A quick look at VMware vSphere Editions and Licensing

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A quick look at VMware vSphere Editions and Licensing

This is not a subject I normally tackle as I generally shy away, to put it mildly, from anything related to licensing. Regardless, this time last year (Feb. 2016), VMware ESXi made some important revisions to the vSphere line of products and corresponding licensing schemes, not in the least their decision to drop vSphere Enterprise among others.

In many instances, this left a number of users fuming from the ears since Enterprise edition features such as DRS would, from there on, only be available in the Enterprise Plus edition of VMware vSphere. This left Enterprise Edition users with no choice other than to upgrade to Plus when moving to the latest VMware vSphere release. Standard VMware ESXi users would also be affected since the price jump from Standard to Plus is substantial assuming they would at one point need to use features previously available in the Enterprise edition. As if this weren’t enough, downgrading to the Standard version is in general impossible, which some Standard users might consider by letting go of little-used advanced features in favour, perhaps, of 3rd party solutions. The pressing issue is the increase in OpEx given that Enterprise Plus costs three times as much as the standard version.

Not everything is gloom and doom, though, as VMware is offering a 50% discount on the VMWare ESXi license cost when upgrading to Enterprise Plus as well as a 25 Operating System Instance (OSI) pack of vRealize Log Insight to all vCenter Standard users.

Let’s take a look first at the currently available vSphere editions.

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Cost

It is no secret that VMware caters mostly for Enterprise clients which, putting it crudely, is where the beef is.

VMware VSphere, at the time of writing, is available in three flavours. Costs include a one-time license fee and a yearly renewable Support and Subscription (SnS) contract. Visit this link for a list of available support options.

In the table below, B/P indicates the included cost for Basic (12×5) and Production (24×7) support per vSphere edition.

USA (USD)

Europe (Euro)

vSphere Edition

License Price

(1 Year B/P)

Upgrade from Standard

(1 Year B/P)

Upgrade from Enterprise

(1 Year B/P)

License Price

(1 Year B/P)

Upgrade from Standard

(1 Year B/P)

Upgrade from Enterprise

(1 Year B/P)

VMware vSphere Standard

$1268

$1318

n/a

n/a

1473

1530

n/a

n/a

VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus

$4229

$4369

n/a

n/a

4918

5080

4044

4207

1268

1431

VMware vSphere with Operations Management

$5318

$5494

n/a

n/a

6183

6387

5420

5626

3021

3226

(upgrade from Ent. Plus)

2221

2426

Licenses are per physical processor. Here’s an example taken from this VMware whitepaper on how this works out:

“Licensing New Hosts with vSphere with Operations Management 6.5 A user has two 2-CPU (each with 6 cores) hosts with 128GB of physical RAM each that they wish to license with vSphere with Operations Management 6.5 Enterprise Plus edition. Each physical CPU requires a license, so four vSphere with Operations Management 6.5 Enterprise Plus licenses are required. No additional VMware ESXi licenses will be needed regardless of the number of virtual machines, amount of virtual memory (vRAM) or physical cores or RAM.”

Note. vCenter Server requires a separate license. The prices above are per physical processor per ESXi host deployed.

Features

The differences between the various editions are captured in Figure 1. Note that the vSphere with Operation Management edition is identical to Enterprise Plus, the only difference being the inclusion of the standard version of vRealize Operations formerly known as vCOPS.

vSphere Editions features set

Figure 1 – vSphere Editions features set (Source: VMware)

vSphere Essentials and Acceleration Kits

vSphere Essentials Kits

Small to medium-sized businesses will generally opt for the vSphere Standard edition. However, if cost is a pressing issue, the lesser of the vSphere Essential Kits is the least costly of them all. At the time of writing, licensing stands at $495 with it’s more feature laden sibling commanding a hefty price tag of $4,495. Both prices exclude support and subscription costs.

vSphere Essentials Kits license and support costs

Figure 2 – vSphere Essentials Kits license and support costs (Source: VMware)

There are two types of kits available, Essentials and Essentials Plus.

vSphere Essentials Kit is an all-in-one solution ideal for small offices. It enables consolidation and management of applications to reduce hardware and operating costs—all with a low upfront investment. Essentials must be purchased along with a one-year subscription to software patches and updates. Support is optional and available on a per-incident basis.”

vSphere Essentials Plus Kit adds features such as vSphere vMotion, vSphere HA, and vSphere Data Protection to vSphere Essentials to enable always-on IT for the small environment. Essentials Plus is ideal for small businesses that, in addition to hardware and operation cost savings, are looking for maximization of application availability and business continuity with a low upfront investment. SnS for Essentials Plus is sold separately. A minimum of one year of SnS is required.”

Regardless of choice, you can only have a maximum of 3 ESXi hosts and one instance of vCenter Server Essentials. Together with Essentials Plus, you also have to purchase a 1-year minimum of SnS support.

