Documenting a virtualization project

Experiences in Virtualization

Application Licensing

Posted by martijnl on July 14, 2006

The reason for making a post about licensing is the possible pitfall that could exist in your software vendor’s licensing terms.

While VMWare itself doesn’t make a big deal out of multiple core processors we nearly fell into the trap of Oracle’s dual core and virtualization standpoint. For us, having about half the servers on Microsoft Windows 2000 or 2003 we will have to keep an accurate licensing count but for the sake of the example I’ll just stick with Oracle.

Oracle’s general licensing terms are described in the Oracle Software Investment Guide (SIG) which is currently located at: http://www.oracle.com/corporate/pricing/sig.html. This is a 56 page document outlining everything there is to know about the different Oracle products.

To make life easier….. Oracle uses different metrics and licensing criteria for virtually each product. We use both Oracle 9i Enterprise database software and Oracle 10g Application Server software (which is version 9 release 4 to make it simple). In our situation there were two important criteria in determining the licensing:

1. Processor Metric

Because of the size of the company we use perpetual per processor licensing. Because we are currently using single core servers but are switching to dual-core Opteron servers it is important to keep track of Oracle’s definition of the Processor Metric. The SIG describes this as follows: “…………..For the purposes of counting the number of processors which require licensing for AMD and Intel multicore chips, “n” cores shall be determined by multiplying the total number of cores by a core processor licensing factor of .50“.

2. Partitioning Servers

Oracle doesn’t mention virtualization as a criterium in the SIG document. The wider definition used there is “Partitioning”. The SIG gives the following definition for partitioning in relation to Oracle licensing:

Oracle recognizes that customers may elect to partition servers for various reasons. These might include achieving lowered costs and simplified management by running multiple operating systems, such as Windows NT and UNIX, on the same server, or improving the workload balancing and distribution by managing processor allocations within applications and among users on the server. While there are two broad categories of partitioning – software partitioning and hardware partitioning – for licensing purposes, Oracle only recognizes hardware partitioning as a mean to install and license Oracle on fewer than the total number of processors in the box.

In short this means that for our DL585’s the Processor Metric is:

8 cores * 0.50 = 4

So if you are thinking (like we were) about ditching a two way Oracle server for a single vCPU Virtual Machine on a 4-way server which you then give extra resources to achieve the same performance and use that to save on Oracle licensing then you will see that’s not possible given Oracle’s current licensing position with regards to software partition / virtualization.

In the preparation for the project I am fortunate that I only have to check this for a limited amount of apps but keep this in mind if you have this form of licensing for other applications.

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