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back to article VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus: An El Reg deep dive

Given the plethora of virtualisation kit on the market, VMware customers – and potential customers – just want an answer to this very simple question: are VMware's offerings worth the money? A truthful response is fantastically complicated. VMware has many levels of offerings; what's more there are a lot of different companies …

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Good article

I love VMware - used it since Workstation 2, but in recent years the stack from VMware has become vast, enormous and beyond the pale. And they really broke things once they left techs behind at the ESXi level, and I've not been able to stay with it since. I still run an ESXi 4 box and did not load up 5 as the cpu lics simply were in your face. Now the VMware website is like one enormous minefield. Inpenetrable, difficult, hard to resolve.

And as you say - its not like the product is easy to install. You now need to become a recluse level tech and better be good at reading best practice notes, and deep tech detail.

For very large enterprise and business I can see it has good value. But I think anywhere else the ground is eroding under their feet. For me, its vastly easier to use free hypervisors (proxmox, Xen, KVM, hyper V, Vbox and fudge my management of them because no one at my level really has a willingness to pay money for virtualisation, or its at least very thin on the ground.

They are in serious need of a simplistic ESXi variant thatssomething like MS small business servers was- where you get all the menu in a limited size stack - with simplicity and ease of management at its core, and say upto 6 hardware boxes and x number of VMs.

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Re: Good article

I know they do starter kits and acceleration packs and all that - but I agree that a clearly defined, discreet, *reasonably priced* package for SME's with no hidden costs a la MS SBS could only be a good thing right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good article

"better than System Center 2012 on the same hardware" - System Centre does a lot lot more than Vcentre. A fairer comparison would be to run Microsoft VMM on a system on its own - when I can tell you the resource requirements are much lower than vCentre.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good article

VMware also manage to have more secure vulnerabilities in a Hyper Visor stack than Microsoft manage in a whole OS. Over 400 vulnerabilities in ESX 4 versus less than 10 in Hyper-V Server 2008!

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Selling opex to the pointy-haired boss is traditionally much harder than selling capex.

Interesting you say that, as a Technical Manager for an SME I usually find the opposite is true - it all comes down to cash flow.

Cap-ex usually involves commitment to spending large amounts in 1 go, where with Op-ex I can often distribute over many months, which is much easier to get past the bean counters!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Selling opex to the pointy-haired boss is traditionally much harder than selling capex.

It doesn't - Capex is depreciated over several years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Selling opex to the pointy-haired boss is traditionally much harder than selling capex.

While you can depreciate the CapEx over several years the money still has to leave the bank account up front. Cash flow is an important consideration still.

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An interesting article, but you do get DRS in Enterprise, not just Enterprise Plus. You do only get storage DRS in Enterprise Plus.

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You are 100% correct. I sincerely apologize for the screw-up. The hell of it is, I even knew that, and had it flagged for change, but missed it in the final version. 15 lashes with a wet noodle have been applied and the change made.

Cheers.

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Anonymous Coward

too complicated for small to mid size businesses

I think VMware is getting too complicated for a large number of companies that have just a rack or two of servers. In the past it was much simpler and easier to master, but over time a lot of components have been added to the mix and it can be very confusing even to find out how much it will all cost to license. Also to get the most out of VMware, you need to install a large number of various components, some of them do just a small task and I don't understand why VMware is going this way...

I think that VMware is looking more at large companies which have no issues with cash, but in the process smaller companies are left behind. Navigating VMware website is quite difficult too. The free ESXi, which used to be easily accessible right from front page not so long ago, is now buried under tons of paid for stuff.

VMware should have an offering for SMEs too, something simple to deploy and easy to use with clear licensing and costs. Otherwise SMEs will drift towards Hyper-V (like we do).

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Linux

Re: too complicated for small to mid size businesses

""I don't understand why VMware is going this way...""

I do, it is the good ol' "Show us the money Mahoney..." commonly known as greed.

The problem is that MS is perceived to be caching up with them, so they will have to drop more and more features from the Enterprise to the standard edition.

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Re: too complicated for small to mid size businesses

I deploy VMware Essentials Plus kits to all my SMBs. A separate feature, looking at VMware for the SMB market is currently under construction.

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Complicated install? For the 'next, next, finish' guys sure it might seem complex when it doesn't just install. This is core infrastructure software that provides the basis for our customers' IT services - there can't be many techs worth their money that go at something like this without a pot of coffee, a shut door, google and a big pile of PDFs printed out....

IMHO! Nothing personal - just a bug bear of mine about our industry.

