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  1. #1
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    XenServer or VMWare

    Not to start a flamewar, but I was curious about real world scenarios, and peoples experience with and recommendations for either.

    I have been asked to plan out a smallish virtualization environment (10-12 Dell hosts, iSCSI Equalogic backend), and when reviewing the cost of going with VMWare over Citrix, I can't seem to justify the costs. I figure since Amazon runs on Xen, it must be pretty decent, but am I missing something?

  2. #2
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    Mostly management tools and features.

  3. #3
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    What OS are the guest VMs going to run? I ask, because if it's Windows, have you considered Hyper-V?
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  4. #4
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    The guests will be a mixture of Windows and Linux, but heavy on the Windows.
    I haven't considered Hyper-V, as it doesn't strike me to be a serious competitor. I tried out MS's previous Virtual Server and was left with a very bad taste in my mouth.

    One thing that struck me was an article I read (can't find the link now) about XenApp (Citrix Presentation Server, that is) performance on XenServer. It basically said that XenServer outperformed all other hypervisors when running XenApp. Since many of these guests will be running XenApp, it seemed like a pretty good match.

  5. #5
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    I would suggest you go download and install a copy of ESXi from VMware. It's the free version which doesn't have advanced features like VMotion but it's the real ESX platform and it will give you an idea of the speed.

    I tried Hyper-V and found it to be a waste of resources, I can fit a lot more guests on an ESX box due to the fact that I am not running windows on the host node.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2shoesmcgee View Post
    I tried out MS's previous Virtual Server and was left with a very bad taste in my mouth.
    I would strongly suggest giving Hyper-V a try especially given you'll be heavy on Windows guests. We're running a clustered setup in 2008 R1 and it's been nothing but solid. It's absolutely nothing like Virtual Server was. That would be like comparing Win95 to XP. Yes, R1 lacks some of the features that VMware and Xen like Live Migration, but R2 addresses that and is available now on MSDN if you have access.

    A really big advantage for Hyper-V is if you run 2008 Datacenter as the HOST, then all of your Windows guest licensing (any version) is free for an unlimited number of VMs. The integration between all of the MS products is obviously strong. Operations Manager for monitoring, DPM for backup, VMM for deployment and management -- it's a potent combination.

    If you get serious about Hyper-V, I would suggest if possible holding for R2, but that's only for the additional features. We've had no stability or operational issues with R1.

    Good luck -
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  7. #7
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    Another vote for ESX but not the i version, they take away too many features.
    Works great in a virtual centre cluster for HA and DRS.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave - Just199 View Post
    I tried Hyper-V and found it to be a waste of resources, I can fit a lot more guests on an ESX box due to the fact that I am not running windows on the host node.
    What version of Windows was the HOST? We're you running Core?

    My understanding is that in a hypervisor environment, what appears to you as the "HOST OS" is nothing more than a virtual machine itself. It's just a guest that has additional access to the hypervisor for management. You're not loading up the full version of Windows, then the guests running on top of that. All of the guests run side-by-side with the Management VM -- not on top of it.

    Having said that, running Core instead of the 'full' OS has it's advantages because of reduced footprint and far fewer updates because of a lack of infrastructure like IE.
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  9. #9
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    When it comes to the free version: XenServer beats VMware in features. You can do live migrations for example. You can tack on a little cost for Citrix Essentials also.

    When it comes to paying for the product: VMware beats XenServer - the licensed features are GREAT. VMotion, DRS, HA, etc. But unfortunately, the price can be pretty rough.

    From your small-ish requirements, it sounds like XenServer will do what you need..the free version won't give you anything greater than 24 hours on the performance reporting, but it will get your environment going and allow you to migrate machines around manually.
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  10. #10
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    I agree with Zany, I was suggesting ESXi for testing.

    I am running a 6TB HP iscsi san with 3 HP quad core 16GB memory servers.
    I have 16 "Heavy" windows servers running plus an Exchange server, MSSQL Server, and an ERP server utilizing Terminal Services.

    I can power off a box and nobody notices anything except a 5 second lag while the server on the downed machine is moved over to another server.

    Snapshots are a thing of beauty!
    Vizioncore makes some great products like vRanger Pro and vReplicator that make life easy. vConvertor is a graet piece of software to convert machines from physical to virtual (P2V) or from virtual to virtual (V2V).

    I think vmware is just a lot more mature and the platform is rock solid. Hyper-V is still a baby and it doesn't have much industry backing, however that might change.

  11. #11
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    I have played with ESXi before, but the problem is its lack of features. I would love the ability to migrate running VMs between hosts for maintenance and/or backup purposes (since I have an iSCSI SAN). Additionally, the requirement to purchase a vCenter server (and additional windows license) seemed a but onerous. Xen has XenMotion and central management build in, for free.

