Do You Dislike Paying vTaxes?

Then you seriously need to look at Hyper-V.  Even now, if you strip vSphere down to it’s most economic deployment with the Standard edition, you can save quite a bit by going with Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V (with Software Assurance or though a scheme with upgrade rights like OVS) and the System Center Management Suite (for managing the entire application/infrastructure stack AKA cloud).  And because Windows Server Hyper-V is not vTaxed cripple-ware, you get access to all of the features.

I mentioned upgrade rights for Windows Server because you will want Windows 8 Server Hyper-V.  If Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V has more features than vSphere Standard (which it does), then Windows 8 Server Hyper-V will leave VMware and their overpaying customers in the dust.

If you’re a VMware customer then you need to look now.  Get a lab machine or two and try it out – do some prep because they are different products.  System Center Virtual Machine Manager will allow you to migrate from vSphere, and you’ll get to focus systems management on what the business cares about: the service.

If you’re a Microsoft partner that’s focused on VMware then go looking for Symon Perriman’s content on Hyper-V training for VMware engineers.  Work with you local Microsoft PTA to get trained up.  in Ireland, MicroWarehouse customers can work with me – I will be running a number of virtualisation and System Center training classes for partners in MSFT Dublin, and I am available to call out to prepare sales staff and account managers.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V made an impact.  Windows 8 Server Hyper-V is a game changer.  Ignore it at your peril!

VMware Updates vSphere 5.0 Licensing

I guess 90 support forum pages of customers saying they’re going to dump your product and go to the competition really made an impression on VMware.  Trying to convince the world that VMware making more money from less was a good right-sizing process for their customers didn’t quite have the desired effect.

So VMware has responded:

  • They’ve increased the vRAM entitlements for “all” edition of vSphere.  Don’t plan your party yet (see below).  I don’t see any mention of the free edition being licensed to run more than the previously mentioned 8 GB RAM per physical CPU.
  • They’re not going to force you to buy multiple vSphere licenses for “monster” VMs.  The example they give is the 1 TB VM: 1 vSphere Enterprise Plus license (96 GB RAM now) will be enough for it.  Cos that will positively impact the vast majority of virtualisation customers!
  • Short term spikes in usage won’t be counted.  Instead, they’ll count “calculate a 12-month average of consumed vRAM to rather than tracking the high water mark of vRAM”.  Fair enough, that’s a good improvement.

EDIT: Marcel van den Berg let me know that it’s being blogged that vSphere 5.0 free is being increased to 32 GB.  It’s not on the VMware announcement but it’s on lots of blogs.

OK, let’s recalculate Hyper-V/System Center VS vSphere Standard + vOperations.  Last time with the original v5.0 licensing, Microsoft gave more virtualisation and systems management functionality at 52% of the cost of vSphere Standard + vOperations.  The scenario was a 2U host, with 2 CPUs, 92 GB RAM, with published retail licensing costs (both sides give discounts), and 40-50 VMs.

Product Microsoft VMware Comment
Virtualisation Free (guest licensing covers this cost) 6 * vSphere 5 Standard Plus $5,970 Hyper-V is included in Windows licensing so it’s free. The Microsoft option is already $5,970 ahead.
Windows for unlimited VMs

2 * Windows Server DC
$5,998

2 * Windows Server DC
$5,998

This applies to anyone on any virtualisation platform.
Monitoring

System Center Management Suite DC
$5,240

vCenter Operations (25 VM pack) * 2

$7,564

Not a good comparison: MSFT option includes licensing to use all of Microsoft’s System Center products and it’s still around 1/3 cheaper!
Total $11,238 $19,532 Now the MSFT option is only 57% of the cost of the VMware option, but thanks to System Center 2012, MSFT has some of those “critical” virtualisation features like power optimisation and DRS not in this vSphere 5 option.

