VSAN Pricing Revealed and Implications Explored

After a wide-open public beta, lots of speculation about licensing models and costs, and a long wait, VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) went GA on March 12, 2014. The basic issue of pricing was revealed: $2,495 per CPU socket for any workload or a $50/user model for Horizon View. What are the implications of VSAN pricing for end users?

Which is the Cheaper VSAN Pricing Model for Horizon View?

With six sockets licensed, anything below 300 users will benefit from per-user Horizon View licensing.

 VSAN 6 socket pricing comparison
VSAN 6 socket cluster comparison of Horizon View per-user pricing vs. per-socket pricing

I chose a six socket, three host cluster as the smallest likely cluster, but users per socket is the more important stat. What’s revealed is that in any density below 50 users per cpu, per-user pricing is less expensive. As CPU core counts go up and per-socket processing ability increases, the 50 user per CPU socket will probably come into play. Something to keep one’s eye on.

All Cluster Members Must Be Licensed (per socket model)

This might win the award for most obvious reveal in the history of a GA announcement. It honestly hadn’t ever occurred to me that all cluster members would have to have VSAN licenses for their CPUs. In my head, I thought we’d be able to have licensed storage-heavy cluster-members doing the business of VSAN and cluster members without VSAN licenses who wouldn’t provide storage to the cluster but would be able to consume it. That’s not the model. What’s being licensed is the ability to participate in the cluster at all. If after some time, your storage density and growth is fine but you need more CPU, you’ll have to decide whether it would be more cost effective to add a VSAN cluster member without much/any storage or replace a cluster member with a host with more CPU. Or even upgrade the CPUs present in a host, something I wouldn’t have ever thought about doing before this.

High Entry Level Price

The minimum host count is three and the minimum number of sockets per host is one so I suppose one could make an argument that the entry-level cost of VSAN is $7,485 ($2,495/socket x 3 sockets). In practical terms, purchasing a server with two socket capability and not adding the second socket isn’t done that often. A fully-populated six socket cluster is $14,970 which is getting close to the cost of a storage appliance.

Why don’t we buy single socket hosts for entry level clusters? As an IT administrator, I’d have made the argument for the simplicity of not ever touching the CPU infrastructure. Today, I’m closer to thinking that the advantages of VSAN are enough that we might want to start thinking of purchasing CPU as it’s needed instead of at the time of chassis acquisition. Among the most expensive dollars an SMB can spend are the ones which aren’t needed for over a year. Add the cost of VSAN licensing to the cost of CPU, and that might tip the balance in favor of scaling out CPU as needed. Three CPUs might be enough for entry-level clusters with vMotion and HA.

VSAN vs Storage Appliance (SAN/NAS)

At ~$15K entry level, IT departments might not see VSAN as a clear value play. “That’s almost the cost of XYZ appliance with the drives included!” Well, that’s possible, though it’s a complete apples to oranges comparison. VSAN provides many features you aren’t seeing in entry level storage appliances, but perhaps I’ll save that for another discussion.

What are the implications of the VSAN pricing model on the business of managing storage in IT that you see?

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John White is walking the path to virtualization mastery.

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