back to article Got Oracle? Got VMware? Going cloud? You could be stung for huge licensing fees

Oracle has been telling a number of organisations running its database software that they are breaking the company's licensing rules – and therefore owe it millions of dollars in unpaid licence fees. The issue hit the headlines in January after US confectionery giant Mars took Oracle to court in the US over claims Mars had …

  1. Warm Braw

    It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

    It might be the price this week, next week the screws may be turned tighter still.

    I do sometimes wonder if Oracle have any long term plans for their company or whether they simply want to cash out while the going is good.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

      They have to pay for those yachts somehow

    2. 2460 Something

      cash out

      I just thought the same thing. Very much seems that they are price gouging whilst they can as they are the biggest. The biggest problem with this approach is the very bad taste in their customers mouths who will immediately start looking to the viabilities of alternative relational database products.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: cash out

        Maybe they're just trying to make Microsoft licencing look fair?

        Oracle have been like this for years. No wonder they have to depend upon compliance for revenue -nobody in their right mind would buy given the option.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: cash out

        In 2011 I took quick a look at the Oracle databases in my organization (nearly all of them; the rest were DB2 on big iron) and concluded that nearly all of them were by size, complexity, and performance requirements entirely suitable for PostgreSQL, some even for MySQL, although the latter seemed uninviting due to its recent change of ownership. A second look showed that many of the using applications depended on stored procedures. That, the ugliness of converting PL*SQL to the PosgreSQL analog, and the general resistance in my US DoD agency to anything but provider supported commercial products hastened my retirement a bit.

        Several years earlier, they had cancelled purchase of an HP Superdome because they couln't afford to put Oracle on it. My understanding is that in addition to continuing the existing practice of stuffing as many databases as possible on the same piece of hardware they have used SQL Server, previously almost nonexistent in the organization, for a lot of new work and redevelopment. It is likely that other organizations, both public and private sector, are moving the same way.

      3. CoolKoon

        Re: cash out

        Somehow such things have never bothered any psychopath in a leadership role with any big corporation....

    3. Lusty

      Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

      Oracle have been very consistent and clear here, the issue is with idiot customers. Read their document, it actually explains all this in great detail in the same way that Microsoft do for SQL, and their customers also don't bother reading the document.

      Nobody who read the document will be in trouble here, and their Oracle licensing will be relatively cheap if they spent more than 3 minutes planning their licence strategy. The easiest of which is to have a separate VMware cluster for your Oracle databases. Alternatively use physical Oracle servers. Another trick is to buy the lower core count CPUs (which run faster btw) to reduce licence cost while maintaining performance in all but the most widely threaded scenarios.

      Or ask someone who already knows this stuff :)

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

        The problem is not with the idiot customers and the legal small print, the problem is with the actual value that an Oracle database product can give, and whether it is worth paying your company's profit away to a legal snag for what that software can actually return on that investment.

        If there is no value in it, then it's not worth having, any remaining goodwill that Oracle has with these customers is gone by their uncompromising approach.

        If I pay a contractor £1K per day and he adds £200 per day to my bottom line through the value of his input then he goes out the door and won't be welcome back.

        Mars will probably have to flog a couple of billions Snickers bars before they've finished paying Oracle and in 2016 there are not really any good reason to use Oracle over another product in a new project.

        1. Lusty

          Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

          " legal small print"

          It isn't legal small print. It's quite a large font in quite a short document actually. It also has very little to do with legal and everything to do with setting out how the software is purchased. The document very clearly states that every core on every host in the cluster needs a licence to run a virtual DB server on that cluster. These customers didn't pay for all of those licences, they decided to make up their own rules and presumably bought licences for just the virtual cores on the DB Server. The issue here has nothing to do with the value of the software, the issue is idiot customers setting up systems in such a way as to make licensing all of their hardware necessary even if they only have one database. Had they used a physical server or a one/two node VMware solution they wouldn't be facing this huge bill. Argue all you like, but everyone who understands database licensing (Oracle and MS SQL) knows this is firmly in the category of idiot users and not with legal small print.

          1. CoolKoon

            Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

            "Had they used a physical server or a one/two node VMware solution they wouldn't be facing this huge bill." - Except that companies that pretty much need to have Oracle databases usually aren't running their VMs on only 1-2 nodes of course....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

        "Oracle have been very consistent and clear"

        Yes, very consistent and clear that they will hose you, if and when they feel like. I kind of agree with you though. It was peoples' choice to do business with Oracle and they knew that the first sentence in this paragraph applied.

