VMware Horizon Licensing Explained

This May (2021) something is going to change about the way VMware Horizon Products are licensed. In this blogpost, we will explain what is happening, what will be the impact, and what needs to be done.

What is happening

When VMware made Horizon 8 generally available, they have introduced some changes to the licensing model.

According to the VMware information – VMware Horizon Licensing – there were 2 License Types available at Horizon 8 GA date:

  • Perpetual
  • Subscription

Perpetual

Perpetual means you buy the licenses and then you own them. Besides the licenses you can also buy additional support.

Pro’s:

  • You can use the product as long as you want to
  • You pay for the product once and forget

Con’s:

  • You only receive support and upgrades as long as you’ve got valid SSP
  • You must pay a (huge) amount of money at once = CAPEX

Subscription

With a subscription-based license, you subscribe to Horizon Universal Subscription or Horizon Subscription, which means you don’t own it, but you can use the product and receive service and support as long as you have a valid subscription.

Pro’s:

  • You don’t have to pay (a huge) amount of money at once = OPEX
  • Scale-up means extra money, scale down means less money, with the subscription you are more flexible and therefore more cost-efficient

Con’s:

  • You do not own the product you pay for (well, to be honest, don’t think this is really an issue)
  • You will have recurring costs, instead of a one-time payment

In December 2020, VMware has made a decision that follows the market trend and announced that customers will not be able to purchase perpetual licenses starting from the 6th of May. This will be the case for both new and existing customers!

It might be a good idea to switch from perpetual license to subscription if you are upgrading to a newer version of Horizon as we speak. VMware provided an upgrade FAQ on its site – VMware HSUP FAQ

When we initially heard about the EOL of perpetual licenses, we had some serious concerns about how we are going to serve customers who are working on-prem only and do not desire to have an outbound connection to some Cloud Management Plane.
This Cloud Management Plane adds quite useful options for lots of customers, but how about customers who simply can’t or don’t want to use any type of cloud attached management (yet) due to internal security, governmental rules and regulations, and such?

TERM license to the rescue!

The new TERM license is basically the good old perpetual license, but kinda on steroids:

  • First of all – you don’t have any cloud components to deploy or attach!
  • TERM license includes both product and SSR
  • You pay for it as a subscription = You don’t have to pay a (huge) amount of money all at once = OPEX

A small drawback of subscription/TERM is when you stop paying for it, you can’t use it at all, but we should question ourselves, is this that bad? We don’t think so, from a personal perspective may be, from a business perspective well no. Even for personal situations, most services are subscription-based!

VMware Horizon Subscription Feature Comparison

What about Infrastructure

If I want to use VMware Horizon and I do have the hardware, but not the hypervisor, how can I install VMware Horizon?

Both subscription and TERM Horizon licenses include rights to use VMware vSphere, the virtualization platform on which you can host your virtual desktops!

vSAN? vSAN!

VMware vSAN, what is it, if you already know, stay here, if you don’t also read this!

In February 2021, VMware announced that VMware vSAN for Desktop will be included in the Term/TUP and SaaS/SUP SKU’s starting in February 2021. There will be NO increase in price associated with this inclusion. This will hopefully help streamline the renewals process

vSAN will be included in the following subscription bundles:

Bundle vSAN?
Horizon Std Term No
Horizon Adv Term Yes
Horizon Ent Term Yes
Horizon Std Subscription No
Horizon Universal Yes
Horizon Apps Std Subscription No
Horizon Apps Universal No
The “(no vSphere)” bundles No
Horizon perpetual bundles No

OK cool, I am new to VMware / VMware vSAN… what is it?
VMware vSAN is the software-defined storage solution from VMware!

vSAN is enterprise-class, storage virtualization software that, when combined with vSphere, allows you to manage to compute and storage with a single platform. With vSAN, you can reduce the cost and complexity of traditional storage and take the easiest path to future-ready hyper-converged infrastructure and hybrid cloud. Evolve to an integrated hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solution with vSAN to improve business agility, all while speeding operations and lowering costs. (source)

Note that vSAN is NOT included in the perpetual Horizon bundles, so the inclusion will make the TCO of TERM or Subscription even lower compared to staying on perpetual.

Okay, that’s all sounds awesome! How do I connect to subscription based licensing?

If you want it or not (TERM license excepted), you must get your cloud connector in place (or upgrade if you already have, but an older version). But first, get your subscription license!

The implementation is very simple! You need an account for MyVMware (get this first, if you don’t already have), second, get your Cloud Connector from VMware and follow the steps according to VMware here.

Basically, it is just deploying an OVF template, make sure network settings are correct (DNS, Connection to the Horizon Connection Server and to the outside world), and linking the existing environment to the VMware Horizon Cloud Plane.

OK, for some reason I don’t have time, don’t want to make use of all of this, what’s the impact?

Well, if you have current perpetual licenses, nothing will happen, but when the support will expire, you will need to buy a new one, and you will only get a Subscription or TERM license. If you order new licenses and not getting the Cloud Connector in place, the subscription licenses will be useless and your environment won’t work after the license period has expired.

My advice would be to get the Cloud Connector in place, if you are using it or not, to have a smooth transition in the future from perpetual to subscription-based licensing!

Licensing costs

There are lots of questions about the licensing costs, and which license type is the better. The short answer is – it depends ;).

To be honest, as a customer you should be able to forecast the use of your VDI platform and calculate/scale your licenses based upon it. It is “more difficult” to add additional licenses to your perpetual licensing, and you can’t decrease them at all!

Example:
Customer A buys 2000 perpetual licenses at once, but after 8 months they discover that they are only using 600 licenses. There is no way to reclaim those 1400 licenses. But if for some reason you suddenly have 2500 users, you will need to buy those additional licenses, and if that is only for 3/4 months, you will still keep those 2500 licenses forever.
With subscription-based licensing, you can easily scale up/down depending on the needs.