Gee, thanks VMware, the comparative cost has improved 5% in your favour, and Hyper-V & System Center Management Suite (all of the Microsoft systems management products) actually has more virtualisation and systems management functionality.  Of course, I could be really mean, and price this up with System Center Essentials instead of System Center Management Suite.  I guess that would reduce the cost of the MSFT option by just over $4,000, and still leave it ahead of vSphere Standard/vOperations on all fronts.

I think it’s time once again to see if you’re still making carriages for horses.

More on the VMware Fiasco

Thanks to Kristian Nese for the tweet/heads up.  There’s a thread on VMware’s forums that is currently at 49 pages of VMware customers ranting about the eventual huge price increase

I did have someone criticise my pricing of VMware in my last post on the subject.  I chose 4 copies of vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus  to license a 2 CPU server with 192 GB RAM, costing $13,980 to license your virtualisation for that hardware.  The criticism was that I should have used 8 copies of vSphere 5 Standard instead.  That’s kind of tough to do.  Microsoft and VMware mix and match features differently.  For example DRS.  VMware put it in their vSphere package.  Hyper-V does not have DRS but SCVMM 2012 provides it under a different name.  You’ll also find the same is true of Distributed Power Management.  My previous comparison included System Center Management Suite, which by the way provides upgrade rights (like a built-in software assurance).  vSphere 5 Standard does not include DRS or Distributed Power Management.

Many VMware folks fail to remember that ESXi = Hyper-V, vSphere = Hyper-V + System Center (but the MSFT option is cheaper to buy and own).  Hyper-V + System Center is much more than vSphere Standard.

Anyway, to keep people happy … a copy of vSphere Standard costs $995:

Product Microsoft VMware Comment
Virtualisation Free 8 * vSphere 5 Standard Plus $7,960 Hyper-V is included in Windows licensing so it’s free. The Microsoft option is already $7,960 ahead.
Windows for unlimited VMs

2 * Windows Server DC
$5,998

2 * Windows Server DC
$5,998

This applies to anyone on any virtualisation platform.
Monitoring

System Center Management Suite DC
$5,240

vCenter Operations (25 VM pack) * 2

$7,564

Not a good comparison: MSFT option includes licensing to use all of Microsoft’s System Center products and it’s still around 1/3 cheaper!
Total $11,238 $21,522 Now the MSFT option is only 52% of the cost of the VMware option, but thanks to System Center 2012, MSFT has some of those “critical” virtualisation features like power optimisation and DRS not in this vSphere 5 option.

To be fair, one could monitor that VMware server and it’s VMs using System Center Operations Manager.  Given the density, a SMSD license (as in the VMware option) could be used to limit costs.  However, a 3rd party management pack from Veeam (which looks excellent) or Quest (which I have not seen) would have to be purchased to enable VMware virtualisation monitoring.  Then you could dump vCenter Operations.  I reckon that would cost around $6,200 (including 3rd party management pack), saving around $1,300 from the VMware column.

I got a very interesting email overnight.  The author (thanks by the way) said:

Renata Budko, vp marketing at HyTrust: “With vSphere 5.0 new licensing model, VMware is trying to capture a larger portion of the value, particularly from the customers who are reaping the benefits of virtualization with aggressive consolidation ratios of 10:1 or higher. The new model will put more emphasis on right-sizing the virtual machines and just in time provisioning.”

So here’s the message:

  • VMware are doing you a favour by increasing the cost of virtualisation.  It reinforces the value of their product.  I’m filing that under "Things that make you go hmmm”.
  • VMware are helping you “right-size” your virtualisation hosts by punishing you for “over speccing” your hosts.  That’s so generous of them!  I’m sure the plan wasn’t to hurt your budget and improve their bottom line.  Not at all.

I’ve also read/heard that VMware aren’t concerned about their customers switching to Hyper-V.  Maybe they should read that 49 page thread.  I talked to a few people over the last few days in the VMware market and it sure got them concerned.

Let me finish by saying (again) that VMware do make a great virtualisation product.  I just happen to believe that’s where they stop being great.  Saying you have superior management is easy.  But when your alleged superiority is a virtualisation layer product and a 1990’s style framework of recently acquired products then you’re really stretching it. 