DRS available in Enterprise, S-DRS only in Ent+.

Doing a 5.0 to 5.1 upgrade this afternoon - only a small one though. SRM included. Fun fun fun.

Thanks for the article Trev!

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Go

Not complicated in the slightest

I've been running this since release, and it's been fantastic. The upgrade from 5.0 to 5.1 was extremely easy and done with zero downtime. I don't see where this would be a problem for any decent sysadmin.

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The only caveat I ran into...

...was SSO. For some reason I was completely oblivious to the database requirement and kept pointing it at the vCenter database my DBA had created for me. Once I pulled me head out of my ass and got him the SSO DB scripts it was very easy to get it running.

Next step is to cut over my ESXi hosts from one vCenter to another, then use Update Manager to bring them all up to 5.1.

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Fault Tolerance

I rather suspect that part of the reason this is not in Hyper-V yet is because Microsoft understand availability better than most. There are a few reasons why you'd use FT but these are almost zero because you'd still need traditional clustering for patching and maintenance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fault Tolerance

Stratus and Marathon both provide Hyper-V solutions for FT. I have never seen a requirement for FT though. Windows clustering and load balancing meets most requirements.

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Re: Fault Tolerance

Stratus bought Marathon

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Boffin

My experience with ESX 4 and 5.0...

DRS and HA are definitely features worth having. With both turned on, if a host freezes up (which in our environment manifests itself as the VMs on the host going comatose) I can kick the host, wait for vCenter to notice the failure, (usuall a minute or two at most) and resurrect the stricken VMs elsewhere without having to migrate the hosts elsewhere. Our environment is small enough that distributed virtual switches aren't needed, so I've not had a change to play with it. (We do have a host profile set up to auto-configure the 10 Gbe cards with our specific configuration and add the NFS datastores) Admittedly, configuring the vCenter system is a bit of a pain, but it's not something that's done day in, day out.

Performance-wise, I've not noticed any problems with running vCenter on a virtualised server for our environment (15 hosts and ~200 VMs, and we've started implementing VDI with about 200 seats)

I'm looking forward to see what 5.1 does to our environment- we are starting that migration this month.

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Pint

Check the HCL first

One piece of advice I'd give everyone is to check whether your hardware is "officially" supported on VMWare's compatibility list. All of it. Otherwise, your upgrade will take more than "a pot of coffee, a shut door, google and a big pile of PDFs printed out" as david64 so eloquently put it.

I just finished an upgrade from 4.1 to 5.1 on some IBM stuff we have for our lab. Luckily it's the lab, because this particular combination of very expensive gear isn't on the HCL, and 5.1 isn't tested by IBM. And, it's just just a support issue -- there was a whole host of strange, nested problems between drivers, firmware levels, the defaults IBM picked for their customized ESXi build, ESXi kernel settings, etc, etc, etc. Because it's IBM stuff, the docs on everything couldn't be found from their website and I just happened to find the magic tech note and manual from a lucky Google search after a lengthy quest.

I eventually got it working and everything's fine -- but those who think all upgrades are going to be "Next, next, next, finish" should plan to spend more time. For those who do make it, it works great. The web client is improved, and the whole system just feels a little faster.

Beer because I needed one after that particular waste of my life...

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Facepalm

Profile Driven Storage

IMHO profile Driven Storage is not value for money, it is very crude and most enterprises will have expensive Sans that will do this tiering already and far more efficiently.

As for all that software driven datacenter malarkey, I think as you say it is appropriate for enterprise. But I don't see any benefit for SMB. 25 hosts being a good place to switch to DVS and host profiles. With a modern HP 2 CPU gen 8 server I would expect 40-50 vms per host so 1000 vms on 25 hosts seems reasonable and I class this well above SMB.

Good article, but I really find little value for anyone below 25 hosts in the enterprise suite now. Either switch to standard edition or jump to Hyper-V.

In 5 years VMware will be heading toward Novell and banyan vines territory if they keep purchasing third party products and then badly integrating them into their product suite.

As for SSO don't get me started. What is the point have they not heard of A.D. And linked mode.

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Re: Profile Driven Storage

Sir, SSO backs on to AD if you should choose. Works like a charm.

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Re: Profile Driven Storage

I see you point TP I guess I was trying t say that VIrtual Center backs on to A.D. As well (well it always used to) and it always used to work like a charm so what is SSO giving me. It seems like another layer for no reason.

I imagine VMware perhaps want independence from Microsoft, or maybe they are looking to raise the profile of some other software that happens to be owned by their big brother.

Who knows....

