Home > Business Critical Applications, VMware > Fight the FUD – Oracle Licensing and Support on VMware vSphere

Fight the FUD – Oracle Licensing and Support on VMware vSphere

I keep hearing stories from Customers and Prospects where Oracle appears to be trying to deceive them for the purposes of extorting more license money from them than they are legally required to pay. I also keep hearing stories of Oracle telling them they would not be supported if they virtualized their Oracle systems on VMware vSphere. This has gone on now for far too long and it’s time to fight back and stop the FUD!

In my opinion the best way for you to prevent this situation for your company is by knowing the right questions to ask, and by knowing what your obligations are. The aim for this article is to give you the tools to pay only what you legally owe, while making the most efficient and economic use of your licenses, and get the world class support that you are used to, even in a virtualized environment on VMware vSphere. All without sacrificing availability or performance.

I’m going to start this article by quoting Dave Welch, CTO, House of Brick – “I believe in paying every penny I owe. However, beyond that, it is my discretion to who or what I donate and in what amount. I have no patience with individuals or entities that premeditate the creation of OLSA compliance issues.  I similarly have no patience with the knowing spreading of FUD by some professionals in what could be construed as extortion of funds beyond customers’ executed contractual obligations. I will continue to vigorously promote and defend the legal rights of both software vendors and their customers even if that means I induce accelerated hair loss through rapid, frequent hat swapping.” Source Jeff Browning‘s EMC Communities article – Comments by Dave Welch of House of Brick on Oracle on VMware Licensing.

I agree with Dave on this. So I am going to show you how you can pay what you owe, while using what you pay for as efficiently and cost effectively as possible, and show you how you can still enjoy the full support you are entitled to. Without the scaremongering that sometimes accompanies discussions with Oracle Sales Reps.

For those that aren’t familiar with the term FUD, it is an acronym which stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Something some companies and professionals seem to go to great lengths to create in the minds of customers.

FUD #1 – Oracle Licensing and Soft Partitioning

Oracle’s Server/Hardware Partitioning document outlines the different types of partitioning and how they impact licensing. Oracle may try and tell you that licensing a VMware environment will be more expensive as they don’t consider VMware Hard Partitioning. This is complete rubbish. This assertion is completely irrelevant unless you were only planning on deploying a single small database on a very small subset of a very large server. In this case you probably wouldn’t be using Enterprise Edition and may not be paying per CPU Core (Named User Plus instead). Why would you deploy such a system when you could easily purchase a server that is the right size for the job and licensed appropriately for the job? There is absolutely no requirement to run Oracle Enterprise Edition just because you are virtualizing your databases.

There is absolutely no increase in licensing costs over and above what you would have to pay for the same physical infrastructure to run your Oracle Database if you were running it in the OS without virtualization. You still have to pay what you owe, for what you use. The truth is that your costs could actually be significantly less when virtualizing on VMware vSphere as you can get more productive work done for the same amount of physical hardware, and therefore the license requirements and your costs will be significantly less. This is because you can run multiple Oracle databases on the same server and effectively share the resources, including memory, provided you take care during your design to ensure any undesirable performance impacts are avoided.  Take this image for example showing consolidating two dissimilar workloads on the same hardware (Source: VMware).

Even if you only want to deploy a single database server you are significantly better off if you right size the host server and VM and deploy it isolated out of a cluster, but still virtualized, even if it is the only VM on the host. This will allow you to still take advantage of many of the benefits of virtualization, such as significantly easier disaster recovery due to the complete hardware independence, better monitoring via your existing virtualization monitoring tools, the ability to run unlimited number of database VM’s on the fully licensed host server. If you want high availability and non-disruptive maintenance and upgrades then you just need to add a second fully licensed host server. You can still make use of all the resources of both servers.