Businesses don’t care all that much about virtualisation.  They care about line of business applications that enable operations and profit generation.  That’s why we have all this talk about cloud and consumerisation of IT. Some little strip of software is of little interest to a CIO/CEO.  But managing that CRM or web sales application, ensuring SLA, rapid provision and flexibility are.  And it’s that layer that Microsoft has everyone beat.  And that’s why I got into Hyper-V back in 2008.

New VMware Licensing – Really? Are they Mental or What?

You may just have noticed a slight pro-Hyper-V bias to this blog Smile  Yeah, I prefer it because I think it does what I need and there is more focus from Microsoft on what the business cares about: business applications.  But from time to time I’ve said that VMware have an excellent server virtualisation product.  Recently I’ve been heard to say that I think VMware got a huge leap on Microsoft by virtually stealing the term Private Cloud in their marketing efforts.  A few of us geeks know what Microsoft are up to.  VMware have been doing huge road shows to reach a much wider audience to say “we are the private, public, and hybrid cloud”.  That might be about to change.

VMware announced their new pricing structure.  It is moving away from a predictable per host model to a model that charges for processors and assigned memory. 

SKU

vRAM entitlement

vSphere 5 Essentials Kit

24 GB

vSphere 5 Essentials Plus Kit

24 GB

vSphere 5 Standard

24 GB

vSphere 5 Enterprise

32 GB

vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus

48 GB

By the way, ESXi 5 (the free one) entitles you to a not-so-massive 8GB of RAM.  An example is a typical DL380 or R710 host with 2 CPUs and 196 GB RAM.  To license it you will need 4 * vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus licenses.  They cost $3,495 retail each.  So virtualisation (only) on that host will cost $13,980

Rather confusingly, cloud deployments have a different licensing model for vCloud Director, etc.  They are sold on a VM-bundle basis.  vCloud Director costs $3,750 for 25 VMs.  Not cheap, not at all!  vOperations is more money and the much ballyhooed SRM is seriously mad money.

VMware customers are expressing their dissatisfaction all over the net.  Many are reporting that this vTax (as Microsoft cleverly calls it) is going to increase their virtualisation costs significantly.  And don’t forget, this gives you your virtualisation licensing and nothing else.

Let’s saunter over to the Microsoft alternative.  If you license your Windows VMs correctly (on any virtualisation platform) then you’re probably licensing per host, using DataCenter edition.  That licenses all the host (if required) and unlimited number of VMs on that host.  The retail (and no one pays retail!) price is $2,999.  That DL380 or R710 will be licensed for unlimited Windows Server VMs for $5,998. 

By the way, you can install that Windows Server Datacenter on the host (you’re entitled to) and enable Hyper-V instead of ESXi.  All of the features of Hyper-V are included at no hidden or extra cost.  Clustering, Live Migration, Dynamic Memory are all there.  Hyper-V Replica is on the way in Windows Server 8 (announced this week at WPC) to replicate VM workloads from host to host, site to site.  No need for VMware.

But aren’t VMware the private cloud?  Bollox!  If you want private cloud then look at the service (the business application) centric System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012.  You can get that as part of a bundle from Microsoft called the System Center Management Suite.  You can license a 2 CPU host (and all VMs and applications on that host) for all of Microsoft’s systems management products for $5,240 (retail).  That’s private cloud, virtualisation management, enterprise monitoring, service/helpdesk management, backup, configuration management, and runbook automation.  In other words, you can manage the entire service stack – the stuff that the business cares about.

Let’s compare the two vendors on a single 2U server with 2 CPUs and 196 GB RAM (my hardware sweet spot by the way).  We’ll also assume that there are 50 VMs on this host:

Product Microsoft VMware Comments

Virtualisation

Free 4 * vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus $13,980 Hyper-V is included in Windows licensing so it’s free.  The Microsoft option is already $13,980 ahead.
Windows for Unlimited VMs 2 * Windows Server DC
$5,998
2 * Windows Server DC
$5,998
 
Monitoring System Center Management Suite DC
$5,240

vCenter Operations (25 VM pack) * 2

$7,564

Not a good comparison: MSFT option includes licensing to use all of Microsoft’s System Center products and it’s still around 1/3 cheaper!
Total $11,238 $27,542 MSFT is $16,304 (59%) cheaper, doesn’t limit your RAM assignment to VMs, and includes all of their management products.

