Posted on August 30, 2017 · Posted in VMWare

VMware vSphere 6.5 Licensing Guide

Sometimes even experienced administrators get confused of VMware licensing peculiarities, available options and features. Regular changes (from one vSphere version to another almost every year) in VMware licensing policy add some extra mess. Let’s try to consider the available VMware vSphere editions, their features, differences, licensing costs and procedures on the example of VMware vSphere 6.5 (released in October, 2016).

VMware vSphere Licensing Rules

Let’s highlight the main rules to bear in mind while planning and purchasing VMware vSphere 6.5 licenses.

  • A server is licensed according to the number of physical processors (CPU). Each server CPU requires a separate vSphere license (cores are not physical processors and are not taken into account when licensing).
  • The available functionality of an ESXi server is determined by the installed vSphere license (see the list of editions in the next section).
  • Each vSphere license requires a service support package (at least for a year).
  • VMware does not impose any restrictions to the size of memory (RAM) installed on the physical server or the number of running virtual machines.

Note. From VMware point of view, the ESXi platform is not licensed. But to use it, you have to purchase a vSphere license.

Comparison of vSphere Standard 6.5 Editions

In VMware vSphere 6.5 the number of vSphere editions has reduced compared to the previous versions. In summer, 2016, VMware announced the elimination of its Enterprise edition. Thus, the following three VMware vSphere editions are now available (earlier there were 6 different editions):

  1. VMware vSphere Standard
  2. VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus
  3. VMware vSphere with Operations Management (vSOM) Enterprise Plus

vmware vsphere 6.5 licensing faq

The next table shows the main features available in different editions:

vSphere vSphere+ Operations Management
Standard Enterprise Plus Enterprise Plus
vMotion, Storage vMotion and Cross-Switch vMotion + + +
High Availability (HA) and  Fault Tolerance(FT) 2 vCPU 4 vCPU 4 vCPU
Data Protection (VDP) and VM Data Replication + + +
Virtual Volumes and Storage-Policy BasedManagement + + +
APIs for Storage Awareness + + +
Multi-VC Content Library + + +
APIs for Array Integration, Multipathing + + +
Virtual Machine Encryption + +
Proactive HA + +
vSphere Integrated Containers + +
Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Distributed Power Management (DPM) + +
Big Data Extensions + +
Distributed Switch + +
Storage DRS + +
I/O Controls (Network and Storage) and SR-IOV + +
Host Profiles and Auto Deploy + +
Flash Read Cache + +
Cross-vCenter and Long Distance vMotion + +
vGPU + +
Predictive DRS + +
vSphere Monitoring +
Capacity Optimization +
Operations Visibility +

Let’s briefly describe the most interesting features available in different editions:

vSphere Standard offers the following features:

  • High Availability – reduces downtime due to automatic VM restart
  • Fault Tolerance – provides continuous VM (app) availability in case of hardware failures
  • vMotion, Cross-Switch vMotion – an online migration of VMs between servers or virtual switches
  • Storage vMotion – an online migration of virtual disk files between storage devices
  • Data Protection – an integrated backup
  • VM Data Replication – an optimized data replication using WAN
  • Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) – a virtualization of SAN and NAS storage devices
  • Storage-Policy Management (SPBM) – an automatic storage management
  • APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) – vCenter and disk array integration
  • Multi-VC Content Library – centralized management of VM templates, vApp, IOS and scripts
  • APIs for Array Integration, Multipathing – API storage interfaces to integrate arrays and manage alternative paths

In addition to Standard features, vSphere Enterprise edition offers the following options:

  • Distributed Resource Scheduler – balancing the workload between hosts
  • Distributed Power Management – optimization of power consumption due to switching off idle hosts
  • Reliable Memory – optimal placement of VMkernel blocks in the memory
  • Distributed Switch – centralized management of the network configuration
  • Storage DRS – automatic balancing of disk resource workload
  • I/O Controls (Storage and Network) – access prioritization due to continuous I/O workload monitoring
  • Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) – virtualization of a single PCIe device into several virtual devices
  • Host Profiles and Auto Deploy — host profiles and automatic deployment
  • Cross-VC vMotion – migration of VMs between vCenter servers
  • vGPU – an opportunity to share a graphic adapter (GPU) by several VMs
  • VM Encryption − encryption of virtual machine files and vMotion traffic using AES-NI

vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise – in addition to these options, Standard and Enterprise editions offer means of automatic analysis, resource and performance management.

When purchasing any of the licenses described above, you also have to buy a vCenter Server Standard license.

VMware vSphere 6 Essentials: Small Business Editions

As separate editions for small businesses, VMWare offers VMware vSphere 6 Essentials editions.

Two editions are available:

  • VMware vSphere 6 Essentials
  • VMware vSphere 6 Essentials Plus

These editions allow to license up to 3 physical servers having up to 2 CPUs each. Here is the comparison of the main features of these editions.

vSphere Essentials vSphere Essentials Plus
Update Manager + +
Data Protection + +
High Availability (HA) +
Data Protection +
vMotion and Switch vMotion +
vSAN +
Replication +

In general, the difference between Essentials and Essentials Plus edition is that the latter has vMotion and High Availability (HA) features. In vSphere Essentials, you will be able to move a VM between servers or storages only if it is switched off.

All vSphere Essentials sets have vCenter Server Essentials that allows to centrally manage three ESXi servers.

It’s worth to note that if you buy several sets of vCenter Server Essentials, say, for 6 servers, one vCenter Essentials server can manage up to three servers, so you will have two independent vCenter infrastructures.

Note. When you buy special license kits (Acceleration Kit), you can upgrade vSphere Essentials to full-featured vSphere editions.

Pricing of VMware vSphere 6 and vCenter Licenses

We remind that when purchasing any VMware vSphere 6 or vCenter licenses, it is required to buy support as well. Support includes the opportunity to update your product version, contact VMWare customer service and get remote help.

The next table shows the price of different VMWare licenses and the cost of minimal annual support, Basic Support/Subscription vSphere 6 -1 year.

vSphere Standard (1 host) vSphere Enterprise Plus vSphere Enterprise Plus with Operations Management vSphere Essentials Kit (3 hosts) vSphere Essentials Plus Kit (3 hosts)
License Price 995$ 3495$ 4395$ 495$ 4495$
1 Year Basic Support 273$ 734$ 923$ 65$ 944$

When purchasing a Standard, Enterprise Plus or EP with OM license, you have to buy vCenter Standard license as well.

  • VMware vCenter Server Standard – 5995$ + the cost of 1 Year Basic Support (1259$)

Note. vCenter Server Essentials license is already included in vSphere Essentials Kit and you don’t need to buy it separately.

It’s also worth to note that if you buy a lot of licenses, you should consider the purchase of 1 year kits (bundles) of VMware vSphere Acceleration Kit that include 6 vSphere licenses of the corresponding version + 1 vCenter Standard license.

Here is the price of vCenter Acceleration Kit for 6 physical processors.

vSphere Standard Acceleration Kit vSphere Enterprise Plus Acceleration Kit vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus Acceleration Kit
Price of 1 Kit 10995$ 22995$ 24995$
1 Year Basic Support 2515$ 5665$ 6800$

Thus, the cost of 6 separate vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses and 1vCenter Standard license including support is:

6*(3495+734) + (5995+1259) = 32628$

The cost of vSphere Standard Acceleration Kit containing the same licenses is 22995+5665=28660$. It means it is 3968$ cheaper (you save about 10%).

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