      3. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

        Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

        Or better yet, get rid of Oracle on your Infra`s...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

      This isn't at all an obscure rule. Everyone knows it exists. The problem is that everyones' Oracle rep tells them that VMware is supported... don't worry about it... a "gray area", as they say. VMware is, technically but not in practice, not even supported by Oracle.

      1. Lusty

        Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

        But VMware is fully supported just not as a hardware partition. This is because it doesn't offer that feature at all. It's supported and there is a legal and straightforward way to licence on VMware. If you don't follow that then it is neither Oracle's fault not their problem, you'll be asked to make up the difference in licence fee when you're audited. Every software company works like this. MS has identical rules on SQL server with the exception that they don't support any hardware partitioning because it's Windows only. You may not understand what I've just said but that doesn't make you right.

        1. CoolKoon

          Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

          "MS has identical rules on SQL server with the exception that they don't support any hardware partitioning because it's Windows only." Actually that means both companies are giant scumbags, not that neither of them is......

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It might just be the price of doing business with Oracle

      Went through this ridiculous model several years ago. Our response was to standardize on SQL Server and to tell our Oracle account manager to get in touch when he moved to a new job where he could sell us something...

      "Maybe they're just trying to make Microsoft licencing look fair?"

      They succeeded. Many times over.

  2. Velv

    "Except for going legal, what are your options?"

    Stop using Oracle. There are other database technologies out there, and if Oracle insists on shooting itself in the foot those technologies will very quickly become the de-facto standard Oracle currently appears to be. Net easy for everyone to make the leap, but a critical mass soon will.

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      Other database technologies ? Wanna share some names with us ?

      1. Warm Braw

        on the subject of names...

        I don't expect that Amazon chose the name Redshift by accident...

      2. a_yank_lurker

        @DainB - A very short list of possible alternatives. Some will require more upfront work to port the data and applications. I have also chosen open source options.

        Relational - PostgreSQL, MariaDB

        Document - MongoDB, RethinkDB

        Big Table - Cassandra

        DFS - Hadoop

        Graph - Neo4J

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not certified on VMware

    Oracle never certified single product to run on VMware, which in Enterprise world means you simply can't do it and if you do you're on your own.

    VMware however being very well aware of Oracle position is actively encouraging their customers to run Oracle products on vSphere claiming performance improvements and license savings.

    So who's fault is it ?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Not certified on VMware

      Not sure it's a question of fault. Licencing has to be seen as fair and reasonable.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not certified on VMware

      Not entirely the case on the "being on your own" part, they wont help if they think that the problem is below the OS but they'll normally help when they think it's DB. Your on your own once they start thinking the hypervisor may be the issue.

      Unless they've changed their tune since I last had to care.

    3. Cris E

      Re: Not certified on VMware

      It any customer's fault that doesn't know the licensing terms of any software they install, and doubly so for anything as expensive as Oracle. Whenever I plan *any* buildout of the expensive stuff I always run it past our vendor mgmt (purchasing) team and the acct rep to make sure it doesn't come back to haunt us later. It's saved us money several times (rhymes with crAP) and cost us money when our hosting team failed to install mandated monitoring tools (rhymes with DB3).

      Be a pro - know your licensing terms.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep - had to redesign due to this

    Totally understand how people get p____ed off with this - We had to redesign one of our systems on the fly after buying h/w (brought before i got on the project), we consolidated our everything into a single blade chassis.

    Then discovered the cost of licensing the DB would of been millions due to the number of cores in the cluster.... so rather than having a large cluster with many hosts for maintenance we had to create a second cluster just for the DB with two hosts, reducing the pool of resources... but saving a truck load of dosh!

    it was only because of time, we didn't redevelop the application to dump the weblogic stack and move to something else... But i am sure in future our dev team won't be using Oracle in future so their short term chase for numbers will cost them in the long term!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yep - had to redesign due to this

      so you consolidated to a single point of failure with many slow cores rather than fewer fast cores while ignoring the licensing model of your vendors.

      Nice. Have a gold star AC.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yep - had to redesign due to this

      We had to redesign one of our systems on the fly after buying h/w ... we consolidated our everything into a single blade chassis.

      Then discovered the cost of licensing

      Well, there is a solution to that. It's called "advance planning". Way too many people assume that hardware is the only thing that costs money, and software is free. It's not at all limited to Oracle software.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yep - had to redesign due to this

        Which is odd, as hardware is cheap as chips, enterprise software is the pain. Looking at a lovely hardware solution £160,000 one off, however to license it with a not so lovely enterprise DB £550,000 every 3 years.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Yep - had to redesign due to this

          There's definitely a "mindset" problem. 20 years ago you might have spent $250K on a minicomputer, and $50K on the database package, and considered it a good investment.