The main issue with Essentials is one of scalability which can only be addressed by upgrading to one of the Acceleration Kits mentioned below.

vSphere Essentials Kits feature set

Figure 3 – vSphere Essentials Kits feature set (Source: VMware)

vSphere Acceleration Kits

Similar but not quite are the vSphere Acceleration Kits whose components can be upgraded individually unlike the Essentials Kits. They offer the same features as the Enterprise editions of vSphere but each is locked to a maximum of 3 ESXi hosts (min. 2 processors) and 1 vCenter Standard Server.

vSphere Acceleration Kits pricing

Figure 4 – vSphere Acceleration Kits pricing (Source: VMware)

Quoting from VMware:

vSphere and vSphere with Operations Management Acceleration Kits are all-in-one convenience bundles that provide a simple way for customers to purchase all the necessary components to set up a new VMware environment (see Figure 2). Each kit consists of six processor licenses or vSphere or vSphere with Operations Management, and a license for one instance of vCenter Server Standard. Unlike the Essentials Kits and VMware vSphere, 4.x Acceleration Kits that function as a single entity, vSphere and vSphere with Operations Management Accelerations Kits decompose into their individual kit components after purchase. This allows customers to upgrade and renew SnS for each individual component on its own schedule.”

vSphere Acceleration Kits feature set

Figure 5 – vSphere Acceleration Kits feature set (Source: VMware)

Miscellaneous

Here’s a list of other components that fall under the vSphere umbrella.

    • VMware vSphere Desktop is yet another edition used in conjunction with VMware Horizon to facilitate licensing in VDI deployments. It provides all the features found in vSphere Enterprise Plus.
    • VMware vSphere Remote Office Branch Office (ROBO) comes in two flavors and is used in locations with little or no hands-on infrastructure support.

Standard enables highly available IT infrastructure in remote sites. This high availability edition includes vMotion, High Availability, Data Protection and Replication, Hot Add, Fault Tolerance, Storage vMotion, Virtual Volumes and Storage-Policy Based Management.

Advanced enables rapid provisioning of servers, minimization of host configuration drift and enhanced visibility into regulatory compliance, across multiple sites. This edition includes vMotion, High Availability, Data Protection and Replication, Hot Add, Fault Tolerance, Storage vMotion, Virtual Volumes, Storage-Policy Based Management, Host Profiles, Auto Deploy, Distributed Switch and vSphere Integrated Containers.

    • VMware ESXi is also freely available under the name VMware vSphere Hypervisor. It lacks some features amongst which its inability to be managed via vCenter Server and limited to a maximum of 8 vCPUs per VM.
    • VMware vCenter Server also comes in two flavors Essentials and Standard.

vSphere vCenter Essential and Standard features

Figure 6 – vSphere vCenter Essential and Standard features (Source: VMware)

    • vSAN requires a separate license – according to the features you wish to enable – to be purchased even though the feature is included with all versions of vCenter Server.

Calculating Cost

The VMware TCO Comparison Calculator (link provided below) is a great tool when planning a VMware environment deployment. The tool generates a full and very detailed breakdown of all the possible costs you might incur, VMware licensing included, when deploying a new infrastructure or upgrading to vCloud suite.

Calculating cost with the VMware online TCO tool

Figure 7 – Calculating cost with the VMware online TCO tool

The results are presented as a report which can be exported to PDF. This includes all CapEx and OpEx costs from which you can extrapolate any VMware product and support costs. In the example shown in Figure 8, I opted for vSphere Standard and a 2×12-core CPU host. So, the total VMware licensing capital expenditure would consist of a single license for vCenter Server and two licenses for ESXi; since I selected a single server with two physical processors. The breakdown also includes VMware support costs over a period of 3 years. Note that pricing is in Euro.

A full TCO report which includes VMware licensing costs.

Figure 8 – A full TCO report which includes VMware licensing costs.

And finally, here’s a list of links I believe you might find useful.

To properly protect your VMware environment, use Altaro VM Backup to securely backup and replicate your virtual machines. We work hard perpetually to give our customers confidence in their VMware backup strategy.

To keep up to date with the latest VMware best practices, become a member of the VMware DOJO now (it’s free).

Conclusion

All said and done, it’s best to check with your local VMware reseller to iron out any licensing and pricing issues you might have. The VMware Store is also a great place to start which is a portal from where you can purchase a great number of VMware products.

As always, I hope you found the information regarding VMware ESXi useful and feel free to leave any comments down below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

ESX stands for “Elastic Sky X” while the “i” is for “Integrated” and was released in 2010 with version 4.1.
You can run an unlimited number of VMs with ESXi free. The limitation will be the physical resources of the underlying vSphere host.
Hyper-V usually comes out cheaper than VMware given that the Hyper-V, storage spaces direct and such features are included in the Windows license while you still need to purchase it if you run a vSphere host. However, enterprise management tools such as SCVMM are usually required with Hyper-V which reduces the gap.
You can get the vSphere Hypervisor with a free license which includes the hypervisor itself only. It has a few limitations compared to the paid version such as a max of 8 vCPUs per VM, impossibility to manage it with a vCenter (no HA, DRS…), no support from GSS, backup limitations…

31 thoughts on "A quick look at VMware vSphere Editions and Licensing"

  • Thomas says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 pdkiv

  • Fred says:

    Quelle licence VMware vSphere Entreprise Plus 6.5 me conseillez-vous pour deux (2) serveurs de marque HP ProLiant 380 G9 et ayant chacun deux (2) processeurs ?

