Licensing your Private Cloud

Both Microsoft and VMware have revamped their product suites, and therefore their licensing, once more. As always, how you buy will dictate how you license. It has taken a bit of time for all the revamped information to percolate through to each corporate site and for all the issues to be addressed. As we did before, let us look at licensing. We will look first at the old model of Hyper-V vs VMware vSphere vs Citrix Xen vs RedHat KVM. Then, in a follow-on article, we will look at the new cloud suite models.


We will look at several system models classified as small, medium, and large, which are outlined in the first table below. For licensing purposes, however, the only important components are the processors in use. This is the big change as of VMworld 2012 in San Francisco. There is no more memory vTax, so grow that memory as big as you need.

Configuration Small Medium Large
Processors 3×2 hex core 20×2 hex core 100×4 hex core
Memory 24G 96G 256G
Networking 4x1G 2x10G 4x10G
# of Admins 1 5 20
Support 1 Year 3 Year 3 Year



This is a discussion of licensing for JUST the hypervisor and the tools to manage it, looking at the non-cloud implementations of VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen, and RedHat KVM.

Although we are not looking at functionality per se, we do see a trend towards greater functionality at the lower end of the price spectrum in most hypervisors these days, while more software-defined data center functionality ends up in the higher-end versions. As of today, VMware vSphere still leads the way in functionality for availability and software-defined data center capabilities with their Enterprise Plus product. There are other articles that compare functionality, but regardless, the more you spend, the more functionality you receive.

Components Small (6 sockets)
Medium(40 sockets) Large(400 sockets) What’s Missing
VMware vSphere
Essentials Plus Kit (6 sockets) $4,495.00 NA NA
Standard Acceleration Kit (6 sockets) NA $48,965.50 NA
Enterprise Plus Acceleration Kit (6 sockets) NA NA $1,473,665.00
Support and Service $944.00 $85,281.00 $1,304,691.00
Ongoing Costs $944.00/yr $85,281.00/3 yr $1,304,691/3 yr
Total $7,392.50 $134,246.50 $1,908,562.00
Microsoft Hyper-V (not including client MLs) 1 Year Support
System Center Standard (2 sockets) NA NA NA
System Center Datacenter (2 sockets) $7,214.00 $72,140.00 $721,400.00
Client MLs $62.00 $310.00 $3,660.00
Support and Service (2 Years) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Ongoing Costs $7,276.00/2 yr $72,450.00/2 yr $725,060.00/2 yr
Total $7,276..00 $72,450.00 $725,060.00
Citrix XenServer (per server) 2 Years of Support
Advanced $3,000.00 NA NA
Enterprise NA $50,000.00 NA
Platinum NA NA $500,000.00
Support and Service (1 year ONLY) $0.00  $0.00 $0.00
Ongoing Costs $390.00 $6500.00 $67,500.00
Total $3,000.00 $50,000.00 $500,000.00
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers 2 Years of Support
Standard Starter Kit (6 sockets) $2,994.00 NA NA
Premium Starter Kit (6 sockets) NA $17,976.00 $76,398.00
Service and Support (1 year ONLY) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Ongoing Costs $2,994.00/yr $17,976.00/yr $76,398.00/yr
Total $2,994.00 $17,976.00 $76,398.00

What is interesting in the table above is the $s spent on support for each package and how that support is purchased. For medium and large enterprises, we described the need for three years of support. The pricing found for some hypervisors is purely for one year with renewals required every year, while others offer only two-year plans. Since hypervisors improve fairly often, keeping service and support is crucial for moving forward.

The support costs are also the annual (or every 2-3 year) costs for the software. While VMware and Red Hat state up front what those costs are, the other companies do not or do so confusing in a confusing way. When looking at the Microsoft literature, what we see is apparently just support costs [Open No Level (NL) License and Software Assurance (L&SA) 2-year price $3,607]. So every two years we may end up spending the same amount of money as we did to initially purchase the software.


While we did not look at features and functions of the different versions, we did take the most advantageous list price for our comparison. We all know that all vendors may discount the final price heavily as you buy more licenses. This comparison did not include any of the other sundry licenses you may require to run your environment, such as hardware management licenses (which vary by vendor), guest operating system licenses, and any other necessary licenses for your own data centers. This is purely a look at the initial and ongoing pricing available from the vendors on their hypervisor and the software required to manage those hypervisors.

Looking at these numbers, I begin to wonder if the hypervisor is really a commodity? The ongoing costs for a hypervisor tend to level the playing field quite a bit, as for such a crucial piece of software, support is required. Even so, as we mull over these numbers, we need to realize it is not just about pricing, but also about requirements for your software-defined data center architectures.

10/9/12 UPDATE: Updated Microsoft Licensing for Small installations and added in the on-going support costs for Citrix XenServer.

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