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Category Archives: licensing

Video: Virtualization vs. licensing


David Berlind of ZDNet with a nice little post and video on the complexities of software licensing with virtualization. Actually "little" is the operative word here, because although the whiteboard ends up appropriately messy by the end, he spends the first 3 minutes explaining (hosted) virtualization, leaving only about a minute at the end to talk about licensing. Still may be a good video for a newbie in your organization. Link: » Video: Virtualization vs. standard software licensing practices | Berlind’s Testbed | ZDNet.com.

Some of the same confusion exists around application software.  One
fear software companies have is that people will use virtual machine
technology to build little multi-user mainframes (sort of like Citrix)
where anybody can use the built-in remote access technology to simply
take control of a VM on a computer and run their software remotely,
that way. If XYZ software company says it’s OK for me to copy its
software to as many VMs as I want, but only one one system,
technically, I could let lots of users access that one system remotely
and abuse the license.

Reactions to our white paper on Microsoft and licensing

I guess our white paper on Microsoft licensing was perceived as aggressive. Headlines included "fires a broadside," "vilifies," "attacks," "blasts," "rails," "wallops," "complains," and "criticizes." ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley speculated we were preparing for an anti-trust lawsuit. A few people (including Techworld’s Manek Dubash, as linked by Microsoft’s Patrick O’Rourke) thought VMware was whining, especially since we seem to be ahead. InfoWorld’s Randall Kennedy called it a "breathless diatribe" and accuses us of FUD.

Microsoft responded with what the Register called "marketing bologna" — an official response that said VMware has simply misunderstood what’s going on, but rather than explain to everybody what the misunderstandings are, they will let VMware know privately how they are mistaken. Any discussions between Microsoft and VMware or EMC are way above my pay grade, so I can’t give  insight there.

But it should always come down to customers and getting things done. Christian Mohn weighs in with a story:

Some time ago Microsoft approached the Gallery
project, asking us why we were not actively supporting MS SQL Server as
a RDBMS option. Our reply was simple; We don’t have the licenses needed
for our developers to be able to develop for that platform, and the
Gallery project is not in a position where we want to spend a lot of
money on licenses for developers.

In the end we settled on using the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition VHD
for our development purposes. That enabled us to get quite some testing
and bugfixing done, so it has definitely helped the Gallery project,
but the VHD is limited to a 30 day trial, which effectively means that
we need to rebuild it every 30 days. The second problem with using it,
is that you have to run it inside Microsofts Virtual Server software.
Converting the VHD renders it useless. Again this means that every
Gallery developer that wants to test their code on Microsoft SQL
Server, will have to run this on a Windows based host.

Running this with VMware Server/Player, or even Xen, would have been
much more flexible since we wouldn’t have to worry that much about
which host OS the developers use.

Other blog reactions from Alex at vi411.org (1 and 2) and Scott Lowe (1 and 2) are also well worth reading. In general, I found blog reactions more nuanced than the trade press, who tended to focus on the fisticuffs. In the meantime, we’ll keep on making good products and you folks keep on doing cool things with virtualization. Use the products that work best for your situation. If all this fuss makes you or your boss want to wait until the dust settles, go talk to your peers at other companies. There a reason for all the buzz.


[Update: more from SearchServerVirtualization. Note to Virtual Iron: anyone can get the VMDK spec. Best quote from Dugie’s Penseive: “Here’s the exciting burning question, how much better will
Virtualization interoperability get? How aggressive is that curve going
to be? I want to see that curve so steep, you can just feel the gforces
kicking in!]

[Update 2: From Manek’s comment, clarified that he originally used ‘whinging’ in Techworld, which was then linked to by Patrick @ Microsoft. I don’t want to imply that Microsoft called us whiners directly. Read Manek’s whole article for the complete context.]

