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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.

Nonetheless, if one follows the Oracle Partitioning Policy, every processor and core within a single physical server must be licensed for Oracle in a VMware environment, even if the Oracle software is installed or running on just one core. House of Brick's Welch tells his clients to pay to license every processor and core in that situation. "We tell everyone that Oracle is right. That policy has been there since 2002," he says.

The subcluster debate

Running Oracle on a dedicated group of servers within a vSphere cluster, sometimes referred to as a subcluster, is a different matter, however. "Oracle likes to tell prospects and customers that if they are running Oracle on any physical server within a large vSphere cluster they have to license the entire cluster for Oracle. Nothing could be further from the truth," Welch says.

"The contract states that you must license any physical server on which you have installed or are running Oracle binaries. But you don't have to license other servers in that cluster," he insists. "Amazingly, many organizations don't know that."

Welch says he has negotiated on this point many times for enterprise clients. "When we have asked Oracle auditors if they could show us where it says in writing that every server in a vSphere cluster must be licensed for Oracle they said it was an unwritten policy."

Blake concurs. "Overall, the policy does not specifically call out the cluster scenario, so we advise clients to challenge Oracle" when a request is made to license every server in a vSphere cluster, he says.

In some cases, Welch adds, Oracle has asked some customers to license failover nodes in the cluster as well, but you're entitled to leave one node unlicensed, even when every physical server in a vSphere cluster is dedicated to Oracle, he says. Oracle's Software Investment Guide includes what's commonly known as the 10-day rule. "It says that you can run Oracle on an unlicensed physical server for up to 10 cumulative days per year as long as it's a named, designated node, and you fail back."

So why is this happening? Oracle is such a large organization that "people just make the assumption that there's no way that an Oracle account representative could be representing something to an organization that would not be contractual or binding," Welch says.

But he cautions, "Corporations need to examine their licensing agreements rather than just listening to Oracle. And that can include case law searches should a licensee care to check if the largest relational database vendor in the world has ever made any legal filings on this topic."

As to the issue of licensing failover nodes, Welch elaborates: "VMware High Availability accomplishes the same thing as its active/passive HA predecessors such as IBM HACMP, HP Service Guard or Veritas Cluster Server. We never saw Oracle assert [that] the passive node had to be licensed in those legacy clustering technologies. But suddenly it is making a fuss about vSphere clusters," Welch says.


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