How is vRNI licensed?
I know, I know. Talking about licensing is a little less exciting than watching paint dry. Even if that's true, I felt the need to write a short article on how vRealize Network Insight is licensed, because a LOT of people get this wrong. I have personally seen many customers buy Network Insight only to realize they are short on licensing a month later...and that's why I'm writing this!
vRNI Licensing Overview
As you may already know, one of the cool things about vRNI is that you can connect it to many different data sources. These could be things such as vCenter, NSX-T, F5 Big-IP, native AWS or Azure, and even Kubernetes. In 99% of cases, most customers want visibility of their VM-VM traffic more than anything, so let me answer that question first.
If you're buying, or looking at vRNI (or selling it) - you need to license vRNI for every physical socket in each vCenter that you plan on connecting to vRNI.
So let's say you have two vCenters:
Miami vCenter (20 hosts, 40 total physical CPU sockets)
New York vCenter (8 hosts, 16 total physical CPU sockets)
In this case, you would need a total of 56 licenses of vRNI - to cover both vCenters. You can absolutely only license one vCenter if you'd like, though.
But I only want to get visibility of one cluster in my vCenter!
You still need to license the entire vCenter.
vRNI Advanced vs. Enterprise?
vRNI comes in two editions for on-prem usage - either Advanced, or Enterprise. There's also a third offering - which is Network Insight SaaS. The feature level on the SaaS offering is the same as Enterprise licensing on-prem.
Now when deciding between the two, my recommendation is to check the datasheet here and determine the best fit for you. That said, I strongly advise anyone who wants vRNI to go with Enterprise for these two reasons:
Flow-Based Application Discovery (FBAD)
Public Cloud integration & NetFlow support
In a nutshell, FBAD is a feature which discovers your applications, their boundaries, and tiers within the apps themselves. This saves a ton of time so that you can get to looking at the data you want. As far as NetFlow support - this is required if you want to use vRNI as a NetFlow collector - for example, by sending NetFlow from your Cisco switches to vRNI.
vRNI comes with NSX-T Enterprise Plus - so I'm good, right?
Not necessarily. If you buy 20 licenses of NSX-T, you get 20 licenses of vRNI. If your entire vCenter is 150 sockets - you will be short on vRNI licenses (Again - need to license the entire VC). Check out the video below that I did explaining this in detail:
What about physical network devices, bare metal servers, or public cloud?
Licenses are included for physical network devices, but I'd highly recommend talking to your VMware account team for more details - primarily because this is constantly changing. For Public Cloud integration - it is licensed by vCPU's, so you'll just need to provide your total vCPU count to your partner/VMware.
If you're not sure about what you'll need from a license standpoint, my advice is to get an evaluation license, install vRNI, and it will tell you your overage. This is honestly the most reliable method to get licensing right in my opinion.