          Today you'll get more powerful hardware for only $10K, but inflation and extra functionality could have pushed the software licence to $100K. You're still paying less than half the cost in total (much less if you consider inflation-adjusted dollars) yet people get upset because the software costs more than the hardware, and it "used not to be like that".

          There's no logical reason that the prices should track. Hardware development is largely automated and manufacture is cheap. Software development is very labour-intensive, and the price of labour has skyrocketed compared to the cost of electronics. We just have to get used to the idea the the hardware is now the irrelevant part of the system's purchase price, and accept that good software costs a lot of money to write and support.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing suprising here

    You've always had to license the tin the documentation is clear on this. Fair? Depending on what your doing it can work in your favour (Test/Dev when you're not an ISV partner)

    I would argue that if you've licensed a machine in a farm and you ensure all instances do not leave that machine except in the case of DR for that server (Oracle allow enterprise fail over for a number of days)

    I worked for an SME ISV and had to read the licensing documents to make sure we were legal. Don't see why companies with more than two IT bods couldn't do the same. I suspect they were just trying to get away with it.

    SQL Server is pretty horrible to license now days as well.

    I think the licensing models are hell and the core licensing model used now by lots of folk is printing money for old rope. But Oracles has been this unpleasant for as long as VMware has been an option on servers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing suprising here

      I think the recent renewal of anger over this issue is because Oracle totally contradicted themselves. They used to say that a software based VM, like VMware, would have to be licensed across the server and cluster because the VM could pull resources. Only hardware based partitions, meaning firmware... like IBM pSeries, were hard partitions where you could license by the core on a server. Fair enough.... Oracle now wants to push Oracle VM, which is a software partition like VMware, but they granted it a hard partition.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Similar issues exist on physical tin due to the 'per core' licensing model, but you can get round that by running on OVM. Unfortunately OVM isn't very robust. If Oracle stick at it, it may become a good product, but it isn't there yet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OVM

      Not very robust

      It's shit, genuinely jaw-droppingly shit. Every time something fails (which happens if you do so much as look at it) there's no error messages, no documentation, and support has never been able to help me with a single issue I've never had with the damned thing.

      Avoid, avoid, avoid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OVM

        It's shit, genuinely jaw-droppingly shit.

        Which OVM, SPARC or x86? Despite the name they are totally different technologies. One works, one is, well, not so good...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OVM

          x86 is "not so good"....

        2. GrumpyOF

          Re: OVM

          Must be x86 unless VMware now runs on SPARC.

          OVM is the only hyperviser that Oracle will support for CPU affinity being set on.

          Oracle is not so perverse on hardware partitioning but still be very careful.

    2. Lusty

      Re: OVM

      Just buy a physical server with fewer cores then. Xeon 4 core and 6 core can be deployed as uni processor and each core is way faster than the bigger chips. If you plan your hardware it's not an issue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OVM

        RAC configuration?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OVM

      As I mentioned above, I think that is why people are so upset about this issue. VMware and Oracle VM both use a soft(ware) partition, as opposed to a hard(ware) partition in the firmware like IBM pSeries. The hard partition vs soft partition used to be a technical distinction and made some sense. Now they are calling Oracle VM a hard partition, even though it isn't, and giving it the licensing benefit. If they can do it for Oracle VM, there is no reason they cannot do it for VMware and Hyper-V.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: OVM

        Their software, their license, so they can do what they want, as can their customers as they develop new and replacement applications. Other, lower cost DBMS products are entirely fit for many applications, probably the overwhelming majority in many organizations.

        1. CoolKoon

          Re: OVM

          "Their software, their license, so they can do what they want" - Not quite. If any company would take them to court and prove that Oracle's doing this (mislabeling its own virtualization solution) only to keep the competition out (i.e. as an anti-competitive measure), they could sue Oracle for quite a lot of money (and other lawsuits would follow too).

  7. Lysenko

    ...typically these are the people that have not used the right people database, processes and tools...



  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new for Oracle

    It's the way they do business, if you really want to use their products then you better make damn sure you and your legal team have read the licensing manual cover to cover. Then once you've installed your chosen software, make damn sure you have scripts in place to monitor every licensable option they offer to make sure you've only switched on what you've paid for. I've worked with Oracle tech for close on 20 years and they've always been severe when they audit you. It's like you're running a small pizza place and you get a visit from Tony Soprano, when they send the dreaded "request for audit" notification!

