The world of licenses and subscription models is a complex whole, by adding a virtual component it even got more complex. Virtual machines aren’t bound to one physical server and can move freely across several physical servers or even in and out of a cloud. Fortunately more and more software vendors are changing their license and/or subscription models in favour of virtualization. Giving companies back their freedom of choice how they would like to arrange their infrastructure to support their business.

RHEL_logoAlso Red Hat changed their subscription plans in favour of virtualization. Red Hat Enterprise Linux often abbreviated to RHEL doesn’t have a license model because it’s based on open source Linux and has a GPL license. What you will not get if you do not pay a subscription fee to Red Hat is any updates and support. As a professional business you would like some insurance so I would advise to get a valid subscription on Red Hat products.

To save money on RHEL subscriptions on a VMware infrastructure there are three options to subscribe a virtual machine running RHEL. You can:

  1. Subscribe 1 virtual machine running RHEL, also called 1 on 1 subscription;
  2. Use Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server with 2 Socket – 4 Guest for VMware subscription to subscribe 4 virtual machines with 1 special subscription.
  3. Use Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform with Unlimited Socket – 10 Guest for VMware subscription to subscribe 10 virtual machines running RHEL.

There are several choices to make which support level you would like for your virtual machines running RHEL. Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server with 2 Socket – 4 Guest for VMware

  • Basic – web support, 2 business day response, unlimited incidents
  • Standard – 12×5 phone support, web support, unlimited incidents
  • Premium – 24×7 phone support, web support, unlimited incidents

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform with Unlimited Socket – 10 Guest for VMware

  • Standard – 12×5 phone support, web support, unlimited incidents
  • Premium – 24×7 phone support, web support, unlimited incidents

If running production on these virtual machines I would recommend using Premium subscriptions on the virtual machines. There are also “Academic” editions. They are offered to schools and students, are less expensive, and are provided with Red Hat technical support as an optional extra. Web support based on number of customer contacts can be purchased separately.

Summary for the costs per virtual machine are:

Red Hat Subscription all Premium per year

Price

Number of VM’s

Price per VM

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 1 – 2 socket

€ 1.039,00

1

€ 1.039,00

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server with 2 Socket – 4 Guest for VMware

€ 1.767,00

4

€ 441,75

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform with Unlimited Socket – 10 Guest for VMware

€ 3.399,00

10

€ 339,90

So the general rules are:

  1. All machines that will use RHEL as a guest needs to have a RHEL for VMware subscription. Minimum of 3.
  2. They need to have enough subscriptions so that the total number of guests they want to deploy among the pool of servers is less or equal than the number they get with the subscriptions they purchased.

What does this mean for you when running RHEL in a VMware environment? After some mailing back and forth and some phone calls with a very nice sales person from Red Hat. I got the answers I was looking for. I found out that you can use the traditional subscription 1 on 1 method for the virtual machines or you will need to purchase a minimum of 3 RHEL VMware subscriptions, which gives you the opportunity to use up to 12 (3×4) RHEL guests or when using the advanced version 30 (3×10) RHEL guests on the VMware cluster. The following question popped up:

Question: Can a customer pool RHEL guests across multiple servers using VMware? Answer: Yes, as long as each physical server he distributes the RHEL guest OS’s to has a RHEL for VMware subscription. This option is available to customers who plan to deploy 3 or more servers in a VMware cluster. So, they have to buy a minimum of 3 RHEL for VMware subscripitons.

Pooling of these licenses is allowed and all RHEL are allowed to freely move across physical machine boundaries. Even allowing to run all virtual machines on 1 ESX server in the cluster. If you buy another ESX server for the cluster so increasing to 4 ESX servers in this example you will have to buy an additional RHEL VMware subscription increasing the pool to 16 or 40 RHEL virtual machines.

Important! If you are using ESX servers with more than 2 physical CPU sockets per server you will need to get the AS edition of RHEL subscriptions.

Hope this sheds some light on Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriptions on a VMware infrastructure. For more info regarding the history of Red Hat Enterprise Linux see link.