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Virtualizing Oracle software: Don't pay for what you don't need

Robert L. Mitchell | May 8, 2014
Squeezing software cost savings from virtualization projects is tricky for lots of reasons, but can be particularly challenging when it comes to Oracle databases. Here's why, and some tips to help.

Sources: House of Brick, Palisade Compliance

— Robert L. Mitchell

One client called Palisade after installing Oracle database software on two servers in an eight-server vSphere cluster. Oracle discovered the configuration during a software audit and demanded that the customer buy a license for every processor and server in the cluster.

We haven't noticed other enterprise software vendors that assert the full-cluster licensing claim. David Welch, chief technology officer, House of Brick Technologies

That's unusual, says Welch. "We haven't noticed other enterprise software vendors that assert the full-cluster licensing claim," he says. Oracle's per-processor licensing fees start at $47,500, so charges can add up quickly. To make matters worse, the customer had also unknowingly installed the more expensive Enterprise Edition of the Oracle database instead of the Standard Edition.

Before the audit, the company had been paying Oracle $50,000 per year. The list price for licensing the new configuration: Just over $1 million. The customer ended up reconfiguring the vSphere infrastructure to limit the number of servers in the cluster, and bought more Oracle licenses. Guarente wouldn't say exactly how much the customer saved, but did say the customer paid a fraction of that original $1 million bill.

The company could have achieved the same goal without paying anything additional had it reconfigured the cluster to run Standard Edition before the audit took place. Or it could have gone back to Oracle and bought more licenses, Guarente says. "The first option would have resulted in no additional fees to Oracle. The second would have resulted in some fees, but far less than what they ended up paying."

Bob Clarke, manager of enterprise services for the Office of Technology in the State of Indiana, is considering his options for saving money. Like the customer described above, he also faces the requirement to license every core and server in the cluster.

"It gets very pricey," he says, but he hopes to make the numbers work by consolidating some of the existing licenses for Oracle software used by separate departments. "We will create a vSphere cluster that's dedicated to Oracle. We will comply with their licensing by doing it that way," he says.

But user experiences vary widely. "Bill," a CIO at another Fortune 500 company who also asked not to be named, says he has never been asked to pay to license every core in a server used in a virtual environment when not all are running Oracle, nor has he been asked to buy Oracle licenses for every server in a vSphere or any other virtual server cluster.

The key is in the negotiations and the customer's relationship with Oracle. "It's battle. You have to work hard," he says, but he's always been able to negotiate a satisfactory contract. Then again, he admits, he's never been through an audit.


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