VMware View licensing explained, plain and simple

VMware View licensing doesn't have to be complicated. To help you navigate through the myriad options, we outline the several ways you can license a VDI environment.

During new software implementations, licensing is often overlooked or done incorrectly. I regularly visit customers who have either too few or too many licenses -- seldom does anyone have the amount they actually need.

In my experience, VMware View licensing isn't any simpler to understand. To save you a headache later on, let's look at how to properly license your virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment with VMware View.

For those of you who aren't familiar with what a VDI virtual machine (VM) is, it's a desktop VM that runs Windows 95/98, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, or Windows 7.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can get to the fun part: licensing!

Licensing options for VMware View
VMware View licensing comes in two versions: a bundled version (end-to-end solution) or an add-on. The bundled version is best used when you have a dedicated VMware vCenter cluster for your VDI environment. This licensing type allows you to run the number of VDI VMs you purchased and includes licenses for the VMware ESX hosts that you run the VDI VMs on. Licenses for the hosts are called VMware vSphere 4 for Desktops licenses.

VMware vCenter Server desktop licenses are also included. Because a VMware View environment also has supporting servers, such as View Manager, vCenter Server, and any other connection broker or any management or performance monitoring tools, you may also run these as VMs on the licensed ESX hosts with the bundle, as long as they are solely used to support the VDI VMs. If this is confusing, an example later in this article should clarify what I'm talking about.

Alternatively, you could purchase add-on licenses. An add-on license enables you to run only the VDI VMs, which leaves it up to you to obtain the proper licenses for VMware ESX and VMware vCenter. Once you've licensed the ESX hosts, you may run any type of VM that you want.

In addition to deciding between the bundle or add-on license, there is a choice between versions: Enterprise or Premier. The Enterprise license is a very basic VMware View licensing type, which allows you to run the VMware View Manager and VMware View Connection server. But extra technologies, such as VMware View Composer, the Offline Desktop and ThinApp, are not included. If you want or need these features, you need the Premier version.

There is one other difference between the Enterprise and Premier edition: The Enterprise edition includes VMware vCenter Server Foundation; the Premier edition comes with VMware vCenter Server Standard. The Foundation edition of vCenter can manage only up to three ESX hosts. That said, if you were to buy either the VMware View Enterprise 100 pack or the VMware View Premier 100 pack vCenter Server Standard is included.

Examples of VMware View licensing in action
Let's say we have a small environment that has six VMware ESX4 hosts, each with two CPUs. In this environment, we want to run eight server VMs that have no relation to VDI, 40 VDI VMs and the supporting roles, (VMware View Manager, VMware View Connection server, and so on). Let's assume you can run the 40 VDI VMs on three of the six ESX hosts if needed.

There are a few ways to license this environment. For the sake of this example, I'll explain how you would use each licensing arrangement. Although some selections may not seem sensible, they can be attractive to larger environments.

Beneath each VMware View licensing example (below), you will see the exact shopping list. Keep in mind that in new environments, you will require a starter kit that includes the vCenter license for managing your environment. Also, license packs are available in only 10 or 100 packs.

VMware View licensing option 1A
Selecting the VMware View Enterprise bundle would provide licenses for the 40 VMs. It also includes a vCenter for Desktops license to run vCenter Server Foundation. Foundation will manage the three ESX hosts running the VDI VMs. The ESX hosts can also run the VMware View Manager and the Connection Server as a VM.

The three ESX hosts that run the eight non-VDI-related server VMs need their own licenses. With two CPUs per host, you need six VMware vSphere licenses for the three hosts. Depending on your needs, you can use vSphere Standard, Advanced or Enterprise Plus.

If you want to manage the three hosts, a VMware vCenter license is required. Because it's just three hosts, you can choose between VMware vCenter Foundation (maximum of three hosts) or Standard.

Shopping list:

 

  • VMware View Enterprise bundle for 40 VMs
    • One VMware View Enterprise bundle starter kit (10 pack)
    • Three VMware View Enterprise bundles (10 pack)
  • Six VMware vSphere licenses (1 CPU) Standard, Advanced or Enterprise Plus
  • VMware vCenter Foundation or Standard license

VMware View licensing option 1B
If you want or need more advanced options, such as VMware View Composer, Offline Desktop and ThinApp, buy the VMware View Premier Bundle instead of the VMware View Enterprise bundle. Because the Enterprise bundle includes VMware vCenter Standard edition, you don't need an additional vCenter license for the three non-VDI ESX hosts.

Shopping list:

 

  • VMware View Premier Bundle for 40 VMs
    • One VMware View Premier bundle starter kit (10 pack)
    • Three VMware View Premier bundle (10 pack)
  • Six VMware vSphere licenses (1 CPU) Standard, Advanced or Enterprise Plus
  • VMware vCenter Foundation or Standard license

VMware View licensing option 2A
License all six ESX hosts using either 12 (6 x 2 CPUs) VMware vSphere Standard, Advanced or Enterprise Plus licenses. You also need a VMware vCenter Server Standard license or two VMware vCenter Server Foundation licenses. (But I doubt you would ever buy two Foundation licenses in this scenario.)

To license the VDI VMs, buy 40 VMware View Enterprise Add-On licenses.

Shopping list:

  • 12 VMware vSphere licenses (1 CPU) -- Standard, Advanced or Enterprise Plus
  • VMware vCenter Standard license
  • VMware View Enterprise bundle for 40 VMs
    • One VMware View Enterprise bundle starter kit (10 pack)
    • Three VMware View Enterprise bundle (10 pack)

VMware View licensing option 2B
For more advanced options -- such as VMware View Composer, Offline Desktop and ThinApp -- purchase the VMware View Add-On Premier license instead of the VMware View Enterprise Add-On licenses.

Shopping list:

  • 12 VMware vSphere licenses (1 CPU) -- Standard, Advanced or Enterprise Plus
  • VMware vCenter Standard license
  • VMware View Premier bundle for 40 VMs
    • One VMware View Premier bundle starter kit (10 pack)
    • Three VMware View Premier bundle (10 pack)

As you can see, there are several ways to license a VMware VDI environment – you'll have to determine the best match for your wants and needs. Also, when calculating the number of VDI VM licenses you will need, it's important to know that licenses are for concurrent connections. Therefore, having 50 VMs ready and deployed, while 40 users are connected, costs you 40 licenses. Also note that license limits are not enforced by the system; the administrator is responsible for making sure the environment is properly licensed.

 

Gabrie van Zanten (VCP) has been in the IT industry for 12 years. Currently he is a virtualization architect for a worldwide consultancy company and has designed and maintained virtual infrastructures for a number of customers. He has written articles for magazines and frequently publishes in-depth articles at his weblog, GabesVirtualWorld.


 

This was first published in April 2010

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