VMware vSphere 5 uptake slow among users

VMware vSphere 5 boasts of cloud-based features and monster VMs, but its uptake is lagging because of user satisfaction with vSphere 4.

LONDON -- Despite its support for humungous virtual machines (VMs) with up to 1 TB of RAM and 32 virtual CPUs, user uptake of VMware vSphere 5 is lagging -- at least for now.

Much like users in the US, European users too are holding back on upgrading to vSphere 5.

“The uptake of vSphere5 definitely feels a lot slower in comparison to the uptake of vSphere 4,” said Mark Margevicius, vice president and research director, Gartner at the firm’s Data Centre and IT Operations Summit 2011 in London last week. “vSphere 5 has some great features, but users are already getting everything they want from vSphere 4.”

“It is a bit like Microsoft Windows 7 – the product had new and useful features but users still preferred XP,” he added.

VSphere 4 became generally available in May 2009. By October, the vendor announced that vSphere 4 surpassed 500,000 customer downloads.

“VSphere4 offered so many more features and a whole new GUI,” said one virtualisation expert with close ties to VMware on conditions of anonymity. “It just seemed so much more exciting.”

Tighter budgets and new vSphere vRAM licensing may also be holding back vSphere 5 adoption, but some experts think the problem is that most new vSphere 5 features are for large enterprises.

“Most vSphere 5 features are primarily in the enterprise plus version and none of them are ‘must-have’ features,” the virtualisation expert added.

But Mike Laverick, another virtualisation expert pointed out that some vSphere 5 features – such as Virtual Storage Appliance and vSphere replication – are aimed specifically at the SMB/SME segment.

However, these SME-aimed features are not part of the vSphere5 product but must be bought separately.

According to Laverick, there are a couple of considerations around the uptake. “Firstly, it sometimes takes more than a year for a big enterprise with several VMs to adopt a new platform,” he said.

For large enterprises in the UK, it takes anywhere up to 18 months to move from one platform of anything to another, he explained.  “It’s not case of bunging in a CD and upgrading,” he said. “There's testing, validation, and staging processes to go through first.”

But Laverick said that with vSphere 4, VMware reached a level of maturity that helped it become a mainstream virtualisation option. “This was not just in terms of market share, but also that it became the de-facto standard for server-consolidation,” he said. “I wonder if vSphere 4 represented a perfect storm of massive demand, coupled with product maturity.”

Longtime VMware users said that the move from ESX 3.5 to vSphere 4 felt “more compelling” and that vSphere 5’s  initial licensing and pricing scheme may have put off some users.  

Nor are highly touted features like monster VMs enough to prompt an upgrade, said virtualisation expert and blogger Gabrie van Zanten. “The max VM size in a vSphere 4 environment is already so much bigger than anyone would ever need, the new big VMware vSphere 5 monster VM is no reason to move to vSphere 5.”

“For the medium and small customer, vSphere 4 hypervisor leaves almost nothing to be desired,” Zanten said.

2012 could herald a change

But the situation could change come 2012 with more users looking to migrate to the new platform.

The uptake of vSphere 5 may seem slow now but eventually it will get adopted, concluded Kyle Hilgendorf, Gartner principal research analyst.

European Commission’s DG Joint Research Centre is currently using vSphere 4.1 and is looking to adopt vSphere5 in 2012 to benefit from the new limit on vCPUs.

“Our move from 3.5 was more rapidly done but then we had a less critical portfolio of services on ESX,” said Javier Alba, the department’s IT systems manager. “But the change in licensing mode and the subsequent increase in prices is an obstacle for the uptake of vSphere 5.”

Another user looking to migrate to vSphere 5 is RAC Scandinavia. “The main motivation to migrate is the enhanced support for storage management as well as the cloud connectivity features,” said Geir Johnson, the company’s information technology manager. “One constraint, though, is to understand the new licensing model and the impact of the memory based model rather than CPU.”

Archana Venkatraman is the Site Editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK. Write to her at [email protected].

Read more on Server virtualisation platforms and management

Data Center
Data Management