BEA offers per-instance pricing for virtualization

The decision moves away from standard per-CPU model and may herald a change in how virtualization software is priced

Capitalizing on the industry's virtualization trend, BEA Systems has fashioned a per-instance model for its virtualization software in an attempt to do what a company official said better reflects usage patterns.

The strategy affects BEA WebLogic Server -- Virtual Edition. Instead of a per-CPU pricing based on the deployment of the software, users instead will pay $13,000 for each instance of the application server running in its own virtual machine, said Mark Pritchard, BEA director of product marketing for BEA virtualization tools.

"We believe [the pricing model] is unique in the industry," Pritchard said.

WebLogic Server -- Virtual Edition is a Java environment for virtualized hardware. Featuring BEA's application server, a Java Virtual machine and operating system compression, more applications per server are enabled. The product is shipping now.

"What we realized is that once we moved into this new world of virtualization, we need to think again about how we price our software," said Pritchard. For applications running on dedicated servers, CPU-based pricing is common, he noted. But virtualization breaks new ground.

"The reality is that virtualization opens up many exciting new opportunities about how customers can choose to deploy their applications and how they can respond to business and operational needs in a flexible way," Pritchard said.

The CPU-based pricing model is not appropriate as customers moved to virtualized data centers, according to Pritchard. The per-instance model is suited for disaster recovery scenarios and where an application workload changes over time, Pritchard explained.

BEA's per-instance plan "absolutely makes sense," said Chris Wolf, senior analyst at Burton Group.

"It's not uncommon for a virtual machine cluster to be comprised of physical servers with different CPU characteristics (two-way, four-way, etc)," Wolf said. "That being said, simply having a VM fail over from a two-way server to a four-way server would violate WebLogic licensing per the old model. The new licensing model is much more reflective of the modern virtualized data center and is one that other ISVs should follow."

Asked if customers would end up paying more money to BEA under the new per-instance model, Pritchard noted that customers can deploy the software on systems running many CPUs. A customer may be deploying to a 16-CPU box, he said.

"Here, your pricing is tied directly to how much you're using the software," Pritchard said.

BEA will examine whether to price its other technologies using the same per-instance paradigm, but right now the plan is limited to the Virtual Edition, said Pritchard.