Facts about VMware vSphere 5 License changes

Posted by on July 12, 2011 in vCenter Server, VMware, vSphere | 3 comments

In case you were sleeping today VMware announced vSphere 5 and all of its 150 plus glorious new features. I’ve been lucky enough to be using it for sometime in the Beta program and its really a big step forward. There are tons of new features that people have been waiting for.

But with all of the new stuff it seams a licensing change has kind of put a cloud over the shinny new features. Along with the new version VMware has change the licensing model that vSphere 5 will use, moving towards a vRAM pooled model that I will attempt to explain further. Now for some organizations this will be great and for others it will add additional cost.

There has been a lot of banter on twitter today about the licenses changes and in the VMware forums. I am holding back making a decision until I can digest this further. But from what it looks like is building a scaled up design model would be more expensive with the new licensing model.

Here is some highlights from the vSphere 5 license white paper that VMware release. You can download the full paper here.

 vSphere 5.0 will be licensed on a per-processor basis with a vRAM entitlement. Each vSphere 5.0 CPU license will entitle the
purchaser to a specific amount of vRAM, or memory configured to virtual machines. The vRAM entitlement can be pooled across
a vSphere environment to enable a true cloud or utility based IT consumption model. Just like VMware technology offers
customers an evolutionary path from the traditional datacenter to cloud infrastructure, the vSphere 5.0 licensing model allows
customers to evolve to a cloud-like “pay for consumption” model without disrupting established purchasing, deployment and license management practices and processes.


You will still be buying your licenses based on sockets but there is now the vRAM amount to factor in.

Licensing Unit: Per Processor (CPU)
vSphere 5.0 is still licensed on a per-processor basis, allowing customers to continue leveraging established purchasing,
deployment and license-management processes.

So what is a vRAM Entitlement
We have introduced vRAM, a transferable, virtualization-based entitlement to offer customers the greatest flexibility for vSphere configuration and usage. vRAM is defined as the virtual memory configured to virtual machines. When a virtual machine is created, it is configured with a certain amount of virtual memory (vRAM) available to the virtual machine. Depending on the edition, each vSphere 5.0-CPU license provides a certain vRAM capacity entitlement. When the virtual machine is powered on, the vRAM configured for that virtual machine counts against the total vRAM
entitled to the user. There are no restrictions on how vRAM capacity can be distributed among virtual machines: a customer can configure many small virtual machines or one large virtual machine. The entitled vRAM is a fungible resource configured to meet customer workload requirements.

What is Pooled vRAM Capacity in vSphere 5?
An important feature of the new licensing model is the concept of pooling the vRAM capacity entitlements for all processor licenses (see Figure 1). The vRAM entitlements of vSphere CPU licenses are pooled—that is, aggregated—across all CPU licenses managed by a VMware vCenter instance (or multiple linked VMware vCenter instances) to form a total available vRAM capacity (pooled vRAM capacity). If workloads on one server are not using their full vRAM entitlement, the excess capacity can be used by other virtual machines within the VMware vCenter instance. At any given point in time, the vRAM capacity consumed by all powered-on virtual machines within a pool must be equal or lower than the pooled vRAM capacity.

How would I monitor the Pooled vRAM Capacity
Available and consumed vRAM capacity can be monitored and managed using the licensing-management module of VMware vCenter Server. Customers can create reports and set up alerts to obtain automated notification of when the level of vRAM consumption surpasses a specified level of the available pooled capacity.

So if I run out of Pool vRAM how would I increase the Pooled vRAM Capacity
If necessary, the easiest way to expand pooled vRAM capacity is to add more vSphere CPU licenses of the same edition to the vRAM pool. Alternatively, customers can upgrade all CPU licenses in the vRAM pool to a vSphere edition with a higher base vRAM entitlement.

Some Licensing Examples

 vSphere 5 License pricing

















About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design


  1. Most of our customers have server with 2 QC CPUs and 96 GB or 144 GB
    RAM. Now they need 2 vSphere 4 CPU licenses per server. With vSphere 5
    they will need 2-3x more licenses. No go for VMware.

  2. So you can’t run mixed levels of licences like you can now then?

    • I don’t take it as you cannot run mixed levels. Just that the memory from the levels will be held in separate vRAM pools. Rather than having one large vRAM pool for your entire vCenter environment. This could cause you to have to purchase a few extra licenses if you have more than 1 license level.

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