Managing vSphere 4.1 cost effective in remote offices and branch offices (ROBO)

This article will give information on deploying vSphere 4.1 cost effective to remote offices and branch offices needing a max of 3 hosts.

If a company is having several branch offices /remote offices which are small enough to have a maximum of three hosts and 6 CPU’s and the need to manage those offices from a single vCenter Server running in the central datacenter, several editions of vSphere are available. Most people are aware of the 4 editions of vSphere 4.1 :
Standard, Advanced, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions which are targeted at Enterprises.

vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus Editions can only be managed using the vCenter Server for Essentials and not from a central vCenter Server Standard!

For a small office a vSphere Standard Edition will deliver sufficient features. vSphere 4.1 has vMotion, HA and VMware Data Recovery. However, there are two less know editions available which are a cost effective alternative to the Standard Edition.
Released in January 2010 are two vSphere editions named:
vSphere Essentials for Retail and Branch Offices
vSphere Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Offices

These software bundles comes with features which are equal to Essentials and Essentials Plus.  Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Offices delivers HA, vMotion and Data Recovery. vSphere hosts licensed by the Essential for Retail and Branch Offices can be managed using vCenter Server Standard edition instance which is running in a central location, for example the enterprise datacenter. The Essentials and Essentials Plus editions are limited to be being managed only from the vCenter Server for Essentials (limited to management of up to 3 hosts)

There is a quite a difference in pricing. For a remote office with a max. of three hosts and 6 CPU’s the vSphere Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Offices  Starter Kit including 1 year of basic support costs $ 12040,-. This enables the buyer to install 3 hosts with max 6 CPU in 10 different Retail Offices. At total of 60 CPU’s. The offices need to be in a different building. For each additional office an Add-on needs to be purchased which costs $ 1204,-

Per CPU this costs $12040 / (10 x 6) = $200,-

Compare this to the per CPU price of vSphere Standard Edition which is $ 1268,- including 1 year Basic suport.

For Essentials for Retail and Branch offices support and subscription (Sns) for minimal 1 year  is required. Initial purchase of 10 packages is also required. One package consist of the the right to install three hosts having 2 CPU’s .  Limit 1 package per physical building – No splitting licenses from 1 package across multiple buildings.

As said, to centrally manage ESX hosts placed in remote offices, Essentials and Essentials Plus is not an alternative. Those cannot be managed from another vCenter Server instance than the once that was purchased with the Essentials or Essentials Plus package. See the VMware ESX/ESXi EULA:

c) VMware vSphere Essentials and VMware vSphere Essentials Plus

If you have licensed VMware vSphere Essentials or VMware vSphere Essentials Plus, the following additional license terms apply:

VMware licenses VMware vSphere Essentials or VMware vSphere Essentials Plus editions (collectively “Editions”) to you solely for managing up to three (3) server hosts and your use of these Editions is limited to servers with up to two processors. For these Editions, the server hosts must be managed by the VMware vCenter Server that is provided with these Editions, and that same VMware vCenter Server cannot be used to manage other server hosts not included with these Editions.

An interesting whitepaper called “Simplifying Remote and Branch Office Management with VMware” can be found here:
It has several scenario’s for deployment of vSphere in branch offices.

solutions Brief

VMware Solutions for Remote and Branch Offices

Application Virtualization White Paper

VMware vSphere Essentials Data Sheet

VMware vSphere Product Brochure

VMware vSphere Pricing & Packaging White Paper
Managing Remote ESX Hosts over WAN with VMware vCenter

Update Manager host tasks might fail in slow networks

Virtualize Branch Offices with VMware and Riverbed|

Compliance 101: Considerations for Virtualized Environments
ROBO ESX Implementation in Kroger Stores (TA2222)
Leveraging VMware View and Cisco WAAS in a ROBO
deployment (DV1460)
Beyond the Datacenter: Virtualizing Your Remote and
Distributed IT Workloads (TA4020)
Architecting Remote and Branch Offices for HA and DR
New Trends in Remote Office / Branch Office with VMware
Remote Office Data Protection and De-Duplication for
VMware (TA3089)
Virtualization of Remote Sites (IP29)

About Marcel van den Berg
I am a technical consultant with a strong focus on server virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and business continuity/disaster recovery.

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