    It's no wonder they're getting replaced left, right and centre by SQL Server when you get everything in the box for one price, not 17 separate bills 'cos you accidentally enabled an option on a prod DB while you were upgrading.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing new for Oracle

      Microsoft seems to be studying and aping Oracle at a fast clip when you compare the licensing, version on version.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing new for Oracle

      Oracle replaced by SQL Server? I guess many businesses are suckers for punishment.

    3. CoolKoon

      Re: Nothing new for Oracle

      ....except MSSQL is almost as bad as Oracle (especially licensing-wise), but to make things worse it even ties you to everyone's (least) favorite server platform (which brings along an additional licensing hell depending on the amount of clients that connect to it).

  9. Otto is a bear.

    Not really new news.

    I've been dealing with these cloud/virtualisation issues for some years now, along side those that you can get caught out with in development. That copy of EE on your laptop is still covered by the licence agreements. Also beware Oracle's Java, don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself paying support licences because you haven't kept up with the version changes. It may be free, but it's still licenced and has T&Cs you might not like.

    Oracle's position on cloud VM licences hasn't changed for at least 5 years while, unless you are using AWS or Azure, or Oracle's own cloud. But here's a few other gotcha's. If you migrate away from Oracle, you have to do it by your licence chunks, so if you have an overarching all in one agreement and try to reduce it, Oracle will recalculate at the undiscounted price, and you could land up paying more.

    It is possible to move away from Oracle, the vast majority of Oracle installations I've been involved in do not use anything like all the features in EE let alone the options. You can quite safely consider Postgres and others as a replacement. As far as Weblogic goes JBOSS is a reasonable replacement. Pretty much all our new development is moving to a heterogeneous open source solution space. No one supplier is irreplaceable, or has a stranglehold on our designs.

    I wouldn't go to Microsoft either, as where Oracle goes today they will go tomorrow. Oracle is technology in decline, even Microsoft isn't that innovative, and it can't belong before they go into licence gouging to maintain revenue and margin. Beware Azure and its exit fees for a start.

  10. wilsonbigg

    How did we get here.

    I sympathise with predicament that TMAX find themselves in, but my view is that the situation could have been avoided despite, Oracle and VMWare licensing complexity.

    I agree with Martin Thompson that licensing rules need to be clear, consistent & fair, but you only have to type "Licensing Oracle on VMware" into Google to get a feel for complexity and can soon arrive at the underlying principle that Oracle require all physical processors in the VMWare cluster to be licensed as if it was one physical environment.

    Oracle will generally recognise hardware partitioning if it cannot be reconfigured on the fly or using software "switches", because cheeky customers would raise the processor count for production and lower it if audited.

    The licensing rules for Oracle Database and virtualisation have been static for over ten years, so they can hardly be described as volatile. Agreed, there are complexities, but no more than most other protagonists in enterprise level IT.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that the VMware Cluster complete with hardware, Oracle and any other ancillaries did not fall out of the sky into TMAXs datacentre. Many actors would have been involved in the various decisions and processes in the procurement cycle, such as technical architects, resellers, DBAs, managers and procurement officers, any of whom could and should have checked the eventual licensing position.

    I also don't buy into the argument that they somehow lure you into over-deploying licences. Oracle allows it's customers to deploy their software without technical encumbrance, such as licence keys, so that IT service providers, including internal IT departments, can be agile, responsive and flexible as long as you declare what you are using and pay for it.

    I have worked closely with Oracle since 1994 and I have seen some inconsistencies in their interpretation of their own licensing rules, especially by Account Managers. e.g. "You can licence a non-production database at Standard Edition" (even if you have enterprise options installed), which immediately books you in for a licence breach when or if you are next audited.

    However, for existing and prospective Oracle users, I would always recommend contacting other Oracle users via the UKOUG for licensing advice. Feel free to comment or contact me via Linked In if you feel I am being unfair or you need advice yourself.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just VSphere?

    Excuse the daft question, but why is this only a risk for VSphere 5.1 users? Are companies who use Hyper-V or Xen as their hypervisor vulnerable as well?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Just VSphere?

      come on, don't sit on the fence. What do you think? Do you think Pigs can fly? (Floyd one excepted...)

      If they were not affected then Oracle would be on the wrong end of a very big lawsuit. IANAL but IMHO.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just VSphere?

