Should VMware consider a free version of vCenter

A couple of years ago, I was helping a client do a trade study of vSphere vs. Hyper-V.  vSphere won in that instance even with cost of licensing.  Now that MS has released Hyper-v 3.0 and other competitors have solutions that allow you to have features such as live migration, I was wondering out loud if it’s time for a vCenter “lite” for free.

ESXi free is a great standalone solution for a single server instance.  But if you need multiple servers, ESXi free really isn’t an option.  This pushes you to a XenServer, KVM or Hyper-V solution if you want some type of centralized management and some features such as live migration.  With OpenStack making hay at the Cloud layer with native compute stacks such as KVM or Xen you have to wonder if VMware will start to lose traction with both cloud and virtualization for small or cash strapped organizations considering entry level virtualization platforms.  After all one of the major advantages of VMware’s Hybrid Cloud is that you don’t have to make many changes to your existing infrastructure.  How do you sell VMware’s Hybrid Cloud to a shop that grew up on Xen or KVM?

I actually got a call from a buddy yesterday asking me the most cost effective option for a two node VMware solution for one of his clients.  I actually hesitated in recommending a VMware option.  He could get all the features this small company needs from any of the other solutions.  Ultimately, I still recommended VMware because his staff is trained in VMware products and it would be easier for him to support in another client.  However, I’d be hard pressed to recommend VMware based on his simple needs compared to the other solutions if it weren’t for the support consideration.

What do you think?  Does VMware need to consider a light/free version of vCenter to continue dominated in the market?

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

8 thoughts on “Should VMware consider a free version of vCenter

  1. Hi Keith,
    For the absolute low-end there is nothing better than the vSphere Essentials bundle – with the price of $700 for a vCenter and Max. of 3 nodes – it is a steal. If you also need HA and vMotion the you go to the Essentials Plus (which is more expensive)

    I do agree though – the time is near where VMware should start to offer vCenter as a free solution – even easier now that they are not going to rely on a Microsoft OS.

    1. I was thinking the same thing after installing vSphere 5.1 in my lab the other day and running a vCenter Appliance instead of a full Windows install. If you leave ESXi to compete against Xen and KVM, I don’t know if ESXi is enough.

  2. The problem here is the vSphere Hypervisor (the marketing name for the free license edition of ESXi) and its lack of API support, rather than the cost of vCenter. VCenter Foundation (the 3-host, no-linked-mode edition) is not an expensive proposition when used in small shops that have paid-licensed ESXi. But even if you don’t need vCenter (a single-host implementation, where failover/HA are irrelevant), the free hypervisor locks you out of activities like hypervisor-based backup, 3rd-party management, etc.
    In those situations, the competition reigns supreme. And while VMware may be “walking past nickels to pick up dollars,” that could be a substantial number of nickels, not to mention being a “gateway drug” to larger implementations of the competing hypervisor.
    I have a client that started a project with a handful of Hyper-V Free hosts because it was compatible with Citrix’s VDI-in-a-Box; they eventually licensed Server 2012 for a 16-node build-out because of inertia, not because it was a superior hypervisor.
    Had ESXi Free supported enough API calls to allow ViaB to work, the eventual build out would have gone differently.
    And in the current state, SCCM/VMM isn’t being used (so no cost there); the whole thing is under the command & control of ViaB.

    1. Good point Jim. I’m sure the issue is that since ESXi is so popular it opens the hole for 3rd parties to make vSphere replacements. I’m sure there are techniques VMware could use to prevent unauthorized management solutions from accessing ESXi or just providing API’s for backup. The other option is a free vCenter appliance with limited capabilities which they already do through licensing.

  3. Found this post via Internet.

    So… for a home lab, if someone wants to test vMotion or study for the vMware cert, what are the options? I finished the setup of vMware 5.5 running on vMware workstation, everything in my laptop, and found the hard way that if I want to learn the HA features, I need to buy or get vCenter? Is that correct?

      1. Yeah, but what about the vMotion and the HA features? You can’t test those with free vCenter. So what’s the workaround.

      2. There is no ‘free’ vCenter. You can install vCenter (The appliance or the Windows server) for 60 days. It’s the full featured Enterprise Plus version. It includes the ability to vMotion, DRS, HA, dVS etc… The most common way people learn VMware at home.

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