VMware 2011: The good, the bad, and the cloudy

VMware may be the crowned server virtualization leader, but not everything went its way in 2011

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Fusion 4 also received more than 90 new features, including multicore support, improved 3D graphics, and enhancements to the way Windows applications can be operated making them more "Mac-like." A big win was full integration and support for Mac OS X Lion and Lion Server. However, Fusion did get a black eye at the end of 2011 when VMware had to backtrack on a popular yet unintended capability: the ability to virtualize older non-server versions of Mac OS X operating systems like Leopard and Snow Leopard.

Moving on to the bad.

vSphere 5 licensing changes: The dreaded vRAM tax

Perhaps more than any other licensing change in the history of virtualization, this one has been trumpeted and beaten to death. Ultimately, this was probably more about timing than anything else, with VMware marrying a new licensing schema with the launch of a major new release of vSphere 5. That proved to be a huge marketing faux pas for VMware that took away from the fantastic list of new features and updates that were added into the new vSphere platform.

VMware probably believes that keeping pricing based upon CPU sockets alone puts the company at risk because of the constant technological changes greatly increasing the number of cores per socket in a physical host server. One way around losing revenue to the ever-growing number of cores per socket was to look beyond the processor and include memory in the licensing equation. VMware originally announced a 32GB and 48GB limit for vSphere 5 Enterprise and Enterprise Plus environments, which it later doubled to 64GB and 96GB to appease customers. Not every customer reacted negatively, but those who believed they were being unduly taxed because they were running memory-heavy applications or high-density environments were quite vocal.

Competitors smelled blood in the water and helped fan flames by calling for unfair "vRAM tax" policies and spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to anyone who would listen. This marketing faux pas and FUD campaign may have caused more people to look at competing products. While it didn't cause a massive switch, it did showcase the improvements made in competing server virtualization platforms and opened the door to the possibility of migrating platforms later.

VMware management software: Per-VM pricing

Since the end of 2010, VMware has been rolling out infrastructure, management, and application platform products using a per-VM licensing schema. These include vCloud Director and vFabric as well as vCenter products such as AppSpeed, CapacityIQ, Chargeback, Site Recovery Manager, and Operations.

VMware says this licensing change follows the IT-as-a-service model, and that software licensing needs to evolve to account for actual product consumption rather than arbitrary licensing the physical hardware. The company also claims that with virtual machines as the new unit of consumption, IT organizations need flexible deployment and licensing options that are more usage-based rather than server-based.

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