Whether you’re just testing the waters or have already dove head first into server virtualization, cost reduction continues to be a primary driver of data center optimization. Although virtualization is helping to reduce capital expenses, IT managers are getting stung with increasingly expensive virtualization software licensing costs.
One of the key value propositions for KVM is the potential to reduce the overall cost of ownership for virtualization solutions. To assess the potential savings, you can do a pricing analysis of a KVM stack compared to its competitors (i.e. VMware and Microsoft). Sounds easy, but unfortunately it’s more complex than it seems because virtualization software vendors have different pricing terms and conditions, software is rarely sold at list prices and each data center is configured differently with various platforms, workloads, etc. to account for.
There isn’t a standard formula for calculating or comparing competitive hypervisor stacks, but one way to view the cost differences is through an analysis of publically available pricing information. Although this comparison won’t give you the exact cost differences for your particular environment, it will show you the overall magnitude of cost differences between the hypervisor solutions and how each solution is priced.
Pricing Analysis Methodology
The first step is to identify a standard server configuration to price each of the software solutions. This is important because each vendor has significantly different terms and conditions that are based on the server configuration. For this analysis we chose a standard IBM System x server with 2-sockets and 48GM of RAM (model: IBM x3550 M3, 2x6C, 2x500GB HDD, 48GB RAM, 2x 6Gb HBA, ServerRAID).
The next step is to identify the hypervisor stacks to compare, and determine the price and licensing structure for each solution. The figure below shows how we’ve isolated the hypervisor and hypervisor management solutions along with their associated license, subscription and support prices. To get as close to an accurate comparison, we included the server, operating system, hypervisor, hypervisor management tool and systems management tool for each stack. You’ll see that the KVM stack utilizes the version of KVM that comes with Red Hat Enterprise Linux combined with IBM management tools - IBM Systems Director and IBM Systems Director VMControl.
Pricing Analysis Results
Now that we have all of the pricing data, let’s analyze different operating scenarios. For the purposes of simplicity, the following basic parameters were selected:
- Compared 3 different types of workload environments:
- Scenario #1: 100% Linux-based workloads
- Scenario #2: 50% Linux-based / 50% Windows-based workloads
- Scenario #3: 100% Windows-based workloads
- Utilized retail prices for each solution (licensing, subscription, support)
- Analyzed a 3-year total cost of ownership
- For each stack we used a total quantity of 20 servers
Here are the results for Scenario #1: 100% Linux-based workloads including the detailed pricing data:
Following the same methodology, Scenario #2: 50% Linux-based / 50% Windows-based workloads results were similar:
Conclusion and takeaways
Before we summarize the results please keep in mind that this analysis showcases the overall magnitude of cost differences between the different stacks in a general setting. It is always important to consider the configuration of your data center, your existing enterprise software agreements and workload needs when conducting a detailed cost analysis.
Now in terms of the pricing analysis, the results above show:
- For 100% Linux-based environments there is an especially strong case for attaining significant cost advantages for KVM, upwards of 42% savings compared to VMware.
- Similarly for Mixed environments (50% Linux, 50% Windows) KVM demonstrated a strong cost saving potential, up to 35% compared to VMware.
- For 100% Windows-based environments, Microsoft is less expensive, but it is important to note that it if you’re running a 100% Windows shop, it is unlikely you would be using KVM to manage that environment.
- Lastly, you will notice that VMware is the most expensive solution across every scenario.
As you consider your virtualization needs, the bottom line is that KVM can help protect you from the sting of increasingly expensive virtualization licensing costs especially for Linux and Mixed workload environments.
Program Director, WW IBM Linux and KVM Marketing
Pricing Data Sources:
IBM System x Hardware (x3550 M3)
IBM System x Software License and Support Costs
Red Hat Pricing:
“Windows Server, System Center, and Forefront Licensing Guide”, 2011
“Comprehensive Resource for Licensing and Pricing” Fully Packaged Product (FPP) Retail Pricing – Windows Server 2008 R2
Microsoft License Advisor: Microsoft® Windows® Server Datacenter Single Software Assurance OPEN Level C 1 Proc
“Microsoft Private Cloud A comparative look at Functionality, Benefits, and Economics,” August 2011