as the SLA (service-level agreement) for VMware's licensing bills.

"Per-VM licensing for VMware vCenter CapacityIQ will take effect in the fourth quarter of 2010," the company said. The new model is for vCenter products only.

Thus, it looks like VMware is taking advantage of the mushrooming number of VMs handling IT workloads. Certainly there is more opportunity for profit in per-VM licensing than in licensing physical nodes and allowing IT managers to create VMs to their hearts' content.

Not necessarily, Balkansky said.

"We're doing this in response to fairly strong customer feedback that to realize the best value from the platform is to manage more virtual machines," Balkansky said. "For many customers, the virtual machine has become the new unit of internal cost accounting and chargeback.

"Secondly, another factor is to have better alignment in usage for what you pay for."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...