VMware Pricing Controversy: Users Say Microsoft Door Open
InformationWeek surveyed IT pros about VMware's recent licensing policy change and their virtualization plans. They had plenty to say about VMware--and Microsoft.
Users have grand plans for virtualization. Survey results show a steady ramp up of virtualization, with most organizations reporting 26 - 75% of workloads virtualized today. Nearly half predict they'll be more than 75% virtualized in two years. But the VMware licensing change has given them pause, a prompt to consider how they'll get there. Through the user comments, two strategies became clear among those who feel that the licensing policy changes how they'd otherwise proceed. A plurality of commenters said they're satisfied with their present VMware setup and will stick with vSphere 4.1 for as long as possible.
Many survey respondents expressed the hope that VMware would modify its policies--something the company later did, three weeks after its initial vRAM pricing strategy was announced. VMware increased the vRAM entitlements by about double across the board. That move left most users feeling as though VMware had simply kicked the can down the street. If they did adopt vSphere 5, it might be just that much harder to remove it from their infrastructure should future pricing turn out to be untenable, as IT architects adopted the next round of more capable servers.
Other users told us that holding at vSphere 4.1 is a short-term decision, while they plot their move to another hypervisor. As is always the case, no one wants to rip and replace a complex technology. Most users speak of how they'll have no choice but to replace VMware products at some point because their financial department overlords will insist on it. But the question remains, just how many users will really be forced into choosing a more economical option, and how many will simply suck it up and hope they can continue to afford their product of choice?
Our survey largely reflects the feelings of IT pros before VMware's vRAM entitlement change, as 95% of responses came in before that announcement. However, in the wake of VMware's modified vRAM allocations, most user forums are still choked with the bile of angry users. The new vRAM allocations set by VMware allow for 96 Gbytes of vRAM and one processor socket per license. InformationWeek's survey found that indeed under current server configurations, license requirements would probably not change substantially for most users moving to vSphere 5 right now.
However, our survey also shows that users are much more likely to bump up against the vRAM limit as they move to their next anticipated server configuration. While it's likely that VMware will have to continue to increase its vRAM entitlement per license, it's the uncertainty of those changes along with the certainty of Moore's law that has enterprise architects concerned. Our data shows that users will move gradually toward four socket and blade systems in their next rounds of hardware purchases, but that memory configurations between 128 and 256 GB will double, and that configurations of more than 256 GB will more than triple in the next two years.
Slideshow: VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
When contacted, Microsoft didn't comment directly on this story, but it did say that it would be making announcements regarding the economic benefits of Hyper-V later this month. Not coincidentally, that's about the same time as the VMworld conference in Las Vegas. Other vendors will surely do the same, capitalizing on what can only be seen as a major misstep by a market leader.
In the final analysis, the choice of moving to a licensing model based on a factor as volatile as RAM in use was a bad choice on VMware's part. InformationWeek's charts show that IT planners will continue to use more processor sockets as they move to the next generation of hardware. Modest price increases that acknowledged the user tendency toward more capable hardware probably would have assured VMware of a happy audience and steady increase in income. As it stands now, users remain unshaken in their belief in VMware technology, but equally untrusting that the company will price its products in a way that lets IT pros continue to exploit that technology.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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