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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.

One potential reason for the discrepancy, Welch asserts, could be that those legacy HA failover technologies don't present a threat to Oracle's processor-based license revenue in the way VMware does by enabling massive server consolidations.

Overspending on Oracle

The costs of over-licensing can be substantial, and Welch thinks many customers make unnecessary "donations" to Oracle when it comes to virtualization. "When buying licenses for a new project on a vSphere cluster, we see 150% to 300% overspend on Oracle licenses alone," he says. "This overspend dynamic with respect to VMware is unique to Oracle, in our observation," Welch says.

That's not to say that other enterprise software doesn't present challenges. For example, Microsoft's licensing policies for SQL Server on VMware took a significant turn for the worse with SQL Server 2012. But in that case the heavier licensing requirement was "unambiguously contractual," he says.

One House of Brick client had hundreds of vSphere hosts, only wanted to run Oracle on a few of them and didn't want to divide up the cluster to dedicate one to Oracle. "For that corporation, a national leader in their industry, the ramifications would have scaled into the tens of millions of dollars of unnecessary additional spend with Oracle," Welch says. Executives there are still trying to decide what course to pursue.

Another company, this one in the transportation industry, came to Palisade after finding itself in a disagreement with Oracle over how to count processor licenses in its virtual environment. "In this case we were talking about 60 processors. It was almost a $3 million judgment call," Guarente says. Ultimately the client prevailed. But, he adds, their legal counsel did so in a manner that did not destroy the business' relationship with Oracle.

Blake says Oracle is very transparent in terms of making all of its licensing practices, agreements and pricing available for public viewing online. But, like most hardware and software vendors, Oracle also exerts pressure on its sales force to increase licensing revenue growth for each account, which leads to "opportunistic behavior where they tend to interpret Oracle policies to their advantage," Blake adds.

Unfortunately, even though all of the documents are online, many customers remain unaware of their existence. "They fail to take the time to review them and take a stand," he says.

According to a VMware spokesperson, the overwhelming majority of vSphere customers choose to build separate clusters dedicated to Oracle-only workloads. But Welch says while some Oracle customers may decide to follow that path for business reasons, others may be doing so for what they see as contractual reasons. However, "if the customer decides that they want hundreds of vSphere servers in the fewest number of clusters possible, then it is their privilege to do so," he argues.


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