    As for Hyper-V, it just seems too heavy to run as the host os, imho. I'd also hate to have to wait to get features I could have now using either of the other options. Plus, I've got experience in both Xen and ESX, so I guess I'm a bit biased.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AI-Wayne View Post
    A really big advantage for Hyper-V is if you run 2008 Datacenter as the HOST, then all of your Windows guest licensing (any version) is free for an unlimited number of VMs. The integration between all of the MS products is obviously strong. Operations Manager for monitoring, DPM for backup, VMM for deployment and management -- it's a potent combination.
    This is simply false. You can run XenSource, XenServer, VMWare or whatever and you can still license on same model. That is by licensing a single Data Center edition for each physical processor.

    And onto the thread. Hyper-V is nice and works ok with Windows virtual machines, but Linux is simply a disaster reseting the physical node etc. (Linux distribution that we tested is not officially supported by MS, but not like we would care ). We gave up on Hyper-V before seeing latest version, R2 I believe.

    We currently have 2 machines running Citrix XenServer.

    But we're planning to move to XenSource for flexibility reasons.
    And I feel somehow threatened by the fact that Citrix might decide to take out of the market the free version. Though it will probably never happen.
    Last edited by Adrian Andreias; 08-18-2009 at 01:59 PM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheic View Post
    This is simply false. You can run XenSource, XenServer, VMWare or whatever and you can still license on same model. That is by licensing a single Data Center edition for each physical processor.
    Nice, I wasn't aware of that. I thought those guests were required to run within the host and not along side.
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  14. #14
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    I've always been confused about that licensing gimmick of Microsoft's. I've been told that if you buy a Windows Enterprise license, you get 4 free guest OS's, but it was never clear if that had to be running as the host or not.

    Sheic, out of curiosity, what flexibility would you gain by moving to XenSource from Citrix?

    So the consensus seems to be that VMWare is the high road in terms of features, but also in relation to cost. From what I can tell, XenServer with the Citrix Essentials setup has pretty much everything VMWare has to offer, at a fraction of the cost. One possible downside mentioned is the lack of a large partner community for Xen (such as Vizioncore and the like), which could be limiting.

    In terms of acquisition costs for either solution, ignoring the hardware, since I don't plan on oversubscribing the memory, it would ballpark (at list) thusly for 10, dual processor hosts:

    VMWare ESX enterprise + vCenter: ~$80,000
    Citrix Xen w/ Essentials: ~$27,000

    I can't exactly say what the extra $53,000 would buy me either. Peace of mind? Is there a feature that I would really miss that would make the price worth it?

  15. #15
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    If you were going to use that VMWare setup for offering VMs to customers then it'd not cost you that at all - as it has to be licensed on a monthly per VM basis in a hosting scenario
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  16. #16
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    VMWare has partner program, that allows you rent VM licenses per month. However, you will need to pass their sales tests first, and the costs for testing is around $3k, if I am not wrong.

  17. #17
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    I'll jump on the bandwagon and go with ESX. I have used ESXi, and like everyone else, it is too restrictive. 3rd party apps like vizioncore's and ESXpress (for backups) aren't supported on the i version. At least last time I checked.

    Again, the problem is licensing. VMware wants your wife, dog, and first born child to get all the best features.

    I can tell you, the Dell Equallogic is awesome. If you are going to have a 10 host VM farm, you will need a high performance SAN like that. Don't make the same mistake I did and build a iSCSI SAN using openfiler or some other opensource product.

    I know everyone is going to jump on that statement. The open source stuff is great and does work, but you're kidding yourself if you think it will keep up with a $20k+ SAN.

  18. #18
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    No such luck.
    This is going to be hosting servers/applications for an ASP of a homegrown application. There will be many customers logging into the guest VMs, but they are not dedicated to them. In fact, they will be sharing a XenApp (Citrix) farm. There will also be many supporting guest VMs (domain controllers, file servers... the usual suspects).
    So, as far as I understand, I'm not eligable for special licensing programs.

  19. #19
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    I personally am working with Citrix and VMWare both in professional capacities. I think they have different target audiences.

    The citrix environment is harder to setup in my opinion and has better security and setup but its not a "virtual" server. Yes I can have my application on 4 servers and it can load balance but if a server fails another automatically picks up the users. Its for a hosted application that is the same across many servers and the load can be spread.

    VMware is somewhat opposite. I see that as a highly specialized server setup (virtual server) that cannot run on another server at the same time and you would not be want to. It takes one resource and consolidates servers onto it...opposite of the citrix which takes one resource and spreads the load on multiple servers.