What is a private cloud?  It’s a mechanism where end users will freely deploy VMs as and when they need them, with no restrictions placed on them by IT.  We can measure and optionally cross-charge.  But do we really want to get into the whole “we can’t use that much RAM because it’ll add another $4K tax on our virtualisation.  Sorry the business will need to do without!”.  Not good. 

If I’m a customer, I have to seriously revisit the Microsoft option.  It’s 59% cheaper, does way more across the entire application stack, and the focus is on the business application in the private cloud, not on the irrelevant (yeah I said it) hypervisor layer that can probably fit on a tiny disk.  And with all those cash savings, I can refocus my budget on taking advantage of all those management systems.

If’ I’m a consulting company, I look at what I make margin on.  You’re lucky to make 10% margin on software.  Services are where the money really is.  If you’re selling VMware to your customer then you’re getting them to spend 59% more on software that you’ll make 10% margin on.  If you sold the MSFT alternative then you know that customer has 59% extra budget that can be spent on services.  They’ll have all that System Center licensing goodness that you can revisit to deploy and engineer.  That’s 70%+ margin on human effort.  What sounds better and more profitable?  And you know what: more of your competition are taking advantage of this.  Why aren’t you?

VMware Forum 2011 Dublin – And My 2 Cents

I decided to peek over the fence and registered for this event that ran yesterday.  I was really hoping to learn a little about vSphere 5.

On the positive side, VMware chose a great venue and it was very well dressed up.  There was also a very gut turnout with several hundred attendees.  And unfortunately, that’s where I end the + comments.

The keynotes kicked off.  The first one was some VMware Ireland bigwig who told us that VMware leads the way on management across the IT infrastructure.  We were shown a Gartner to back that up.  I’ll bite my tongue for a moment.  They were focusing on 3 strands:

  1. Private cloud: CIOs don’t want to throw away their data centre/computer room investments to go public cloud.  This is clever because this does not alienate people and it doesn’t threaten them with unemployment.  The public cloud message is that only 15% of apps will go there and VMware offers you a hybrid solution with lots of hosting partners.  With this “standards based” (with the “standard” being that all players would use ESXi for virtualisation) then you could have a hybrid cloud spread across private and several public providers, with no service provider lock-in.  It’s not that simple but it’s a nice concept.  I think they sold this well.
  2. Applications: The common message is that we recognize the priorities of the business.  Application and information – deployment/management/security/availability – are what they really care about.  I’ve been preaching this since I started talking about private cloud last year.  VMware have bought a bunch of point solutions and bundled them as vOperations Suite.  We saw nothing of it.  It smells like one of those awful enterprise management frameworks from the late 1990’s like CA Unicenter.  Integration came in the form of shortcuts appearing in a central control panel Smile
  3. End user environment: VDI! VDI! VDI! … in the form of VMware View.  Allegedly there would be no need to patch the user environment any more and you’d need less systems management.  Well, isn’t that special!

Then the second keynote started with some bigwig from VMware UK.  It was a repeat.  Break time, I mingled, and then went to a session on vOperations where I was tortured by a repetitive presentation (saying much of what covered in the keynotes and repeating itself over and over) and slide deck on vOperations.  The UK bigwig sat in the back and didn’t look too pleased at people paying more attention to their phones, iPads, or walking out.  I can absolutely confirm that I learned nothing from this session.  I wondered if the speakers were trained at the Stephen Elop school for presentation skills.

I was bored to tears.  And that’s when I decided to bail out before the free lunch and skip sessions from the platinum sponsors such as IBM, HP, and Cisco.  I was hoping for way more from this event.  I know for certain that I was not alone.

