VMware changes are hurting users in education

VMware has been officially part of Broadcom since November 2023. On March 14 2024, a hundred days on from the acquisition, CEO Hock Tan wrote a blog post stating: “We overhauled our software portfolio, our go-to-market approach and the overall organisational structure. We’ve changed how and through whom we will sell our software.”

In the blog post Tan recognised the “unease” he says some customers and partners may be facing. But as Computer Weekly has found, this is not simply unease; it has a direct impact on the ability of education establishments to acquire VMware software at an affordable price. The education discount is no longer on the price list.

London Grid for Learning (LGfL), a charitable trust and central procurement body supporting 3000 schools, contacted Computer Weekly after it received a massive price hike in VMware licensing fees and no time to look for alternatives. Michael Eva, programme manager at LGfL, said the new pricing – a 268% increase – was provided by VMware only six weeks before the April 2024 licence renewal date.

The only way LGfL can recoup the additional licence fees would be by charging cash-strapped schools more for its services, which Eva said, is not an option for LGfL.

Computer Weekly also spoke to the Belgium university, KU Leuven about the challenges it faced. Herman Moons, a member of the university’s ICT management team, said there were significant delays getting pricing from the university’s VMware reseller. KU Leuven is a heavy user of VMware and typically pays €200,000 per year in licensing fees. Its SAP system is certified to run on VMware and it uses VMware’s desktop virtualisation software.

With the changes Broadcom has also made to simplifying the VMware products it offers, Moons feels that KU Leuven and other VMware customers are being forced into buying expensive product bundles. He said: “They [Broadcom] don’t sell VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus anymore. They put it in a bundle with a lot of other products that we don’t need. The bundle is more expensive. This is okay if you use everything, but not if you only use the virtualisation software.”

Broadcom spent $69bn buying VMware. While it has a public strategy for enterprise users running hybrid and public clouds, it needs to recognise the difficulties VMware education sector customers now face. It should consider bringing back the educational discount and, at the very least, support VMware partners who sell to the education sector. The people Computer Weekly have spoken to say they have not been given enough time to assess alternative options. If discounts are being dropped, then affected customers need sufficient time to look at alternatives.

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