    Citrix I believe has the full server power available while I know some if not all vmware products limit your setup. The description you give of multiple servers like file servers and domain controllers sounds what i'd use vmware for. Unless the application does not need specific user files or customization per server I wouldn't see that on citrix.

    My opinion of course.

  20. #20
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    What is the difference between ESX and ESXi?

  21. #21
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    No experience with VMWare, but we are using XenServer Essentials (Platinum) running together with EqualLogic PS5500 iSCSI SAN (48 TB raw capacity). So far, it has worked well for us.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by FHDave View Post
    No experience with VMWare, but we are using XenServer Essentials (Platinum) running together with EqualLogic PS5500 iSCSI SAN (48 TB raw capacity). So far, it has worked well for us.
    Sorry, don't mean to entirely hijack the thread.

    What are your overall opinions of the EqualLogic? We're strongly considering one for our next cluster deployment (Hyper-V). Not sure whether to go SAS or if SATA will do. In our case, we're not concerned with each VM getting large amounts of space (capped at 50GB each), but rather being able to run a lot of machines and keeping the performance respectable. Our first setup uses a 4TB SAS MD3000i (this was more a proof of concept) and the performance has been fantastic with about 40 machines so far. We're looking to take things to the next level.

    Thanks -
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  23. #23
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    If you are happy with the MD3000i, then you should be happier with EL. They are two completely different beasts. We have the MD3000i as well, but not really satisfied with it. It's more like an entry level SAN.

    The 48 drives SATA should give equal/similar IOPS as the 16 drives 15K SAS. So you get both performance and capacity. And the sweet thing, this array only take 4U of space ....

    One thin about EL, don't believe too much what the sales guys are trying to pitch you. We found later one that some of their pre-sales information was inaccurate (or incomplete). For example, it is not really true that adding a new array will scale the performance linearly. It may to the overall throughput (haven't tried this since we only have one array), but not to individual volumes; each volume is limited to 1 Gbps, no matter how many arrays you have.

    Price-wise, EL will be quite a bit more expensive than MD3000i. You may get a much better deal trying to get whatever PS5000 series they have in stock. I believe we were lucky enough to purchase the last PS5500E array they have with some awesome discount on it. Back in June, they still have about 200 of the PS5000XV (16 drives 15K SAS). They may still have some. If you want to go with the 48 drives version, then they should have plenty PS6500E available.

    And as usual, try to approach them near the end of their quarters. The next end of quarter would be October. At the end of quarter Dell would do further discount.

    Also, make sure you check Lefthand Network. Their thin provisioning is better than the EqualLogic. And they have some other nice features that EL does not have.

    Good luck.
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  24. #24
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    BTW, one thing about EqualLogic + XenServer that may be relevant here.

    When we test sequential write (2-8 GB file), for unknown reason, we get faster write speed when our EL PS5500E has one controller only. Having two controllers actually reduce the write speed. We can't reproduce this issue when the EL is tested with a plain CentOS server. Nobody at Citrix or Dell is able to resolve this issue. The people at Citrix attempted to reproduce our working environment, but failed to reproduce the problem (so they claim). But then, the use a different EL array, so their test is inconclusive as well.

    At the end of the day, however, we settle for what we have because the 2GB - 8GB sequential write test won't be typical of our operation, which would most likely be random small packets in which case the EL does perform well (thanks to its 2 GB cache).
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by FHDave View Post
    One thin about EL, don't believe too much what the sales guys are trying to pitch you. We found later one that some of their pre-sales information was inaccurate (or incomplete). For example, it is not really true that adding a new array will scale the performance linearly. It may to the overall throughput (haven't tried this since we only have one array), but not to individual volumes; each volume is limited to 1 Gbps, no matter how many arrays you have.
    That's great information -- thank you. The MD3000i is totally an entry level SAN and I'd imagine a lot more benefit from the EL line especially in manageability and feature set. That's good to know the limitation on volumes. I'll be sure and ask them for more information.

    I did take a look at Lefthand as well and it would fit our needs. We've had great overall experience with Dell the past three years, so we try to stick with them if the fit is right.

    I think I've sat down with just about everyone (Compellent, NetApp, etc), but seem to keep coming back to the Dell EL line.

    Thanks again -

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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by AI-Wayne View Post
    A really big advantage for Hyper-V is if you run 2008 Datacenter as the HOST, then all of your Windows guest licensing (any version) is free for an unlimited number of VMs.
    If I may qualify that-- unlimited hosts on Datacenter edition must be "unauthenticated" usage, such as web servers. When you get into "authenticated" scenarios that require CAL/SALs, you cannot use Datacenter edition at all. It must be Standard or Enterprise Edition. With Standard you are licensed to run 1 VM, and with Enterprise you are licensed to run 4 VMs. The catch is the physical host OS is only used to run/support the VMs, and you cannot use it to host other services.