One thing became clear from this.  VMware are dreadful at communicating about what they sell.  They must really rely on their resellers to get the message across.

OK, let’s break some stuff down from my perspective.  I like how they sell the private cloud.  It’s pretty much how I sell it – but I don’t see it being pervasive.  I don’t see everyone needing a private cloud – it depends on who deploys business applications in the business and who manages the server infrastructure.

On  the application management side – which is the important part of the data center (and it pains me to say that), VMware are way behind Microsoft System Center.  SysCtr covers the entire stack from hardware to services with the user/service perspective, and it manages the entire lifecycle from deployment to recycling.  The newer focus on automation, compliance/governance, as well as consumerisation of IT (user centric computing) really puts System Center ahead of the pack.

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Welcome to Veeam!

Today, Veeam has become a sponsor of this site.  Veeam are best known as the guys who make backup work on VMware’s virtualisation platform.  I became aware of them on the Minasi forum.  Anytime there was a question about backup on VMware, most of the answers were Veeam.  But they are much more than that …

Veeam are one of those companies that get that management is critical on a virtualisation platform.  Check out their product portfolio and you’ll see that Veeam understand that there is more to management than the virtualisation layer.

If you are on their site, you will see that Veeam have something big to announce in 12 days.  Curiouser and curiouser 🙂

And … shhh … but did you know that you can use System Center with VMware?  Yup!  Veeam have a slice of that pie too.  So check out the award winning Veeam to see what they can offer you.

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Virtualization shoot-out: Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware

This 7 page article on InfoWorld makes for an interesting read.  And it appears to me that the author was doing his best to be fair when comparing Hyper-V, XenServer, vSphere, and RedHat.  In the end, he appears to favour vSphere slightly more than Hyper-V for two reasons:

  1. Simplicity of set up
  2. Management

I will concede on point #1.  I’ve done vSphere and, you may not have noticed, I am a wee bit of a Hyper-V fan.  When it comes to setup, vSphere is easier to set up, mainly because it is a virtualisation platform and nothing else.

On the management side, if you look 100% at the virtualisation slice of the pie, then you might concede that vSphere has the tiniest of an edge.  The author picked on Microsoft adding complexity to the management setup by using several tools.

Let me ask you a question: Why do businesses have IT?  Is it so they can own servers, switches, routers, disks, and firewalls?  Or is it because they want applications to enable the business to carry out operations and make profit?  Hopefully it is the latter … otherwise you work for a soon-to-be dot.bomb.

Microsoft have observed why business have IT and have developed their management stack to cater for the entire computing stack, not just virtualisation.  I’ve bleated on about that over and over so I’ll leave that there.

As a MS partner, I like Hyper-V because it brings the possibility of selling other licenses and services such as enterprise monitoring, backup, automation, and so on.  My relationship with the customer does not end after I sell some servers/storage and some virtualisation licenses.

Give the report a read for yourself.  Interestingly, he seems to reckon all the solutions are excellent.

Do I Need a Private Cloud?

With this post I am going to stay technology agnostic.  I’m also going to stay clear of marketing terms.

Before we answer the central question of the blog post, let’s get something clear.  A private cloud does not equal server virtualisation.  A private cloud is an extension of server virtualisation.  It provides a complex self-service mechanism where non infrastructure administrators can deploy services.  In this context and using the ITIL view of things, a service is a business application comprised of things like IIS/Apache, SQL/MySQL, virtual machines with operating systems, application components (Perl/.NET, database schemas, and web content), and additional fabric configurations like load balancers and storage.  In other words, a person from the department that manages business applications can deploy the virtual infrastructure that they need to meet a business need without any effort/time required from the IT department that manages the infrastructure.

This accomplishes a bunch of things that the business will care about.  But the key piece here is that non infrastructure people are doing the deployment.

Server virtualisation is a subset of the private cloud.  You can do server virtualisation without deploying a private cloud.  My bet is that you already have – years ago.  But you cannot do private cloud without server virtualisation.

