BEA Takes On Virtualization Licensing

The rise of virtualization is creating confusion among users about software licenses, and prompting vendors to craft new strategies to address concerns.

In the virtualized data center, virtual applications or operating systems can be running multiple times on a single multi-processor box or on one chip with multiple processing cores. A CPU-based licensing model, which charges you for the use of the full processor socket for each application that runs on it (even though each application uses only a portion of the processor), strikes many in the IT community as being flawed.

And frustrating, too, given the de facto limits it seems to set on users being able to take full advantage of virtualization to move workloads around to run across more processors and then scale back to fewer CPUs in response to fluctuating demands.

“Licensing needs to be dealt with,” Info-Tech analyst John Sloan has noted.

BEA Systems says it’s doing just that, with what it calls a unique answer to the problem: An instance-based pricing model for its WebLogic Server Virtual Edition Java EE environment. An instance is a copy of WebLogic Server running in its own Java virtual machine.

“Virtualization opens up opportunities, and customers want a pricing model that won’t restrict them in how they take advantage of those opportunities,” says Mark Pritchard, BEA director of product marketing for BEA virtualization tools.

“Moving to an instance-based pricing model with WebLogic Server Virtual edition, we believe, is a natural measure of value for our customers in terms of how they use our software,” Pritchard says.

Pay Based On Usage

If you run more application server instances, the thinking goes, you can do more work, applications can take on more loads, and so businesses derive more value from the enterprise software they’ve purchased.

BEA argues that to have a pricing model tied to the underlying hardware and number of CPUs is no longer appropriate.

“For customers to stay with the CPU pricing model in virtualized data centers is restrictive. It’s difficult to take advantage of the flexibility of the virtualization platform and to account and track and plan for software costs,” says Pritchard.

The company is list pricing the solution at $13,000 per instance.

“The key point here is that now customers are going to pay based on exactly how much of our software they are using,” he says. “There is a very significant reduction people will get in terms of TCO that comes from greater efficiency, the way we are able to run more instances of the application server on given hardware. The bottom line is reduced costs for customers.”

While he acknowledging that there is always a limit on what can be run on any particular box, Pritchard says this model lets customers match the hardware they are deploying to their application needs and requirements at any given time, dynamically, and not worry about the licensing implications to BEA of how they do that.

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