Microsoft licensing: bad for today’s users

We’ve posted the white paper Microsoft Virtualization Licensing and Distribution Terms, which lays out our concerns about some anti-consumer, anti-choice, and anti-ecosystem policies that Microsoft is choosing to implement. It goes into some detail around support, restrictions on virtual machines being converted or even running on other platforms, desktops, virtualization mobility, and APIs. The motivations of the players can be summed up in this intro paragraph:

In particular, Microsoft does not have key virtual infrastructure
capabilities (like VMotion), and they are making those either illegal
or expensive for customers; Microsoft doesn’t have virtual desktop
offerings, so they are denying it to customers; and Microsoft is moving
to control this new layer that sits on the hardware by forcing their
specifications and APIs on the industry. Included below in this
document are explanations with supporting details of some of these
specific areas.

The goal from Microsoft seems to be to slow down the market and downplay features they can’t match, so that they have a chance to catch up. Do you think that when Viridian, Microsoft’s hypervisor, eventually comes out and has "live migration" that they’ll find a way to decouple licenses from physical hardware? That when Viridian can do the equivalent of DRS and HA, they’ll suddenly become advocates of putting your enterprise software in virtual resource pools for manageability and reliability? Funny how that works. It’s all bad for the consumer right now in 2007.

On Sunday,  Mike Niel, Microsoft’s GM for virtualization strategy, posted a pre-rebuttal on the Windows Server blog. Link: Where We’re Headed With Virtualization.

It’s a pretty good overview of all the activity going on inside Microsoft. We should reward good behavior — recent changes in licensing for Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition and SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition are glimpses into our virtualized resource pool future, so kudos to Mike and the team there. But I’m struck by how isolated a vision it is — it’s Microsoft’s world, and we’re just living in it (or as Dave Winer would say, just living in Microsoft’s locked trunk). Just wait a few years and you can use Microsoft’s hypervisor with
Microsoft’s management software, but for now just write to Microsoft’s APIs and
"Virtualization is a new technology for consumers, and one that isn’t
mature enough yet from a security perspective for broad consumer
adoption." This is not a worldview that recognizes the existing healthy
ecosystem around virtualization that exists today. More on the security FUD later.

I am not a Microsoft hater, and I’m not an "open source or die" zealot.
But the current situation seems like Microsoft is preventing users from realizing the very real benefits of
virtualization in their homes and businesses today.

[Here’s Mary Jo Foley’s take. This story is bouncing around the periphery of Digg and TechMeme, but for now you can follow along at Google News.]


New York Times: licensing, OS lock-in, and, yes, competition

From the Saturday, February 24, 2007 edition of the New York Times, A Software Maker Goes Up Against Microsoft. As the title implies, the story hook is competition between VMware and Microsoft. But the real issues are how customers are affected by hypervisor lock-in and licensing limits.

In a meeting with corporate customers in New York last month, Steven A. Ballmer,
Microsoft’s chief executive, said, “Everybody in the operating system
business wants to be the guy on the bottom,” the software that controls
the hardware. … When quizzed on
Microsoft’s plans, Mr. Ballmer replied, “Our view is that
virtualization is something that should be built into the operating
system.” …

VMware, however,
points to license changes on Microsoft software that it says limit the
ability to move virtual-machine software around data centers to
automate the management of computing work. A white paper detailing
VMware’s concerns will be posted Monday on its Web site (www.vmware.com), the company said.

“Microsoft is looking for any way it can to gain the upper hand,” said Diane Greene, the president of VMware.

The white paper will be available next week, but in the meantime, if you need to catch up, go check out our blog entries from last November, Freedom from OS lock-in.

Given the subject of the New York Times article, it must of course quickly bring up the ghost of Netscape. The article explains virtualization, the benefits of server consolidation, and gives the basic history of the company and the upcoming IPO. The real issues are touched on lightly — the article explains well the relationship of virtualization and the OS (inside or underneath?), and it mentions that VMware thinks licensing changes will affect customers and prevent many people from fully utilizing their virtual infrastructure. The article ends back on competition.