I discussed in my article Oracle RAC 11g R2 Standard Edition on vSphere how you could deploy up to 4 VMware vSphere hosts with a single CPU socket each to run an unlimited number of Oracle Standard Edition Databases, including Oracle RAC. This is an incredibly cost effective solution, especially as Oracle Standard Edition is not memory limited, and is licensed by processor up to a maximum of 4 sockets per host, but unlimited cores. You still pay per core, but significantly less. You should make yourself familiar with the different Oracle Database Editions and their limitations.  When you virtualize on vSphere because you get HA you may be able to downgrade some Oracle Enterprise Edition licenses to Standard Edition and potentially make a significant saving, at least in maintenance costs. You also gain effective resource isolation capabilities without having to use Oracle Database Enterprise Edition. Remember what I said before, there is no requirement to run Enterprise Edition when you virtualize your databases, you can run any of the editions provided you deploy them within the license and technical restrictions. In all cases you must ensure that all processors are licensed for Standard Edition in compliance with the OLSA and Software Investment Guide.

If you are using Oracle Database Enterprise Edition there is an opportunity to save significant amounts of money if you are migrating from traditional Unix platforms to Linux or Windows running on VMware vSphere. This is due to the way that Oracle calculates the CPU Core License Factor. The Intel CPU’s have a Core License Factor of 0.5 compared with some of the higher end traditional Unix platforms Core License Factor of 1.0. This means you need half as many licenses to cover the same number of of Intel CPU Cores as you have in your traditional Unix platform. Oracle may say that’s because the Intel systems are inferior and don’t perform. However based on my experience modern x86-64 hardware will outperform most of their Unix counterparts. In some cases you can achieve up to 5x the performance compared to a traditional Unix system when utilizing the same amount of licensed hardware (One of my customers did). Not that the new SPARC T4 Processor now has a 0.5 core factor, the same as an Intel Xeon CPU. I take this to mean Oracle recognises the power of the Xeon chips, but one key thing to note is that the SPARC T4 is over twice the price per core as the Intel Xeon counter parts.

The real hard dollar licensing savings here will come into play when re-negotiating maintenance if you already own all the perpetual licenses you need. It will also come into play if you expand the environment as you will be able to avoid purchasing any additional licenses, seeing as you have spare licenses after the switch to the x86-64 platform.  If you are in a position where you need to expand the environment and you’re on a traditional Unix, now might be the perfect time to make the switch and put the additional license money into the cost of the migration project instead. I have outlined in a previous article what I think are the Top 10 Reasons to Migrate Oracle Databases from Traditional Unix to Linux on vSphere. License Maintenance costs are not the only cost savings by switching to x86-64 from traditional Unix, you may also save significant amounts of power, cooling, data center floor space and hardware maintenance costs. In one of my recent projects the 15 months of the cost of the traditional Unix platform hardware maintenance paid for the entire project costs to switch, services, software and hardware.

If you have an uncapped ELA (ULA in Oracle Terms – Unlimited License Agreement) you can deploy the database software wherever you like the whole discussion about soft or hard partitioning, or the number of cores, is completely irrelevant. You should deploy as many databases as possible and make the best use of your software entitlement. This will come into play quite strongly with my next FUD item below. Be careful to only use the features you are licensed for however, so you don’t get any nasty surprises come audit or ELA/ULA renewal time (provided your use is within your OLSA agreement).

FUD #2 – Oracle Sub Cluster Licensing is Not Possible

Still on the licensing topic, but this area of FUD comes into play when you want to only license a subset of hosts that make up part of a large cluster for use by Oracle. Contrary to what many might believe or try and tell you it is fairly easy to deploy and license a subset of a larger VMware vSphere Cluster. It is also perfectly acceptable under the Oracle Software License Agreement, provided you can prove that the Oracle binaries have only been executed/run on the systems that make up the subset of the cluster. Now just because you can do this doesn’t necessarily mean I would recommend it and after I explain how you can do it I’ll tell you why in many cases this might not be a good idea, and it has largely nothing to do with licensing.

If you don’t have a copy of your signed and executed Oracle License and Services Agreement (OLSA) you should get one and read it thoroughly. You should also become familiar with the Oracle Software Investment Guide and the Oracle Licensing Data Recovery Environments Guide, which is an extract from the Software Investment Guide. I would advise that you get a copy of the Software License Investment Guide and Licensing Data Recovery Environments Guide that was valid at the date you signed your Oracle Software License Agreement. This will ensure you know what the policy that applied to you at the date you signed the agreement.

