Sweat the Small Stuff When Licensing Oracle Software

Enterprise-level software solutions often entail complex licensing challenges. Many of the thorniest questions often center on how to license software in virtualized environments, especially if the goal is to use something less than the full processing power of the hosting infrastructure. IBM licensees should be familiar with Big Blue’s requirement (in most cases) to deploy its IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) in order to track the usage of products licensed on a sub-capacity basis. However, IBM certainly is not alone in the marketplace in forcing its customers to jump through hoops to use its products in cost-effective ways. Oracle’s requirements in this area can be equally daunting, depending on the hardware where the Oracle solutions are to be deployed.

Oracle allows its licensees to use “Hard Partitioning” to limit the number of software licenses required for a server or a cluster of servers. However, while Hard Partitioning may mean different things to different IT administrators, it means a set of specific requirements for Oracle, all of which must be carefully controlled in order to avoid unpleasant licensing surprises.

You must use Oracle-approved technologies to hard-partition your servers. Those technologies currently include the following:

  • Dynamic System Domains (DSD) — enabled by Dynamic Reconfiguration (DR),
  • Solaris Zones (also known as Solaris Containers, capped Zones/Containers only),
  • LPAR (adds DLPAR with AIX 5.2),
  • Micro-Partitions (capped partitions only),
  • vPar,
  • nPar,
  • Integrity Virtual Machine (capped partitions only),
  • Secure Resource Partitions (capped partitions only),
  • Fujitsu’s PPAR, and
  • Oracle VM Server (provided additional requirements are satisfied)

If the software is to be deployed on certain Oracle Engineered Systems, then the licensee needs to use Oracle VM Server and Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) to set up and report on “Trusted Partitions” where the software will be running. OEM can be deployed in either “Connected” or “Disconnected” mode: in the former, OEM reports on software usage directly to My Oracle Support, while in the latter the licensee is required to generate quarterly usage reports and to retain those reports for at least two years.

In every case where OVM is to be used as a Hard Partitioning technology, it is necessary to disable live migration of VMs and otherwise to follow Oracle’s technical instructions to allocate vCPU resources.

Businesses planning to license Oracle software on a sub-capacity basis need to review all of the requirements against current and compatible technologies deployed in their environments in order to determine whether the administrative costs associated with setting-up and maintaining those software deployments will make sense in the long run.