It’s a darn good thing that VMware has a technical lead on its competitors. Without that lead, the company would be hemorrhaging customers due to the company’s willingness to pull the rug out from under its customers on a pretty regular basis (or so it seems). Allow me to explain.
Under most vendors’ software maintenance contracts, upgrades to newer versions are included. So, if you’re under an active support contract and a brand new, feature-filled version of the product is released, you get the new features by virtue of the fact that you’ve paid the company for this service. With most software, this also entitles you to what may be significant new features in the latest release.
No so with VMware and vSphere 4. The company found a novel way to make their existing customers fork over more money by introducing a new product edition. Existing customers would not be entitled to these new features unless they paid to upgrade to the new edition. Personally, I found this strategy to be in poor taste and was simply a monetization technique — nothing more. There was nothing customer-focused about it.
Now, with the release of vSphere 5, VMware is at it again. As customers have built their virtual environments, many have found that they can do so with fewer hosts that have lots of memory. Unfortunately for VMware, that was impacting their bottom line, so they found a new way to make virtualization more expensive for their customers. They added the vRAM entitlement concept that has garnered so much attention lately. Now, rather than simply buying enough licenses for each server socket, customers would need to consider how much RAM is assigned to running virtual machines and hope that the total stays within artificially low limits and, if not, the customer would need to buy additional licenses just to satisfy this new licensing cap. Of course, at the same time, VMware removed core count as a licensing factor, but I can’t imagine that this has helped very many customers.
When VMware’s marketing guy had to come on stage at the vSphere launch event and explain the new licensing scheme to the audience, that was the first indication that this new model was nothing more than a money grab not in the customer’s best interests. Whenever marketing has to get involved in things like this, it can’t be good.
I want to make it clear that I don’t begrudge VMware making money. In fact, I hope they do because they do make a great product. However, their continual efforts to extract ever more money from existing customers introduces uncertainty into the IT equation. No one knows what to expect next. These kinds of fiascos are the ones that customers will remember as competing products gain technical ground and the delta gets smaller. The company that can provide a stable foundation with a technology that gets the job done at a cost that can be reasonably counted on will be the winner in the long run.