    Quote Originally Posted by AI-Wayne View Post
    If you get serious about Hyper-V, I would suggest if possible holding for R2, but that's only for the additional features. We've had no stability or operational issues with R1.
    Strongly agree. We're running a bunch of public-facing production VMs in Hyper-V and the environment has been rock solid and fast. We also used the old MS Virtual Server 2005 (R1 and R2). It was host-based, not hypervisor based, and DOG SLOW. Don't let that bad experience sour your taste on Hyper-V, which is a fantastic product.

    To those who were asking about VMware, there is a licensing restriction that prohibits you from using the free ESXi version in a hosting environment. If you want to sell hosted VMs, you have to use the paid-for product. (unless that's changed recently)
    Last edited by Sekweta; 08-28-2009 at 06:10 PM.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    If I may qualify that-- unlimited hosts on Datacenter edition must be "unauthenticated" usage, such as web servers. When you get into "authenticated" scenarios that require CAL/SALs, you cannot use Datacenter edition at all. It must be Standard or Enterprise Edition. With Standard you are licensed to run 1 VM, and with Enterprise you are licensed to run 4 VMs. The catch is the physical host OS is only used to run/support the VMs, and you cannot use it to host other services.
    Thanks for clarifying that. Being so hosting (web server application) centric I get lost in that world sometimes and will overlook how other providers target different markets and needs.

    Regards,

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  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    If I may qualify that-- unlimited hosts on Datacenter edition must be "unauthenticated" usage, such as web servers. When you get into "authenticated" scenarios that require CAL/SALs, you cannot use Datacenter edition at all. It must be Standard or Enterprise Edition. With Standard you are licensed to run 1 VM, and with Enterprise you are licensed to run 4 VMs. The catch is the physical host OS is only used to run/support the VMs, and you cannot use it to host other services.
    I don't think this is an issue. If you buy a Datacenter license, the "unlimited" guest VMs don't need to be Datacenter edition at all, and the host can use any OS/hypervisor. You can run any mix of Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter guests under a host licensed for Datacenter.
    source: microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/evaluation/news/bulletins/datacenterhighavail.mspx


    Regarding the OP, I strongly recommend doing evaluation deployments of VMware and XenServer, to see if it's suitable for you and/or your staff. The pricing is definitely in favor of XS, but XS has some limitations compared to VMware, such as very limited GUI tools. With XS I frequently have to access the command line to get things done. If your staff is mostly Windows admins, with limited Linux and/or CLI experience, then there might be some pain as they get used to it.
    Last edited by MentholMoose; 08-29-2009 at 04:51 AM.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by MentholMoose View Post
    I don't think this is an issue. If you buy a Datacenter license, the "unlimited" guest VMs don't need to be Datacenter edition at all, and the host can use any OS/hypervisor. You can run any mix of Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter guests under a host licensed for Datacenter.
    Correct, you can run any version of Windows in a VM under Datacenter edition.

    What I was referring to is HOW those hosts are used. If they are "unauthenticated" usage such as a web or email server, then you indeed can use an unlimited number of VMs without buying extra licenses.

    However, IF you use any of those VMs for purposes that fall under "authenticated" usage (sharepoint, file server, etc.) then you must obtain additional licensing for each of those VMs.

    The "free" VM licenses under Datacenter edition MAY NOT be used in an "authenticated" use scenario. That's the point I was trying to stress.

    An example from one of our quad-core single CPU production servers which hosts 8 VMs:
    5 - unauthenticated (web, web, web, email, dns+web)
    3 - authenticated (file servers)

    We have Datacenter edition installed on the physical host, and run the 5 unauthenticated servers under the "free VMs" license provision.

    We also buy 1 Enterprise edition license to cover the 3 authenticated servers, as Enterprise edition allows up to 4 "free" VMs. Only Standard and Enterprise can be used for "authenticated" usage. We could have bought 3 Standard licenses, or 1 Enterprise. I chose Enterprise because we still have resources available on that box and 1 more "free" authenticated license available to use on it.

    Hopefully that clears up any confusion.

  30. #30
    I have not heard about that before, is there a MS document explaining this somewhere? I was under the impression that the "Unlimited virtualization rights" were really unlimited. Is it only applicable in hosting scenarios?

  31. #31
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    The SPUR is a long boring document, but it does spell out the licensing specifics in painful detail. It's the final word in exactly what you can and cannot do with SPLA licenses.

