vSphere5 Licensing Breakdown


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As we all know, vSphere5 is here and many of us are already running it in production and in our labs. I’m sure VMware wrestled with the idea of half-stepping this to rev 4.5 but ultimately decided that there was enough different it deserved a major release. Feature-wise there are only a few net new options and only at the Enterprise Plus level, but the maximum capabilities of the hypervisor have grown significantly in most key areas. ESX and its beloved console is gone now, of course, leaving ESXi as the only option. vCenter 5 is available as a Linux-based virtual appliance which many have been waiting for. The biggest change to vSphere is the licensing model which, if you follow VMware’s logic, does make some sense. So while vSphere5 does now include a vRAM entitlement, it no longer has physical host CPU or RAM limits which were imposed in previous versions. That said, I do prefer a model that leverages tiered upgrades based on feature sets, not how much of your host you intend to use. As a result, many customers may be pushed into buying Enterprise or Enterprise Plus just so they can use the RAM they have installed!

Based on the new model, vRAM entitlements are per physical CPU which equals 1 license. Standard edition will net you 32GB per physical CPU, so 64GB total in your average dual CPU server. Any more than that and you’ll be looking at a higher license tier. The interesting aspect of the new vRAM entitlements is that they pool across ESXi servers managed by the same vCenter server (or linked mode). You still need a license per physical CPU no matter what, but you might just end up with an entitlement reserve that can, in part, be used toward future servers with denser DIMMs.

In the following example I have 3 dual CPU ESXi hosts, 2 with 96GB RAM, 1 with 192GB RAM. The minimum license level I can buy (if I want to use all my RAM) is Enterprise at 2 licenses per host. This gives me a 64GB per CPU entitlement or 128GB total per host. Because my first 2 hosts only have 96GB, this leaves a spare 32GB per server. Just enough to entitle server #3 with 192GB.

Another point of interest is that there is a maximum penalty of 96GB that counts against a vRAM entitlement. So VMs configured with more than 96GB vRAM would only deplete the entitlement by the maximum amount: 96GB. If you’re planning to run vSphere for the purposes of VDI then there is a special Desktop Edition that changes the rules completely. No vRAM entitlements, Enterprise Plus feature set, and you can run all VDI related infrastructure under the same license model (SQL, XenDesktop components, View components, etc). Below is a breakdown of the different editions.

vSphere Standard, Enterprise, Enterprise Plus

  • Each CPU license comes with a vRAM entitlement. These entitlements are pooled across all vSphere servers managed by vCenter (single or linked mode).
  • vRAM entitlements are pooled by vSphere edition. Mixed editions in same vCenter will create multiple pools.
  • No physical CPU core or RAM limits (Vi4 was limited to 12 cores max)
  • Limits are honor-system based, not software limited (based on 12-month rolling average of the daily high watermark).
  • Only 96GB per VM vRAM counts against entitlement. VMs configured with a max of 1TB vRAM, for example, would only reduce pool by 96GB.
  • vCenter5 contains license monitoring/ alerting tools and will warn when pool is approaching or exceeding limits.
  • List $5600/ 2 x CPU host

vSphere Desktop Edition

  • New edition for VDI exclusive use.
  • Unlimited vRAM entitlements.
  • Enterprise Plus feature set.
  • Licensed based on total number of powered on VMs which can be purchased with View bundle or in packs of 100.
  • Current vSphere 4 licenses with SnS can upgrade to VS5 DE and get unlimited vRAM but VDI hosts cannot be managed by same vCenter hosting non-VDI related VMs.
  • VDI management and monitoring tools are allowed in this license model (VCS, PVS, SQL, etc).
  • Separate vCenter license still required.
  • List $65/VM


vSphere 5 licensing

vSphere 5 Upgrade Center

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