      Doesn't matter what virtualization software you use, the issue is the same. Not sure why they mentioned version 5.1, unless Oracle "clarified" their licensing when it was released. Perhaps Oracle would accept host affinity rules that limit what physical servers the Oracle VMs is eligible to run on to a subgroup of the full set. But I wouldn't count on it unless you get something in writing from Oracle.

      I think segregating Oracle VMs onto a group of servers small enough to handle its load and allow for the downing of one server is the only route to minimizing your hardware cost while guaranteeing they won't try to come after you for more money later. If you have a bursty load i.e. you need more resources for end of month processing then you need to size your N+1 resources based on that peak. Which kind of sucks if it means you have a lot of idle capacity the other 29 to 30 days of the month.

  12. dlehrner

    Good follow up article

    I find this stuff interesting and thought this blog post has another interesting perspective:

  13. nilfs2

    If you use Oracle databases... deserve bad things happening to you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you use Oracle databases...

      An Oracle ripping people off story. Is it Wednesday already?b

  14. Nate Amsden

    Nothing new

    I was managing Oracle and VMware at a company when we deployed them as a solution 9 or 10 years ago, I built the systems SPECIFICALLY to stay in license compliance with both. At the time it was ESX 3.5, I purchased DL380G5 servers, and only populated them with one socket a piece(Intel's first gen quad core) for Oracle licensing(technically at the time VMware did not support less than two socket systems, or was it you couldn't buy less than two sockets I forget which or maybe it was both).

    I remember for production we were still bare metal so I went with the fastest dual core CPUs (for Oracle EE licensing). When we switched to Oracle SE, we went with quad core CPUs since SE was at the time anyway, licensed per socket vs EE was licensed per core. I remember significant pains on the DL380G5 servers our dual core systems had motherboards that were not compatible with quad core chips, it took HP a while to figure that out, they later updated the data sheet to reflect that.

    Oracle, especially enterprise the licensing costs are good enough that you should be devoting hardware to it(if you want to run it in a hypervisor run it on dedicated hypervisors).

    Oracle has had this stance for as long as I can remember, how folks these days would be caught off guard now is just sad.

    My only use of Oracle these days has been as a vCenter back end. I use named user licensing for that.

    I know Oracle better than I know MS SQL and I don't know DB2 at all which at the time were the 3 options for vCenter back end DB. It's been working fine for the past several years(and the cost is fine too) so no reason to change.

    I'd be happy to use more Oracle but the company isn't interested in paying for it, so we get by with MySQL which works but instrumentation in MySQL is just a joke, always has been.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not use technology to solve this problem?

    The argument coming from these legacy companies that made their billions in the world of proprietary software is that you have the capability to run on any host and to resize your DB to as many cores as you'd like and as such you must license every host. This is such a lame argument. Here is a simple solution that Oracle might offer its customers.

    1. Our software will report back to our corporation what your consumption is of our product. If your consumption changes based on the license you've purchased you will get a bill to pay for the difference. We will also credit you if you retire that DB or at a minimum remove it from your future bill.


    2. You pay us for every host in your datacenter whether you think its fair or not.

    Obviously Oracle, or any other vendor living in the dark ages, avoids this because they love capturing extra dollars knowing that anyone running a DB in production will at least have one extra physical host in the mix to license. This is generating growth for them as well as these ridiculous lawsuits. Hence the best LONG term strategy for every enterprise should be to move away from these legacy companies. Move to open source and use a subscription model if you need support for those products. If you don't need support for them then consume them for free. Invest in your people not the multi-billion dollar proprietary software companies. Software is eating the world. If you aren't investing in your people to lead you in the new world your company doesn't have much hope from becoming a dinosaur themselves.

    1. Nate Amsden

      Re: Why not use technology to solve this problem?

      I think there are many big oracle installations out there that have no internet access. Also another big set of installations that would not accept "phone home" solutions.

      But it would cover a subset of customers anyway. What might be easier is a simple check that runs inside the DB that knows what license you have and can compare with what is running.

      Though that may hurt Oracle as they make a good chunk of change off these audits. I recall 10 years ago when I went through two audits(first one I was a new employee and the management didn't trust me when I said move to Oracle SE, after the 2nd audit and more penalties they agreed and I moved them to Oracle SE saving gobs of $$).

      One of the things at the time anyway, wouldn't surprise me if it still was in place was if a feature is installed but not used you are not charged for it, but if you start using it for any reason(and I think even if you stop using it) it flags it and you are dinged.