Taking all into account (up to now, and this might change) I have one rule to answer the central question of this blog post.

Question: Do I need a private cloud

Consultants Answer: Who deploys and manages your applications?

I know, I know.  I’ve answered a question with a question.  Go read how I briefly described a private cloud.  The think you noticed was that the infrastructure administrators were delegating deployment tasks to people who manage applications.  That’s the crux.  Do those people exist in your organisation?

In a small and some medium organisations, there are a few IT infrastructure administrators who do everything.  They manage the firewalls, the run the domain, they do server virtualisation, they run the CRM application (I’m picking on CRM today!), they manage the SQL databases, and so on.  There is no one to delegate service deployment tasks to.  So what is the point in deploying all the additional infrastructure of a private cloud?  There is no valid business reason that I can envision (at the moment).  All that small team really needs is their virtualisation management tools, preferably joined by a set of systems management tools (no brands – I said I’d be agnostic).

On the other hand some medium and large organisations do have various different departments that manage various aspects of the business application portfolio.  There will also be branch offices where servers have been centralised in a virtual farm.  Here there absolutely is a reason to deploy a private cloud.  The central IT infrastructure department could employ people to deploy VMs and install things like IIS/Apache or SQL/MySQL all day long.  And that still wouldn’t meet the deadlines of their internal customers.  Deploying a private cloud would allow those internal customers, who are IT savvy, to deploy their own services in a timely and controlled manner, using policies and quotas that are defined centrally by the business. 

My rule of thumb here (at the moment) is that:

  • If the IT infrastructure team is doing all application deployment/management then there should not be a private cloud.
  • If there are other departments or teams that are doing application deployment/management then there should be a private cloud.

That’s my view on the “Should I deploy a private cloud?” question.  I’ll be interested in other opinions.  This is early days for this stuff and I figure many of the questions and answers for the private cloud will evolve over the coming years.

Interesting Survey Results on Behalf of Veeam

I’ve just read these stats on TechCentral.ie in an article called “IT departments lack visibility in virtualisation”.  They are from a survey “carried out by Vanson Bourne on behalf of VMware management solutions provider Veeam Software”.

  1. Nearly half (49%) of firms that use virtualisation say they have delays in resolving IT problems because of a lack of visibility into their whole IT infrastructure
  2. Forty five per cent of respondents also said that the lack of visibility is slowing down their organisation’s adoption of virtualisation
  3. Eighty per cent of respondents who currently use specialist tools but would prefer to use traditional enterprise-wide management tools
  4. Seventy-one per cent said they had difficulty doing so managing the VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors from a single console …
  5. … while 68% wanted a single dashboard for managing them both

The stats are quoted are from TechCentral.ie so please check out their site for IT news.

Let’s quickly deal with the stats one by one:

  1. Want visibility into your infrastructure?  I’m curious to see how VMware will accomplish that.  They make great virtualisation software but that’s where they stop.  On the other hand, Microsoft System Center will audit and report on your infrastructure hardware and software (Configuration Manager) and monitor your hardware and applications (Operations Manager).
  2. Use the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, ideally combined with System Center, and you have (a) the tools to figure out what you have (b) figure out what your virtualisation infrastructure will be, and (c) do that conversion process.
  3. See System Center.  vSphere will give you great VMware virtualisation management.  But as anyone who really knows what private cloud computing is will tell you, the business doesn’t care about the infrastructure – they care about the business application that lives on top of it.  You need complete end-end and top-bottom management, including deployment, configuration, auditing, policy management, virtualisation, monitoring (traditional and client perspective), backup/recovery, and maybe even other things, covering everything from the network/hardware to the web app/database running on top of everything.
  4. Understandable.  VMware are adding Hyper-V support.  VMM 2008 R2 manages vSphere (but not all features).  VMM 2012 will add more vSphere support in addition to Xen.  But vSphere 5 isn’t far away.  I’ll be honest, I don’t think any management solution will have 100% feature management completeness of all virtualisation platforms, but maybe we can get close to it.
  5. See #4