Documenting a virtualization project

Experiences in Virtualization

Oracle licensing

Posted by martijnl on February 12, 2008

Just like IBM for Websphere licensing there are all sorts of issues with licensing Oracle when used in a virtualized environment. Because the advantages of virtualizing Oracle outnumber the disadvantages in my experience so far it is highly recommended to specifically address the licensing consequences and the possible influence that this has on the final design. This prevents any nasty surprises afterwards when you get an Oracle licensing audit.

The current situation is as follows:
How to calculate your licensing needs for Oracle Application Server and Oracle Database Server products is described in the Software Investment Guide ( Oracle database and application server both fall under the category of “Oracle Technology products”. Technology products have two forms of licensing: Named User Plus and Processor. If you have a larger deployment (> 50 users) than you will almost certainly user processor based licenses which is what I am focusing on in this post.
The software investment guide has the following quote regarding licensing Oracle within a virtualized environment:
“Oracle only recognizes hardware partitioning as a mean to install and license Oracle on fewer than the total number of processors in the box”.
This affects virtualization customers in the following way:

  • Oracle categorizes x86 virtualization solutions as “software partitioning”
  • If you use a cluster of virtualization hosts the term “box” as mentioned in the quote applies to the entire cluster of hosts
  • With VMotion, DRS and HA you need to license all the servers that the virtual machine could end up on (this may or may not include passive HA nodes, I do not know that at this time)
  • Oracle does not recognize locking a virtual machine to a host through the virtualization software with the goal to license only that cluster host. This also defeats much of the advantages of virtualizing the Oracle servers anyway.
Depending on the number of servers that have Oracle software you have the option to let them be physical servers or:
  • Make a separate cluster for Oracle VM’s. You can add other vM’s ofcourse but you need to ensure Oracle VM’s do not go outside of that dedicated cluster
  • Plan failover capacity for both clusters (this could mean more capacity than necessary if you place all the hosts in the same cluster so calculate VMWare licenses and hardware accordingly).

10 Responses to “Oracle licensing”

  1. Matt said

    Oracle appear to recognize binding a VM to a particular host CPU as a form of “hard partitioning”:


    Their example is for Xen but I assume they would have to support this under ESX as well.

    Does this change anything or is this just a case of Oracle’s right hand not knowing what its left hand is doing? 🙂

  2. vmguru007 said


    I don’t see why Oracle is making it that hard for their customers to move to virtualizations. I believe they should come with a new license schema that allow their customers to use virtualization without paying an arm and leg for extra Oracle license.

    For a beautiful Virtualization World

  3. iwan rahabok said

    Tx for sharing.

    The file ( has the title “Hard Partitioning”, which means good news from licensing. But this is a technical article, not a licensing article, so I’m not 100% sure if Oracle will acknowledge it…

    This sentence in the doc is VERY interesting: “2 virtual CPUs and they can run on any of the 8 cores” in a box with total 8 core (2 quad-core chips).
    That means no CPU pinning. The VM can run on any of the cores, but only licence for 2 cores.


    • David said

      “” is about Oracle VM, not Vmware ESX!

      For Oracle, the Oracle VM Sofwtare is hardware partitioning…

  4. Steve Lewis said

    Hi. I don’t believe this statement is true:

    If you use a cluster of virtualization hosts the term “box” as mentioned in the quote applies to the entire cluster of hosts

    I wonder why you believe it to be the case. Just as Oracle doesn’t acknowledge virtualisation software as a means to hard partition a physical server, it equally doesn’t consider it as a means to aggregate multiple physical servers into a single hard partition. Oracle considers VMware (and in all but one specific case, also OVM) to be a soft partitioning technology whose existence it effectively ignores when it comes to determining license obligations.

    A more accurate statement would be:

    If you use a cluster of virtualization hosts the term “box” as mentioned in the quote means only those cluster hosts on which VMs hosting the given Oracle product run


    • martijnl said

      Which in turn means all the hosts in the cluster (if vMotion is enabled).

      But rather than the continue a semantic discussion I find it rather disturbing that this situation is still the same almost three an a half years after the blogpost was written.

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