    Traduction en anglais:

    Which VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus 6.5 license do you recommend for two (2) HP ProLiant 380 G9 branded servers, each with two (2) processors?

    • Jason Fenech says:

      Hi,

      Licensing is on a per-processor basis so you’ll be needing 4 licenses but it always helps to talk to a VMware reseller.

      Jason

      • Fred says:

        Merci infiniment pour votre retour donc si je comprends bien je dois acheter deux (2) licences pour un serveur de marque HP Proliant DL580 G7 et ayant deux (2) processeurs avec huit (8) cœurs logiques ?
        Comment va se faire l’installation alors si j’ai deux licences pour les processeurs ? VMware va-t-il me donné une clé pour les deux processeurs ou deux clés pour les deux processeurs ?
        Je suis confus puisque dans le livre blanc de VMware j’ai lu ceci : « La licence de VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus 6.5 est une clé de vingt-cinq (25) caractères alphanumériques qui peut encoder plusieurs licences spécifiques pour un nombre de processeurs. Ce qui veut dire qu’une clé de licence de VMware vSphere 6 peut être attribuée à plusieurs hôtes à condition que le nombre total de processeurs physiques de ces hôtes ne dépasse pas le nombre total de licences encodées. Veuillez consulter le lien suivant pour plus de détails https://www.vmware.com/files/fr/pdf/products/vsphere/VMware-vSphere-Pricing-Whitepaper.pdf
        Traduction
        Thank you very much for your feedback so if I understand correctly I have to buy two (2) licenses for a branded HP Proliant DL580 G7 server and having two (2) processors with eight (8) logical cores?
        How will the installation be so if I have two licenses for the processors? Will VMware give me a key for both processors or two keys for both processors?
        I am confused since in the VMware white paper I read this: “The VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus 6.5 license is a twenty-five (25) alphanumeric character that can encode multiple specific licenses for a number of processors. This means that a VMware vSphere 6 license key can be assigned to multiple hosts as long as the total number of physical processors on those hosts does not exceed the total number of encoded licenses. Please see the following link for more details https://www.vmware.com/files/fr/pdf/products/vsphere/VMware-vSphere-Pricing-Whitepaper.pdf

        • Fred says:

          Merci infiniment pour votre retour donc si je comprends bien je dois acheter deux (2) licences pour un serveur de marque HP Proliant DL580 G7 et ayant deux (2) processeurs avec huit (8) cœurs logiques ?
          Comment va se faire l’installation alors si j’ai deux licences pour les processeurs ? VMware va-t-il me donné une clé pour les deux processeurs ou deux clés pour les deux processeurs ?
          Je suis confus puisque dans le livre blanc de VMware j’ai lu ceci : « La licence de VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus 6.5 est une clé de vingt-cinq (25) caractères alphanumériques qui peut encoder plusieurs licences spécifiques pour un nombre de processeurs. Ce qui veut dire qu’une clé de licence de VMware vSphere 6 peut être attribuée à plusieurs hôtes à condition que le nombre total de processeurs physiques de ces hôtes ne dépasse pas le nombre total de licences encodées. Veuillez consulter le lien suivant pour plus de détails https://www.vmware.com/files/fr/pdf/products/vsphere/VMware-vSphere-Pricing-Whitepaper.pdf

        • Jason Fenech says:

          The license will have an associated capacity, that is the number of processors you can apply it to. You can use the same license for different ESXi instances.

          Licensing always tends to be a needlessly complex matter hence why it’s best to talk to a reseller. That said, here’s how it looks assuming you’ll be using vCenter. In this example the license is valid for up to 16 processors of which I’m currently using 9.

  • Fred says:

    ok thanks again I think it’s clear now. Thanks again

  • stu fuhrman says:

    Good Morning.
    Can you share with me if VCenter is included with part#
    634-BHBV vSphere Enterprise Plus 1CPU Lic, 3Y Subscription w/Dwngrd Rights.

  • Jacques Petit says:

    Hi,
    We currently have Vsphere 6 Essentials Kit Plus, with currently 2 servers 2 CPU each.
    We would like to add some features provided by Horizon7 (vGPU sharing for some virtual machines).
    Can we “just” buy the Horizon Standard Add-on and fullfill our requirements like if we had bought the full Horizon Standard?

    • Luke Orellana says:

      From VMware’s documentation, “The Horizon Add-Ons include desktop components only and customers must already have vSphere in their environment or purchase vSphere separately”. I believe vGPU share would be included in that, but you may want to reach out to VMware to verify.

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