Question: What are
the options when licensing Oracle when running
virtualization? My company wants to run virtual
machines under Oracle and need to understand the Oracle
Answer: Virtualization is
traditionally used when you have a single server with
heterogeneous OS platforms (e.g. UNIX and Windows) and want
to run both on the same server, but virtualization is also
used to load-balance server resources. One of the
important downsides to virtualization is that it defeats one
of the most compelling reasons for consolidation, the
sharing of a large bank of CPU's. By slicing a large
server into many tiny VM's, you are losing this ability to
share computing resources between VM's.
In any case let's look at the use of virtualization and
see how it affects Oracle licensing costs.
Oracle virtualization and licensing falls into two
- "hard" hardware partitioning
(virtualization): This is the only path to
- "soft" server hardware virtualization:
Soft virtualization tools such as VMware will not aid in
reducing license costs.
Let's take a closer look at each approach, and see how it
impacts Oracle licensing costs.
- Only hard partitioning applies to Oracle licensing,
so "soft" solutions (VMware) do not apply to license
- The "hard" partitioning methods (Solaris Zones, Sun
Logical Domains), and split a larger server into many
smaller servers, but each VM must be licensed
- License saving in hard partitioning virtualization
is only helpful if you are running "mixed workloads",
running Oracle on some VM's and applications on other
Hard Virtualization by hardware
This approach takes a single large server and partitions
into smaller logical servers using tools such as Sun Logical
Domains (LDOMs), Solaris Zones (also known as Solaris
Containers). Note: Oracle
does not recognize hard partitioning with Solaris Containers
prior to Solaris 10; and even then there are many
Oracle Solaris Zones and hard partitioning for details.
Other non-Solaris hard partitioning methods such as
Dynamic System Domains (DSD), plus many other lesser known
hard partitioning techniques. For Solaris shops, only
the Solaris Containers approach is considered hard
Oracle Solaris Containers (zones) and hard partitioning
Here is the official Oracle document on hard virtualization
Oracle hard partitioning policy
Oracle pricing for hardware partitioning and virtualization
Using this approach, if you have an 32 core physical
server and create a hard partitioned Virtual Machine (VM)
with 16 virtual CPUs running the Oracle database, you will
still need to buy database licenses for 32 cores.
If you are consolidating database workloads on to a
server this is not a problem, but if you were planning to
run mixed workloads, like 16 cores for one database and 16
cores for application server, you will be required to buy
double the license.
For shops that run all of their VM's solely for Oracle,
there is no license benefit to virtualization.
Soft VMware Consolidation and server
Oracle does not recognize software virtualization with soft
partitioning as a means of reducing licensing costs.
Hence, consolidating mixed workloads on VMware
products, (which Oracle does not recognize as a "hard"
partitioning of CPU resources), is not practical from an
Oracle licensing savings perspective.
Remember, VMware is counted as soft partitioning method
and therefore any dedication or restriction of the Oracle
programs using it is considered as soft partitioning and
hence you will still need to license the whole environment.
Unexplored territory in VM Oracle
Not all migrations into Oracle virtualization go
smoothly. According to this February 2016 article in
the Register titled
Got Oracle? Got VMware? You could get stung with
huge licensing fees. The article notes:
Oracle has been telling a number of
organizations running its database software that they are
breaking the company's licensing rules – and therefore owe
it millions of dollars in unpaid license fees.
The issue hit the headlines in
January after US confectionery giant Mars took Oracle to
court in the US over claims Mars had broken the rules. Mars
had been audited by Oracle and developed a response plan
with compliance specialist Palisade Compliance. The case
settled before going to trial. . . .
The reason Oracle is targeting the
VMware base is Oracle does not accept VMware’s world view on
licensing, and therefore its definition, of hardware
partitioning. An Oracle partitioning document,
here, shows Oracle only accepts Solaris Containers. . .
Since VMware’s release of vSphere 5.1
in August 2012, Oracle has insisted that you cannot simply
license its database to a given number of virtual machines.
Rather, you must license your entire server estate, on the
basis that you have the potential to run Oracle on all those
servers and cores, should you wish.
Important Note: This document is
a literature review from July 2016 and should not be used to
rely on Oracle licensing. Oracle licensing constantly
changes, and you should consult your Oracle customer support
representative for current licensing policies.
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