VMWare 5’s new licensing model.

After reading up on the new VMware licensing&pricing model I understand the uproar. Limiting vRAM is a reasonable constraint, but 32GB per socket for Enterprise? 48 GB for “Enterprise Plus”? If you have a dual CPU server with 144 GB (easily configurable last year), with 4.1 you’d only need 2 enterprise licenses to use all 144 GB, since in 4.1 an “Enterprise” license covered 1 CPU (up to 6 cores) and up to 256 GB memory on the host.

But with 5.0 you’ll either have to buy 5 Enterprise licenses (160 GB) or 3 Enterprise Plus licenses (144 GB) just to use the full 144 GB. I guess VMware has done away with memory overcommit as a selling point? They used to tell us it was recommended to go up to 2:1 so we could safely put ~140 GB of VMs on a 72 GB machine – with the new model that’s completely gone.

To put it in monetary terms, on the machine with 144 GB ram from above, the cost for 4.1 would be $2875 * 2 = $5750. To stick with Enterprise it would be $2875 * 5 = $14,375, or $3495 * 3 = $10,485. A gigantic price jump. I haven’t read up on any features of vSphere 5, but I don’t think any feature can make up for at minimum nearly doubling the cost, with loss of a major selling point (memory overcommit). I mean, you can still overcommit as long as you’re willing to pay for the overcommitted memory. Also, the above numbers are per-host, so if you’ve got a 5-host cluster you’re looking at a $25,000 price hike.

VMWare has long been one of my favorite products, but this is making me consider alternatives. Almost 100% of the feedback I’ve read about this change has been negative. Seems like a huge mistake on VMware’s part.

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Compellent Doesn't Suck

I noticed a bunch of people landing on this site by searching for “compellent sucks.” I just want to avoid any confusion: Compellent doesn’t suck. Now that the pain of spending the money to expand our Compellent SAN is in the past, I am back to being in love with the product. The only gripe I’ve really ever had with Compellent is the price, and as Ben Franklin said:

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Compellent Doesn’t Suck

I noticed a bunch of people landing on this site by searching for “compellent sucks.” I just want to avoid any confusion: Compellent doesn’t suck. Now that the pain of spending the money to expand our Compellent SAN is in the past, I am back to being in love with the product. The only gripe I’ve really ever had with Compellent is the price, and as Ben Franklin said:

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

FiOS speed 10 months later, better than ever.

I switched to FiOS in December, 2009, and I was pretty apprehensive, having been a Cablevision customer for many years. I really had no problem with Cablevision’s service, I just thought their pricing was much too high in the face of the new competition (and deals) Verizon was offering. I ended up going with Verizon due to their awesome deal, but now it’s almost a year later and I can’t imagine going back to Optimum. It’ll probably come down to price when the current promo pricing I have with Verizon ends, but if the price was equal then no contest – I’d stick with FiOS.

The bright side of Compellent

Since I was bemoaning Compellent’s pricing recently I figured it would be unfair of me not to highlight the upside. Their tagline is (or was when we purchased it) “The only SAN so sophisticated it’s simple.” While I can’t say whether they’re the ONLY one, the idea is definitely true. This is the first SAN I’ve ever used, and aside from the learning curve for iSCSI itself (targets, spinup delay, etc.) it’s totally simple and intuitive. Create LUNs, map them to servers. Don’t worry about things like RAID levels or hot disks. We’re into our second year with Compellent and it’s definitely lived up to its promise of simplicity.

I don’t know how much management the average SAN requires but our sales rep recently asked me how much time per week we spend managing the SAN. I crinkled my brow, because I don’t really spend any time managing the SAN. I’ve logged in to the web interface a lot more over the past few weeks than I normally do because the SAN filled up quickly due to our experimentation with Hadoop, and I wanted to make sure we didn’t get to 100% before I was able to order more disks. But aside from that incident I think the only times I’ve logged in to the management console have been to add a LUN or map a datastore to a new ESX host.

I was reminded about this simplicity when we finally added the disks last week. We went to the datacenter Wednesday to move some servers around in the racks to ensure there would be enough power in the SAN rack for the new enclosure (16x 2TB disks). We also updated a firmware update for the SAN (required so it would recognize the new 2TB drives). We have redundant controllers, so we were told there shouldn’t be any downtime. I don’t tend to trust those types of statements – if someone says something will be down for an hour I budget for 4. If it’s 8 hours I budget for a day. If it’s zero I just think they’re lying and it’s going to explode and kill people.

So all things considered I was rather impressed. We have dual controllers, so the update was installed on one controller first, and that controller rebooted. When it rebooted, the iSCSI traffic did actually fail over properly to the secondary controller. This wasn’t completely flawless – the console on some of the machines showed some iSCSI errors, but the machines seemed to be working fine (I rebooted them just to be safe). A couple of the VMs (whose data/swap drives are all on the SAN) barfed and had to be rebooted – I think our Jabber server was the only casualty, but that was back up in under a minute. When the second controller updated itself, its traffic failed back over to the first one. When it was all done (took about 30 mins total) there was a warning about the ports being unbalanced, which was rectified by clicking the “rebalance ports” button. So all in all, I’d say there was “pretty much” no downtime. After the update, we racked the new enclosure and called it a day.

This week a tech from Compellent came onsite to do the actual install for the enclosure (hooking up the fibre loops and installing the new license). This was really zero downtime. I got some alerts that one of the loops was down, but it didn’t affect anything. Pop the disks in, wire it up, install license, and we’ve got another 32 TB usable space. It’s been over a day and the data is in the process of moving from our tier 1 (32x 15krpm FC disks) down to tier 3 (SATA). All in all it was a pretty painless procedure. Sure, it would have been easier had we not had to do the firmware update, but I guess when a new type of drive is introduced that’s to be expected.

So in conclusion, I guess this just reinforces my theory that the only bad thing about Compellent is the price. And if that’s the worst thing someone can say about your product, that’s probably a pretty good place to be.

The SAN Scam

It’s time to buy some more disks for the SAN we have at work. The SAN is made by Compellent and we’ve had it for a year and it’s been great. One of the selling points was the ability to add disks however we wanted – one at a time is possible, which apparently isn’t the case with other SAN products. The one we looked at from LeftHand expanded by purchasing entire nodes, so the incremental cost was pretty high. Compellent seemed to have a higher initial cost but cheaper incrementally.

Well, that wasn’t really the case, as I’ve come to discover. The way they license features on the SAN requires “expansion licenses” for each set of 8 disks you add on. As it happens, I would like to add 8 SATA disks to our SAN, bumping us into a license expansion. The net result of this is that purchasing these disks costs over $16,000.

If that sounds like a lot of money, well, it is. I expected some markup for enterprise-class hardware, but this is ridiculous. A quick search on Newegg shows that hard drives are readily available at about $0.09 – $0.10 per gigabyte, and even Seagate drives are only around $0.14 per gig. At the price I was quoted for the Compellent drives, the price per gig is over $2.00 per gig! The markup is over 1500%, and that’s not even factoring in the discount they likely get for buying disks in bulk – I doubt they pay retail. They claim this is due to the disks being “certified” but I don’t imagine they’re opening up each disk and checking its platters. They probably just make sure the firmware is correct and then ship it out. Their quote also includes 1 year of support on the disks, with 4-hour on-site replacement, but still, as someone who’s basically “cheap,” this just pisses me off.

Now, in Compellent’s defense, their product is amazing, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with the need for it and the means to get it, but it is very pricey, moreso than I was led to believe. The fact that I rarely have to think about the SAN probably means it’s money well spent, but as I said, I’m a cheap bastard, so this bothers me.