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vSphere Essentials licensing and vmotion rant September 9, 2009

Posted by jamesisaac in Uncategorized.
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Apparently I almost made up a new product a few days ago.

After running my vSphere servers in eval mode for 50+ days, I was getting ready to apply the licenses to them and the vCenter server which was managing them. I logged into my VMWare account, found the license code, and applied it to the vSphere servers. They happily said “O Hai, I’m now a vSphere Essentials Plus server!”

So then I used the same code on my vCenter server, and it said, “O Noes! You can’t use that code here.”

I was confused, as I thought that was the only code I had. It turns out that I was wrong, as there was a code listed in my VMWare account that said “vCenter Essentials”. I thought that was the wrong thing, as I had purchased Essentials Plus. Time to chat with support.

The support guy looks up my account and gives me the vCenter Essentials keycode. “But that’s not Essentials Plus,” I respond. “I bought Essentials Plus.”

“Yeah, you’re correct… this will not allow you to use HA or DRS. You’d better talk to your reseller to find out why you have Essentials Plus vSphere but only Essentials vCenter.”

After further research, I have drawn this conclusion: there is no such thing as vCenter for Essentials Plus. There’s only vCenter Essentials. And after licensing the server, it does in fact say that it’s vCenter Essentials – but it does allow you to configure HA. Which is pretty much what I would expect, as HA is really a vSphere server feature, not so much a vCenter feature. You can’t configure DRS, as that fails with an improper license error message. So I guess the tech guy I was working with assumed (just like I did) that because you can buy vSphere Essentials Plus, you should also get a vCenter Essentials Plus. There’s no such thing.

Here’s one of the things that bothers me about Essentials and Essentials Plus: vmotion is disabled (which I understand), but storage vmotion is also disabled. Now I seem to remember that back in the 3.5 days, storage vmotion was kind of an undocumented feature available only through the CLI, so there were a number of authors who wrote plug-ins, either scripts or GUI’s and eventually a VCenter plugin. But storage vmotion didn’t depend on a license, it just worked.

Now VMWare has integrated storage vmotion into vCenter directly, but turned it off for the low-end (SMB-target) systems. I understand that they see this as a feature worthy of purchasing the pricier versions to get, but it kinda sucks to lose what was a “free” feature by upgrading to 4.0.

Furthermore, the Essentials packages don’t appear to have the “ala carte” pricing model (unlike their high-end brothers), so I can’t just go out and buy a storage vmotion license. Grr. It just frustrates me because there’s no technical reason why VMWare can’t do it.

Storage vmotion is also one of those features that would appeal to the SMB market even more, as we are more apt to be dealing with low-end storage, where you’re juggling 1 TB on one IET OpenFiler, 500 GB on a Windows Storage Server, 500 GB on a NAS box, and so on… being able to seamlessly move servers between dissimilar storage media was a KILLER feature. I found it even more useful than vmotion, as I could relocate virtual drives to where the best i/o performance was. But what VMWare giveth, VMWare taketh away.

Unless someone’s writing a script…