Before upgrading to vSphere 6, read this

 In Cloud, Microsoft, Software, Virtualization

You’ve never seen virtualization work like this before.

vSphere 6, the newest installment of VMware’s cloud computing OS, is available now for upgrade. The latest version has hundreds of new features and capabilities, but its true power lies in its breadth: vSphere 6 can “vMotion” instances across virtual switches, vCenters, and long distances. Now an instance can be moved from any cluster of computers and servers in an organization to another, regardless of where the two clusters are, and regardless of the version of vCenter that the second destination cluster is running.

But as useful as this load-bearing capability can be for spreading virtual machines throughout a network to maintain uptime, it can also create issues with your Microsoft licensing. Before you upgrade to vSphere 6, make sure you know the potential conflicts and take steps to remedy them.

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Review your Microsoft licensing options now

Previous versions of vSphere allowed vCenters to encapsulate more than one cluster, and instances could move between clusters in each vCenter. With vSphere 6, users can move any instance to any cluster in an enterprise’s network. Because this technology allows instances of certain Microsoft products (such as Windows Server) to go anywhere in the organization, they must be licensed properly.

Organizations running certain services, such as SQL User Enterprise, must fully license every machine a VM can move to. If a VM can go to 20 computers, then all 20 computers must be licensed, even if the VM will only be on one machine at a time. This is a change from previous versions of vSphere. In versions 4 and 5/5.5, licensing was tied to individual or groups of clusters, but in vSphere 6.0, organizations might conceivably have to license all VMware clusters across the entire enterprise; incorrect licensing could cost organizations thousands – maybe millions – if audited by Microsoft.

This mainly impacts operating systems and clusters or hosts completely licensed with SQL Enterprise Core for VM rights. For most other application servers that run within a VM, including SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync, organizations simply need Mobility Rights, which are tied to Software Assurance. For these applications, organizations license the instance, regardless of where it goes.

To avoid penalties or buying additional licenses for these applications through Software Assurance, organizations can configure VMware in such a way that an individual instance can only travel to a limited number of machines, then capture a screenshot of these settings. In the eyes of Microsoft, this screenshot is proof that the instances are limited to licensed machines, and no additional licenses are required.

How to ensure a successful upgrade to vSphere 6

Organizations that have yet to upgrade to vSphere 6.0 should take a close look at their present Microsoft licensing. Organizations can sort out their existing licensing by working with a third-party expert, and determining how that licensing may need to be adjusted when vSphere is upgraded to 6.0.

Though Microsoft is a reasonable organization to work with when it comes to their various licensing models, organizations should plan ahead to avoid an audit, and work with an expert to identify the best licensing option that works with vSphere 6.0.

Contact your SHI Account Executive today to help examine your Microsoft licensing landscape, and to start the conversation about vSphere 6.

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  • Larry Timmins

    Very good article. I would like to see you discuss whether the newer CIS licensing combo helps on-premise Enterprises instead of maintaining separate perpetual Windows Server and System Center data center licensing.

    Prior to this summer, Microsoft Enterprise Agreement has Software Assurance benefits for on-premise Enterprise servers on any server licensed properly with Data Center licensing (whether it is core based or processor based). By having SA, if your host is up or down, you had rights to update a ‘warm’ backup of the server. In a disaster, the warm backup that was covered by SA can take over with no penalty. In both scenarios, you had unlimited VMs and didn’t need CALs, etc.

    Even without VMware vSphere 6.x, there was a caveat when considering hosts not part of your enterprise network and managed by third parties. Microsoft’s EA benefits change for on-premise Data Center licensing (be it core or processor based) so instead of unlimited VMs, you had to stack Data Center licenses (like standard licenses) on each host since the “Unlimited VMs” were now limited to “a maximum of eight VMs”.

    Will CIS license bundles help you if you want to consider third party VMware-based hosts for DR, etc? When I asked the VMware cloud team, they just stated that customers were responsible for all licensing and in the case of Microsoft all penalties for getting it wrong.

    VMware vSphere 6.0 just makes it more interesting to understand how Systems Center and Windows Server data center licenses work when you aren’t looking at Microsoft’s own cloud service centers for off-site Windows servers.


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