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VMware scales up vSphere virt, rejigs prices

Maneuvering around Microsoft for SMBs and money

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VMware did not say what the per-VM charges would be on the vCenter add-ons, but did say that the new pricing scheme would go into effect on September 1 and that features would be sold in "VM packs," which means forced bundles. The vCenter AppSpeed and ChargeBack features, which were announced last July, will get the per-VM pricing first, along with Site Recovery Manager. The vCenter CapacityIQ capacity planning tool gets per-VM pricing in late 2010 or early 2011, says Balkansky. It's not clear that vCenter Lab Manager, the VM jukeboxing and staging tool, will get per-VM pricing, but there is no reason why it shouldn't.

Rejiggering entry vSphere tools for SMBs

Just to be consistent with the vSphere brand and to try to wipe out the ESX name from the VMware vocabulary, the freebie ESXi embedded hypervisor (which is used in conjunction with the VMware Go online VM management tool and which was originally intended to be stashed on baby flash drives in servers) is now being called the VMware vSphere Hypervisor. And like the hosted VMware Server (formerly GSX Server) variant of VMware's hypervisor, ESXi is free. ESXi is just the ESX Server hypervisor with the console manager ripped out of it, giving it a more streamlined memory footprint on servers and, significantly, one that could fit on what were relatively skinny flash sticks back in 2007. It was intended to be sold on an OEM basis, but two years ago VMware slashed the price to zero as a freebie counterpunch to free Xen and Hyper-V hypervisors from Citrix Systems and Microsoft, respectively. The product is still free, so a lot of users not only won't care what VMware calls it, and will no doubt still call it ESXi no matter what VMware says.

To continue to compete against XenServer and Hyper-V in the SMB space, VMware has also taken a promotional price on its entry vSphere Essentials packaging and made it permanent. The promotional price, which took effect in March, chopped the price of the vSphere Essentials tool from $995 to $495. The Essentials package provides basic server virtualization for up to three two-socket x64 servers. This is the most popular choice for VMware customers that are virtualizing under 30 applications, according to Balkansky.

One other change in packaging with vSphere 4.1 is that VMotion live migration is now being added to the vSphere Essentials Plus and vSphere Standard editions of the software. (You can get the full scoop on the vSphere 4.1 editions and their features here and a detailed explanation of pricing there .) To get VMotion before, you needed to have vSphere Advanced or higher, with vSphere Advanced costing $2,245 per processor socket. Now, Essentials Plus (which includes ESX Server 4.1, a patch manager, management agents, and high availability and data protection features) has VMotion, too. But don't think it is free. The vSphere 4.0 Essentials Plus cost $2,995 across three machines, but the 4.1 release costs $3,495 across three machines. So you are paying $83 per socket for VMotion.

Ditto for vSphere 4.1 Standard, which now has VMotion unlike its 4.0 predecessor. The Standard Edition is sold on a per-socket basis, and now costs $995 instead of the prior $795. So VMotion costs $200 per socket with this license.

Yes, this was just a clever way for VMware to have a price increase at SMB shops. When you are the industry juggernaut, you can do that.

Bootnote: This story originally said what VMware said in a prebriefing ahead of the vSphere 4.1 launch, which is that the ESX Server 4.1 hypervisor could only span 64 threads in a host machine. But the documentation shows that it can support 128 threads, which it needs to do to run on the biggest Xeon 7500 iron today. ®

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