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L_V

vRAM discontinued for v. 5.0 as well

[disclaimer - I work at VMware]

"If you have vSphere 5.0, then this is the correct path for you. The biggest upgrade 5.1 offered over 5.0 was banishment of the accursed vTax. If you already bought in to 5.0, you've already paid it, if it were to affect you. "

Do note that you don't need to upgrade to use the new licensing model. As of august 2012, vRAM was discontinued, even for users still on 5.0.

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For SME's there's the Essentials or, better, the Essentials Plus license. That means 3 ESXi Servers with a vCenter to go with it for a reasonable price point. And it still has vSphere Replication, HA, vMotion, Data Protection as features.

The complexity of the product is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. If you want to use all functionality, it becomes more complex and if you use only a subset of its' features it's less complex. In my opinion it's not the VMware side of things that is difficult; it's the storage and network side of things. I'm very much in favor of the bottom-up approach (I'm talking to you MS); first design your hardware platform and only then install and configure your hypervisor.

Having a broad overview and some depth when it comes to storage and networking is key for making any virtualization solution work. In contrast, the software is relatively easy to configure.

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Anonymous Coward

I disagree with your definition of "reasonable". For that money, you could license a fleet of Hyper-V Server managed by Microsoft VMM, and without the feature limitations.

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The point is that you do not necessarily need all those features. Furthermore, Hyper-V with SCVMM isn't exactly free either. If you go down that path, I'd say put everything on Linux (Xen or KVM).

On 3 ESXi Servers you can run enough VMs for the average small business and in this environment it's very easy to setup and everything just works. Hyper-V, in my opinion, still has some parts that need some polish, like Cluster Shared Volumes.

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Anonymous Coward

"Hyper-V with SCVMM isn't exactly free either. If you go down that path, I'd say put everything on Linux (Xen or KVM)."

HyperV with VMM is much cheaper than vSphere (as a rule of thumb, 1/3 the cost, but with much more functionality enabled in the management stack). You only pay for the management stack. Hyper-V itself is totally free.

Xen and KVM dont scale as well as vSphere and Hyper-V - so you will be paying for more hardware - and they take far more effort to manage, integrate and orchestrate solutions for.

No idea what you think needs polish on CSV, but Hyper-V filesystem already scales better than vSphere and allows larger than 2TB containers...

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Headmaster

Follow the PDFs?

I couldn't help but chuckle at the indignation over having the RTFM. Come on. This is Enterprise IT. You have to know what you are doing and why before you do it. It's never just a matter of "follow the bouncing ball".

I also can't agree about ESXi 5 being harder to troubleshoot. Sure it's not ESX, but in my experience, it's a lot more stable. Sure rolling up your sleeves and getting into the CLI is a little more difficult, and your options are little more limited, but it's not really any harder, and you have to do a lot less of it because stuff just doesn;t break that much. That is - if you bothered to RTFM when you first installed it.

vSphere is very far a head of the curve, still. Other hypervisor offerings are catching them up, but VMware has market share because they were the best, first, and longest at the virtualization game. That's why they charge more. ( That and maybe because they are owned by EMC - but hey, it could be worse - they could be owned by Oracle. )

Still prices are dropping. For certain this is reflective of pressure from the other players - heck even RHEV can give you a fairly decent alternative to a vSphere cluster for a fraction of the cost these days. But VMware are also focussing more R&D on different areas - like IaaS clouds, (which haven't - yet - changed the game as much as the marketing world predicted), and the whole vFabric PaaS thing - which I really don't get - as well as quite an ambitious end user compute vision/roadmap. I think that reflects the fact that the hypervisor virtualization cash cow has already flushed them up enough to take on bigger and bolder things. They are now more focussed on retaining that residual income from their install base, so we can probably expect to see some price drops for the stuff that isn't so cutting edge anymore.

vCops Standard and vCloud Network Security are pretty impressive "freebies" to bundle in to Enterprise Plus suites. That will impress a lot of medium and bigger shops, and likely see them pick up vCops Enterprise sales from larger corporates - especially if they are planning on deploying vCloud director and company. There s some real drive there in a lot of enterprises. The automation & orchestration goodness from implementing a private cloud with a robust REST API framework is pretty compelling. It really does make it a lot easier and quicker for big IT shops and service providers to service their infrastructure consumers. Dev's and QA jockeys love the freedom of being able to spin up self-serve web or DB boxes from a portal on demand. And it lends well to Agile thinking about project management, which developer types get pretty excited about.

There's lots of goodness left in VMware for big players, but small to medium shops may not really need all those features.

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