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Compare vCenter Foundation vs. Standard before implementing

VMware's vCenter software comes in two different versions: Foundation and Standard. Both enable SMBs to create hosts and VMs, but Standard offers more features, such as DRS.

Virtualization is a big step for many SMBs. The cost savings quickly accumulate, but the initial investment of capital can often present a barrier. Modern businesses require the flexibility of virtual platforms such as vCenter, and SMBs must often then figure out how to bring in virtualization on a budget.

It can cost a lot to acquire and deploy VMware technology; one of the vendor's most critical and cost-heavy pieces of software is vCenter. This central management software forms an integral piece of the vSphere family of products, and it comes in two versions: Foundation and Standard. The price for each version varies -- from $2,095 for Foundation and $7,472 for the Standard version. Because of the large difference in price, SMBs should understand the differences between vCenter Foundation vs. Standard before committing to one.

Take caution when considering vSphere Essential Kits

Some SMBs might consider purchasing vSphere Essentials Kits rather than committing to either version of vCenter, but in doing so risk limiting their ability to grow in the future. The vSphere Essential Kits come in two versions: The vSphere Essential Kit and vSphere Essential Kit Plus.

The standard vSphere Essential Kit costs $576 for three hosts and provides the vCenter software with central management. The vSphere Essentials Plus Kit costs $5,596, contains all the features found within the standard version and also provides data protection, vMotion, HA, replication and other enterprise-level features.

Businesses can experience rapid growth in how they use IT services because of virtualization.

Because VMware limits the vSphere Essential Kits to just three hosts, these kits are a strong alternative for smaller shops that might never outgrow three hosts. However, strictly relying on three hosts can cause issues down the line for SMBs. Businesses can experience rapid growth in how they use IT services because of virtualization. They can bring new applications and infrastructure online in minutes rather than weeks or months. Once businesses get a taste of flexibility and rapid deployment, they often don't want to go back, so many virtual environments have exploded in size.

If a business has a hard upper limit of three hosts, they won't be able to maximize on many of the benefits virtualization has to offer, such as increased deployment and improved management. The three-host limit also affects the Foundation version of vCenter because businesses can't mix a Foundation license with an Essentials bundle.

VMware vCenter Foundation and Standard similarities

Foundation and Standard both provide central management of VMs and hosts. This is essential to maintaining efficient system management because once a system exceeds two hosts, locating VMs and resources becomes difficult.

Both vCenter versions enable SMBs to create a maximum of 25,000 powered-on VMs, more than enough for the typical SMB. In the event of a system failure, the ability to locate affected VMs quickly with vCenter can help prevent larger issues down the line.

Differences between vCenter Foundation vs. Standard

Foundation and Standard costs differ by just over $5,000. But an extended outage can cost much more in terms of lost customers and revenue. Although vCenter has certain performance-based technologies, many of the features included in Standard have nothing to do with performance increases.

Many Standard features maintain operational functions in the event of hardware or software issues. Outages are not just limited to the enterprise space, and vCenter Standard helps SMBs to deal with that. SMBs must decide if these outage guidelines apply to their businesses and customers.

VCenter Foundation and Standard provide vastly different numbers of hosts to SMBs. Foundation can support four hosts, and the Standard version supports up to 2,000. Foundation also lacks key VMware technologies such as High Availability, DRS and Site Recovery Manager. Some SMBs might not require these features, but should avoid overlooking Foundation's lack of features in general.

The choice between Foundation vs. Standard

When choosing between vCenter Foundation vs. Standard, SMBs must consider which feature sets they require rather than focusing solely on the price and quantity of hosts.

SMBs must keep in mind that what they require today can change rapidly over a short period of time. Because of this, SMBs must ensure they have the ability to grow, because, although businesses can upgrade from Foundation to Standard, it's ultimately more cost effective to choose the Standard version from the beginning.

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