      At the time a company we used for Oracle professional services had a monitoring package installed on all of our Oracle EE systems, this package happened to use partitioning for whatever reason so we got dinged badly on it even though our own apps were not using partitioning. Later when we moved to Oracle SE there was no partitioning option and the 3rd party company adjusted their monitoring software so it wouldn't use partitioning anymore. The 3rd party company was also responsible for installing Oracle (and they opt'd to install EE even though the company only ever licensed Oracle Standard edition ONE (not even regular SE if I recall right). They were surprised when Oracle audited them after many support tickets were filed clearly showing they were using Oracle EE.

      Mismanagement up and down left and right, the company imploded for other reasons back in 2009. The founder/CEO has since went and gone to launch a few other companies all which have crashed and burned(one of the more recent ones for several hundred million$), and for some reason people still give that guy money. I don't get it.

    2. Nate Amsden

      Re: Why not use technology to solve this problem?

      oh and pay for every host I believe Oracle has that already called site licensing. I don't think there are many customers of it, I believe Amazon is a site license customer which is one reason they use so much Oracle internally and gobble up every Oracle expert in the Seattle area (and many other areas too). It's "free" for them to deploy new instances so they just do it.

      I'd wager the cost for that probably starts in the millions at least. Wouldn't be an option for small shops.

  16. Mpeler

    Larry, Larry, quite contrary

    Some things never change. As I wrote years ago:


    Larry, Larry, quite contrary,

    How does your empire grow?

    With IP "rights" and patent fights,

    And lawyers, all in a row...


    Apparently it's not just Jupiter that has a big red spot...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's more of an idiot tax, there is no reason to use oracle

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    vSphere 6

    I recently attended a meeting with an Oracle representative, who claimed that running a separate cluster was not sufficient isolation when vSphere 6 is implemented, due to the vMotion enhancements which allow VM portability across clusters with no shared infrastructure.

    I highly doubt this is a defensible legal position and believe it is FUD, but it's interesting to see the latest tactics are.

    Let's pretend this rule is real for a second, using the example in the article, not only do you have to pay for all of the car parking spaces in one car park, you now have to pay for all car parking spaces, in all car parks, globally, since you could in theory park there... It's just madness.

    1. neozeed

      Re: vSphere 6

      Simple cba:

      Fight oracle or buy shitty small core servers?

      Shitty 1u servers that have 100% iscsi Luns are much cheaper.

  19. cerbera17

    So managing an Oracle estate without first understanding the implications seems reckless to me. And simply like ignoring your tax liabilities for a while and then moaning when you get a hige bill.

    Information on Oracle's hard partitioning is available from Oracle's website directly or by simply googling, so ignorance is no excuse.

  20. dhesselink

    Legal motivation: None?

    I find it hard to believe that an article about this subject is written without the input from any experienced lawyer. Who cares what 'industry experts' without any legal education believe what Oracle can or cannot get away with?

    Do the readers and journalism a favor: Also interview at least one experienced subject lawyer. Try to reach out to people like Robin Fry at DAC Beachcroft, Judica Krikke at Stibbe, or the firm Mars hired. Hear how the EU laws / Civil Law / Copyright and Contract laws work.

    I'm confident that the Register will rewrite the entire article.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Legal motivation: None?

      And I'm confident that you're an internet blowhard trying to drum up PR for your clients, complete with an email address that ends in "". Have a nice day.

      Actually, no. Don't have a nice day.

      1. wilsonbigg

        Re: Legal motivation: None?

        I know Dan Hesselink, he is well respected at the BCS and within the Software Asset Management community in the UK and I think you're being unfair and a tad over-aggressive.

        If you are going troll informed contributors, just because you suspect a little own-trumpet blowing, then you will end up with empty discussion boards, as there are plenty of other places to read breathless hyperbole about companies being the victim of wicked software vendors.

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Legal motivation: None?

          If he is an informed contributor then I've made a mistake and I'm happy to apologise, Dan.

          We get a lot of new registrations for the forums from people keen to say why we've got X, Y and Z wrong, in their view. They tend to be PRs with an obvious axe to grind on behalf of their clients. Occasionally they're people who genuinely do know what they're on about, and this seems to be one of those occasions.

    2. neozeed

      Re: Legal motivation: None?

      Have you ever been oracle audited? Did you fight? If so wish I worked with you.

      It was cheaper to buy low core servers than to deal with Oracle.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A fairly definitive (and legally backed) answer...

    Full disclosure: I have worked on this exact topic in the past and so have to be anon. :-/

    With a little understanding, running Oracle RDBMS upon vSphere need not be expensive and can be very advantageous.