Virtual Iron and XenSource take opposing views on Microsoft’s recent
moves. “Microsoft sees VMware coming between them and their customers,”
said John Thibault, president of Virtual Iron. “So Microsoft is
manipulating its license terms to see if it can freeze the market and
slow down the trend.” …

VMware, according to Microsoft,
should see the wisdom of the path XenSource chose. In his meeting with
corporate customers recently, Mr. Ballmer sketched out a future in
which Microsoft would put fundamental virtual-machine software in its
operating systems, and “VMware builds on top.”

VMware is leery of
such an accommodation, fearing it would prove to be a one-sided
bargain. “We will not sign agreements that give Microsoft control of
this layer,” Ms. Greene said.

See you Monday for more on the issues.

Freedom from OS lock-in

Background reading for today’s opening keynote at VMworld. There will be no quiz following the session, but there is a tectonic shift going on in IT — it pays to pay attention.

Overview page: Freedom

There is a significant change underway in systems infrastructure. The
traditional infrastructure model of a single monolithic system running
a single, monolithic OS and a single application at wastefully low
levels of utilization is obsolete.

Karthik Rau: Changing Role of the OS

As the market for virtualization rapidly evolves over these next few
years, customers need to ask themselves the following key question: Is
it really simpler to have virtualization integrated into the OS and
follow the same pattern of lock-in that has dominated the past 20 years
of computing, or do I want a world where I have choice and can focus on
running a best-of-breed technology stack for each of my applications?

Raghu Raghuram: Hypervisors, Operating Systems and Virtual Infrastructure

With virtualization, there is now an opportunity to implement security,
availability and reliability outside the OS, through the virtualization
layer. Implementing these services outside the OS delivers significant
benefits.  First, the implementation is global in scope – independent
of any OS or any application. Second, implementing these capabilities
once at the virtualization layer benefits every guest OS and
application on every VM. You no longer have to implement and manage
agents or software for availability or security or system protection
per application. Third, since the implementation is not dependent on
the OS, it is inherently less susceptible to attacks on the OS and
therefore leads to a simpler, more robust infrastructure.

Dan Chu: Virtualization and Licensing: What Customers Need

Vendors can evolve their licensing to allow customers to take advantage
of new technology, or conversely vendors can hold back and seek to
inhibit and restrict how customers can use new technology because they
feel threatened by it.  Customers have adopted virtualization broadly
and made it mainstream, and have been able to drive some significant
changes and improvements in licensing and openness.  However, there are
also a growing number of areas where specific vendors (Microsoft in
particular) are threatening to use licensing to restrict and undercut
the benefits that customers and the industry are gaining from

Steve Herrod: Virtualization: Open Standards, Interfaces, and Formats

For virtual appliances to achieve their full potential, openness in
virtual machine-related interfaces is critical. The real promise is
"any software on any virtualization layer". We believe customers should
be able to choose and/or purchase a virtual machine consisting of any application running on any operating system and then run it on their virtualization layer of choice.

More on Vista licensing

From David Berlind, more on licensing and Vista. We’re down in the legal weeds at this point, so if you’re getting overwhelmed, just wait till the dust settles.  I predict that at some point Microsoft will have to give on this — virtualization is just too powerful and useful to keep bottled up in enterprise licenses. 

Virtualization and confusing array of Vista legal restrictions to haunt Microsoft and users alike | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com.

One of the key advantages of virtualization is connected to the way that it converts an entire system into a file (or a series of files) that lives on a hard drive. A file that can be copied. An, in fact, that’s one reason to virtualize a system. Let’s say the hardware is having a problem and has to be fixed or replaced. Today, the headaches in moving all of your personalizations from one system to the next make for an aggravating excercise in futility. There are all sorts of utilities for making the move and even Microsoft is coming up with some tools. But in the end, not everything makes it. Particularly little nook and cranny stuff that’s very important to end-users.  But when your entire computer is contained within a VM, you just copy the VM from one computer to another, and voila: you have your entire system exactly the same way you had it before on the previous computer.

So far so good. Unfortunately, what’s good for the goose (you) is also good for the gander (the pirates). Virtualization technology means that a pirate can encapsulate a clean, pristine version of Windows into a VM and then make as many copies of it as he or she wants.