    The big difference is "authenticated" vs. "unauthenticated".

    Web and Datacenter edition may only be used for unauthenticated hosting where a separate CAL is not required for each user connecting. Examples are web, dns, ftp, email (not counting Exchange) and so forth.

    Standard and Enterprise come in authenticated and unauthenticated versions.

    With Datacenter edition, you can host an unlimited number of VMs serving unauthenticated roles. If you add any VMs that offer services requiring the authenticated edition, you have to purchase licenses for them because the "free unlimited unauthenticated" license granted under Datacenter edition does not cover those particular VMs.

  32. #32
    Thanks for the info! I've only worked in non-hosting environments, so I wasn't aware of some of the differences in licensing. These companies really don't make easily understood licensing terms sometimes. A couple of months ago I was getting quotes for a VMware project, and Dell's quote was the cheapest, but the proposed implementation violated the VMware EULA!

  33. #33
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    I've been working with MS licensing for years. Their terms and conditions have always required the reader to be not only a techie, but part-time lawyer as well. Just when you think you understand, MS changes the rules.

    There have been some rule changes just between Server 2008 R2 and the previous "R1" edition. I often wish there was any viable alternative to Microsoft, but for our customer base and service mix, there isn't.

  34. #34
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    A good reason to choose ESX, ESXi, is memory management:

    if you run multiple instance of the same os, the memory sharing features will save you a lot of ram and scale very well.

    See here some example, but consider that this is VmWare data.

    http://blogs.vmware.com/virtualreali...hyperviso.html

  35. #35
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    For those who'd like to read about some performance testing of Hyper-V, ESX, and XenServer from Virtualization Review, take a look here: http://virtualizationreview.com/arti...pervisors.aspx

    Here's a snippit of the summary:

    There was no overall winner here; no way to say, "This is the best hypervisor for every situation." But some general conclusions can be drawn. For CPU- and memory-intensive applications, XenServer and Hyper-V are attractive and have proven their mettle. For a large number of light to moderate workloads-or if you decide that memory overcommit, for example, is important-ESX may be the answer. What is entirely clear, however, is that all three hypervisors are legitimate virtualization platforms, and that no single company has a monopoly on virtualization any longer.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    We also buy 1 Enterprise edition license to cover the 3 authenticated servers, as Enterprise edition allows up to 4 "free" VMs.
    I believe the limit of 4 VMs per Enterprise edition is the old licensing scheme. Now you can run as many VMs with the Enterprise edition. You just need to pay license for each of CPU sockets. E.g., running Windows 2003 Enterprise on dual quadcore CPUs will cost you two licenses, but then you can install as many VMs as you can fit on your node.

    Same goes for MSSQL.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by FHDave View Post
    I believe the limit of 4 VMs per Enterprise edition is the old licensing scheme. Now you can run as many VMs with the Enterprise edition. You just need to pay license for each of CPU sockets. E.g., running Windows 2003 Enterprise on dual quadcore CPUs will cost you two licenses, but then you can install as many VMs as you can fit on your node.

    Same goes for MSSQL.
    That must be a recent change sometime mid-year 2009, because I drank several cups of espresso (to keep me awake) and read the SPUR (the most boring document on earth, unless you enjoy decyphering doubletalk and gotchas) earlier this year. I'll definitely look into that today. If you're right about Enterprise now being unlimited vs. 4 VMs, that's going to save us a lot of money per month.

  38. #38
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    There have also been changes around out-sourced licenses as well i.e. If you manage the server then it's classed as out-sourced and costs 4x as much to license - If MS decide to interpret it that way, which sometimes they say they won't and sometimes they say they will - even in the same presentation.
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  39. #39
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    Yeah, tell me about that. I've had verbal and email exchanges with MS licensing folks over the years on different topics, and it's rare to get exactly the same story from 2 or more people. Seems like even the MS folks aren't exactly sure themselves. Problem is if they give the wrong answer, then oops. But if you take their advice and apply it, and it's wrong, you could find yourself writing a large check after an MS audit through no fault of your own.

    And unfortunately you cannot retroactively bill your customers for the diff between what they did pay and what they should have paid, so Microsoft's mistake comes out of the service provider's pocket.

  40. #40
    Join Date
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    30
    I had some of the same issues when deciding which platform to develop my application on. In the end the complexities of SPLA meant I chose Java on Linux rather than C# on Windows.

    I just wish Microsoft would make licensing simpler and more liberal. Per proc/core is used by companies to extract the maximum they can from their customers. Per physical machine is simpler to understand and customers' would know exactly what they need to pay.

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