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VMware licence changes put users on upgrade treadmill

Yes, you get more, but you pay more for it whether you want it or not

VMware's recent vSphere licensing changes are upsetting some users.

Virtzilla's changes mean the vSphere Enterprise package goes away, replaced by the vSphere Enterprise Plus. As the name implies, the second package has more stuff in it: you get big data extensions, support for GPUs, a distributed switch and lots more vFun. But vSphere Enterprise Plus costs more than Enterprise and vSphere Enterprise users are being strongly encouraged to upgrade to Enterprise Plus. Downgrades to vSphere Standard are only offered under limited circumstances.

VMware says, in a FAQ (PDF), that the changes have been made to reflect “the most common customer use cases.” The company is also offering a 50 per cent discount for those who upgrade before June 25th, 2016.

Customers can still buy vSphere Enterprise and the other discontinued vSphere versions until June 30, 2016, and the products will be supported until scheduled end-of-life dates in the year 2020.

Users who've contacted The Register's virtualisation desk appreciate that discount on the up-front costs, but note that support costs for vSphere Enterprise Plus are higher than they were for vSphere Enterprise. So the discount is moot. One reader told us he's effectively been offered a downgrade fee to go from vSphere Enterprise to vSphere Standard.

Why's VMware doing this? The company's Australia/New Zealand senior product marketing manager Aaron Steppat told El Reg that “A number of the features found in Enterprise Plus are necessary to be able to take advantage of use-cases like micro-segmentation through NSX or hyper-converged solutions. This is also the desired platform used to guarantee service levels of business critical applications.”

We also know, from past SEC filings, that VMware greatly desires to move its customers to richer versions of vSphere, because the market for boring old server virtualisation has matured and is no longer growing. Cutting vSphere versions that don't offer automation and network virtualisation integration makes it more likely that users will move in the direction VMware wants, therefore becoming more dependent on VMware for more aspects of their operations.

Such behaviour is, when it comes down to it, just business as usual.

But VMware also has a history of ticking off users with licensing changes, Exhibit A being the vRAM Tax incident of 2011. The VMware community's nowhere near as angry about the new changes this time around, because the herding is less blatant and less expensive. But anger is starting to build: this Reddit thread your correspondent kicked off sparked plenty of ire.

Channel types that sell VMware told us the drive for more expensive, all inclusive, SKUs might be the wrong call, as it will drive users to lower bandings.

"I’d rather the customers had the choice," said one, "Having said that, the last time they did something like this (removing the Essentials sku) they proved me wrong and it was a success." ®

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