    Firstly, you sign an OLSA. You have not signed the PDF referenced above that contains a footnote stating "This document is for educational purposes only and provides guidelines regarding Oracle's policies" and "It may not be incorporated into any contract and does not constitute a contract or a commitment to any specific terms." Thus, any partitioning guide is irrelevant.

    You processor where the software is licensed "shall be defined as all processors where the Oracle programs are installed and/or running".

    That, by law, is open to interpretation.

    You are entitled to at least two interpretations.

    How do you install software on a processor? What if there is a software tool to stop that ever happening? What if there is an audit trail?

    Using simple techniques such as DRS host affinity, LUN zoning/masking (not actually required) and having a robust audit process in place you are able to run Oracle where you want and pay for only that. Then you can, where appropriate, consolidate many DBs onto said hosts and save on licensing.

    Finally, go talk to the punters at the various OUGs around the world. It really isn't a problem and Oracle are in the process of shooting themselves in the foot and pushing customers away if they continue this stance.

    The irony is that I really like Oracle SW. It's actually quite good!


  22. Raoul Miller

    This is not news

    Oracle's policy on clustering, partitioning, and running on VM has been consistent for ten years or more. Whether you like it or not, if this comes as a surprise you are working with the wrong sales team or consultants.

    If you deploy on VMWare you have to license ALL the processors on that hardware. Alternatively use Oracle VM, Linux Containers, Solaris Containers etc. and enable hard partitioning. It's all very clearly laid out on Oracle's licensing web page.

    1. wilsonbigg

      Re: This is not news

      I couldn't;t have put it better.

  23. DennisFaucher

    All the supported Oracle positions

    Everyone in IT should know how Oracle on VMware is licensed - for every core in the cluster.

    Here is the full list of hardware partitions supported: Solaris Zones (also known as Solaris Containers, capped Zones/Containers only), IBM’s LPAR (adds DLPAR with AIX 5.2), IBM’s Micro-Partitions (capped partitions only), vPar, nPar, Integrity Virtual Machine (capped partitions only), Secure Resource Partitions (capped partitions only), Fujitsu’s PPAR.

  24. neozeed

    Not news. ..

    I consolidated a companies entire data centre footprint into 1/2 a rack. The only physical 1u servers were vcenter and Oracle. And this is circa 2008! Oracle has always been insane to the point of forcing me to find pentium d cpus instead of later and faster stuff with the inevitable higher core/thread count.

  25. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Silly but clear

    First off, I do find this a bit silly; it really does seem fair if a virtualization product limits use to x cores, you should need to pay for x cores. I mean, if someone's stuck a copy onto AWS are they then liable for like a 8,000,000 core license or whatever?

    That said, I thought it was common knowledge that Oracle has pretty strict licensing terms, and that they are pretty strictly enforced. They may just have to suck it up and migrate to PostgreSQL or something if they are wanting to be able to have their DB floating around in the clouds.

    I suppose a practical solution to mitigate this would be to segregate off an Oracle-only section (enough for redundancy) so the Oracle stuff stays there, and everything else runs in the rest, so you'd have to fork up for that section but not the whole data center (at least in the future, I guess you may be toast and just have to negotiate that huge bill down for past usage.)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got skanked

    Well, we got skanked by Oracle.

    I'm a regular IT manager with an estate of stuff. We are what I consider to be 'tight' on our licensing. However, I am not an Oracle guru, and when we 'virtualized' a poxy little forms server for a legacy system it was just a case of lessening our tin footprint. I could have left it there, but that's wasteful and unnecessary so we slung it on a virtual node.

    Some time later Oracle came knocking for a license audit "No problem, come on in, we are good corporate citizens and I am happy you will be satisfied". How wrong was I ? The argument went on for a good while and whilst it was painfully obvious that this one tiny server was all that was on vmware they wanted the whole farm licensed. Anyway, back and forward, deal made, pockets fleeced.

    But what of the net result ? For me it wasn't a case of "Can they do this". They clearly can. It was more a case of 'should they do this' ? In this instance it was painfully obvious no-one was trying to cheat anything, use more of anything, get away with anything. Tiny legacy forms server just wasnt on tin any more. The only net result of this is that I will NEVER voluntarily use oracle again. Its become my lifes mission to never purchase any more and where possibly pro-actively move away from it. Should a customer really feel like that ?

    Thats all I wanted to add here. Yes they can do it. But they shouldnt. Its illogical and unfair. I hope it bites them hard.

