The Cost of Staying Current: Evaluating Virtualization Options for Small Enterprises

Question:

Our company currently operates two vSphere 6 hosts under the vSphere Essential Kit 6 license. We plan to introduce a third server and repurpose the older one as a baremetal NAS, ultimately maintaining two virtual hosts.

I’ve noticed significant changes in VMWare’s licensing, which now seems less accessible for small businesses. I’m even struggling to find a purchasing option for a new license.

Given these circumstances, what would your recommendation be?

  • Is it advisable to continue using our existing perpetual vSphere 6 license for another five years, despite it becoming increasingly outdated?
  • The free version of ESXi 8 is available, and while I can manage with the 8 vCore/VM limitation, the absence of the vMotion API for backup is concerning. Additionally, I require High Availability (HA) for several critical VMs.
  • I have experience with KVM-based virtualization, like Proxmox, at home. However, the lack of an agentless backup solution is a drawback, as our current backup system, Acronis Cyber Protect, does not support it without agents, similar to Veeam.
  • Lastly, Hyper-V seems prohibitively expensive, with two Datacenter licenses costing as much as our new server (approximately €10,000).
  • I

appreciate your guidance on this matter.”

Answer:

In the dynamic realm of virtualization, small businesses often face the challenge of balancing budget constraints with the need for advanced features and support. Your situation, operating two vSphere 6 hosts and considering a shift in your virtual infrastructure, is a common scenario that requires a strategic approach.

While your existing perpetual vSphere 6 license offers familiarity and stability, it’s crucial to consider the implications of using outdated software. Over the next five years, you may encounter compatibility issues with newer hardware and software, security vulnerabilities, and a lack of support from VMware. It’s generally advisable to plan for an upgrade rather than relying on legacy systems, especially when it comes to critical IT infrastructure.

Transitioning to ESXi 8 Free Version:

The free version of ESXi 8 presents an attractive cost-saving option, but it comes with limitations that could impede your operational efficiency. The absence of the vMotion API for backup and the lack of High Availability (HA) for critical VMs are significant drawbacks. These features are essential for maintaining uptime and ensuring business continuity, which are likely non-negotiable for your operations.

Exploring KVM-Based Solutions:

KVM-based virtualization, such as Proxmox, is a viable alternative that offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness. The primary concern here is the lack of agentless backup solutions compatible with your current backup system. While agent-based backups are possible, they may not provide the same level of convenience and automation you’re accustomed to with agentless options.

Considering Hyper-V:

Hyper-V’s licensing costs are indeed steep, and for a small business, this investment might be hard to justify. However, Hyper-V offers robust features, including HA and seamless backup solutions, which could be a worthwhile trade-off if your budget allows.

Recommendations:

Given these considerations, here are some recommendations:

1.

Evaluate Upgrade Paths:

Assess the cost and benefits of upgrading to a newer version of vSphere. VMware often provides paths for existing customers to transition to newer versions at a reduced cost.

2.

Consider Alternatives:

Explore other virtualization platforms that offer a balance of features and cost. Solutions like Proxmox or oVirt could provide the functionality you need without breaking the bank.

3.

Hybrid Approaches:

You might consider a hybrid solution where critical VMs are hosted on a platform that offers HA and robust backup options, while less critical workloads run on a more cost-effective system.

4.

Consult with Experts:

Engage with IT consultants or vendors specializing in virtualization to get personalized advice tailored to your specific needs and budget.

In conclusion, while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, a careful analysis of your requirements, budget, and the long-term implications of your choice will guide you to the best decision for your company’s future. Remember, investing in your IT infrastructure is investing in the backbone of your business operations.

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