  27. Alain

    What about HP-UX SRP containers ?

    Funny that the article doesn't mention HP-UX clusters on Itanium-based Integrity servers, be it simple ServiceGuard packages or SRP containers that are quite close to Sun (well, Oracle) Solaris containers.

    If they're excluded from Oracle's "exception" to 1 machine = 1 license rule, then I know at least one big, big Oracle shop that's going to be in trouble.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Register, please research before posting: Viewers please READ

    Here are some recommended links for all, please review and do not listen to the load of FUD provided in this article:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    The contract rules (play on words intended), your OLSA will already have the contractual language available to support virtualization of Oracle workloads in a manner that benefits customers and NOT Oracle's wallet!

    The OLSA states:

    Section L: Entire Agreement - You agree that this agreement and the information which is incorporated into this agreement by written reference (including reference to information contained in a URL or referenced policy), together with the applicable ordering document, are the complete agreement for the programs and/or services ordered by you, and that this agreement supersedes all prior or contemporaneous agreements or representations, written or oral, regarding such programs and/or services. (This is critical, everything outside of the OLSA is a non-contractual assertion)

    Section Q: Processor - shall be defined as all processors where the Oracle Programs are installed and/or running. (not where they could be installed and/or running!!!)

    There are no licensing changes or increases on VMware, it is simple:

    License Oracle where it is installed and/or running.

    If you have enough workloads to justify licensing an entire cluster then do so, otherwise leverage vSphere DRS technology to limit VM movement to licensed hosts only (with host/vm groups and should rules) and leverage the 10 day rule for failover events. Use tools to audit the vCenter logs to show Oracle LMS those VM's have not moved from the "licensed host" to mitigate that risk, VMware Log Insight can do this nicely.

    Many VMware customers have successfully defended this position, simply ask Oracle to point out these non-contractual assertions in your existing OLSA. They do not exist so the conversation ends quickly as in the case with MARS, which settled out of court.

    Beware of non-contractual documents like the soft-partitioning guide, highlighted by the following paragraph at the bottom of the document:

    This document is for educational purposes only and provides guidelines regarding Oracle's policies in effect as of November 6, 2013. It may not be incorporated into any contract and does not constitute a contract or a commitment to any specific terms. Policies and this document are subject to change without notice. This document may not be reproduced in any manner without the express written permission of Oracle Corporation.

    By the way, Oracle doesn't certify anything below the OS, so the key is to pick an OS that is certified and run that OS on VMware.

    Oracle fully supports VMware and VMware provides support for Oracle workloads on VMware as part of your existing support contract, ask your VMware team for help.

    Lastly, if your OLSA was executed pre-September 2012, you at any time can reduce cores in the server BIOS to better suit your license and compute requirements. Post Sept 2012, it has to be done before the server is shipped to your location.

    Don't get me started on hard partitioning on the dinosaurs of the server world...

  29. IGnatius T Foobar

    Oracle in a cloud?

    What happens if you run Oracle in a hyperscale cloud? Does Oracle charge you for every core Amazon or Microsoft or Google has in the entire world?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So with IBM LPARs, 'capping' a partition is just a check box. There is nothing stopping you running the partition capped at audit time then uncapping later. I don't see how this is any different to VMWare vCPUs. Both allow you to at the press of a button increases resources. Technically there is no difference between a hard partition you can change with a software command and a "soft" partition you can change with a software command.

    Just as there was nothing stopping you physically installing / removing CPUs to suit audit purposes. This is not a technical issue (hard vs. soft partitioning) but rather a anti-competition issue.

    This has always been a way of Oracle trying to suppress what it sees as a competitor to it's own virtualisation strategy. Originally it was to push people to Solaris, but since that didn't work out so well the only place left to compete is x86.

    Oracle licensing has never been about a standard price, it's always been about how much the sales people think they can squeeze out of the customer.

    Once upon a time there was a company that had a layer on top of MySQL that provided pretty good compatibility with Oracle standard edition. I wonder whatever happened to them?

  31. Sociopathicly

    How we unscrewed ourselves

    We were up for 9 million in backdated licencing fees and were desperate for a resolution. Our entire annual IT budget was only 3.2Million and the company simply could not afford to pay the backdated claims.

    We had a consultant come in and he arranged for us to buy 2 exedata boxes for about 2.5 million which not only solved the back fees but also removed the databases of buggy servers.

    We also of course had an increase in speed of about 20 or 30 times in transactions. All in all we were happy with the result.

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