Before we even get into the mechanics of this you won’t have to even worry about this if you have an uncapped ELA or ULA. If you have an uncapped ELA or ULA you can run your databases anywhere and everywhere, and it’s in your best interests to do so as it will mean come true-up or renewal time all your clusters will be covered and fully licensed (dependant on the wording of your specific OLSA). The following will only be a concern if you are licensed with a capped or limited license agreement, or you do not have an ULA. If Oracle tries to use this as an objection for virtualizing on VMware vSphere just ask them this: “Why is sub cluster licensing even a relevant reason not to virtualize given we have an uncapped ELA or ULA?”  One of my customers asked Oracle this and Oracle agreed it wasn’t relevant. The same applies if you are licensed under Named User Plus.

The following is an extract from Dave Welch’s comments with regard to the Oracle Software License Agreement and Oracle Software License Investment Guide with regard to processor based licensing:

  • “Customers must license all physical cores or sockets on a host where Oracle executables are “installed and/or running” (with physical cores factored per Oracle’s published Core Factor Table, and potentially subject to the so-called 10-day rule [whose terms became more restrictive sometime during 2007]). Notice the tense. Oracle customers are contractually obligated for licensing the physical servers where the Oracle executables are and have been, not where they might go. To imply otherwise without explicit contractual inducement would not be unlike concluding that I am legally obligated to purchase transportation to or obtain a visa for destinations that I clearly have the capability of visiting but where I have neither ever been nor yet made a determination to even visit.”
  • “Furthermore, customers must pay a license to cover the use of remote mirroring at the storage unit or shared disk array layer to transmit Oracle executables to a SAN whether or not that set of Oracle executables is “installed and/or running” on any physical host connected to the SAN.”

So you can tell from the above you must be able to prove where the binaries are installed and/or running or where they have been installed and/or running. Regardless if the mechanism is manual or automatic. I strongly recommend that you read the Certification of an Oracle ULA Agreement (or: Need to defuse a time bomb) article posted on the License Consulting blog. It will give you some insight into the Oracle Audit and Certification process and some really big traps you need to try and avoid.

I will discuss both manual and automated ways of ensuring license compliance, but first lets contemplate for a moment a situation in an unvirtualized environment where you’ve taken a snapshot of a production systems LUN’s and presented them to another system. Both the production system and the new system must be fully licensed. This is fine, and you would know which systems the binaries are installed and/or running on as you have had to go to a lot of effort to snapshot the LUN’s and present them. This changes a bit when you are running in a large cluster.

License Isolation Method #1 – Storage Zoning / Masking to a Subset of Cluster Hosts

VMware Best Practices recommend that you present all LUNs to every host within a cluster. Under normal circumstances this makes perfect sense and is definitely the best option. However if you wanted to license a subset of the cluster for Oracle you might choose to zone and mask the Oracle LUN’s/Datastores to only the hosts within the cluster that will run Oracle. This will prevent the virtual machines without some further manual actions to run on any other hosts within the cluster. You can still have DRS enabled in fully automated mode and it can happily migrate the Oracle VM’s around the hosts that are licensed and zoned/masked to the storage. This has an advantage of being fairly easy to administer and manage. This still allows the use of Maintenance Mode and VMware HA. One of the major downsides here is you could easily reach the maximum number of LUNs per Host if your databases consume multiple LUNs and the rest of the non-Oracle VM LUNs are also zoned/masked to the Oracle Hosts. If those non-Oracle LUNs are not zoned or masked to the Oracle hosts then I’d question why you aren’t choosing method 4 below.

License Isolation Method #2 – DRS Set to Manual or Disabled for Oracle VM’s

This method will allow you to run all the hosts in a DRS cluster fully automated while restricting the movement of the Oracle VM’s. Administrators would have to manually move the VM’s, which would add administrative and management overheads. License compliance would be maintained provided the administrators only moved the VM’s to licensed hosts. You would need vMotion logs or an audit trail to prove which systems the Oracle software were/are installed and/or running. You may need to disable these VM’s from VMware HA to ensure there was no possibility of the Oracle software being installed and/or running on an unlicensed host. Given the chances of error and the difficulty introduced in managing the cluster this method is not recommended, even though it will meet the license conditions provided it is configured and administered correctly. Suffers from the same limitation as method 1 with regard to likelihood of reaching max number of LUNs per host.

License Isolation Method #3 – DRS Host Groups

This method allows you to ensure the Oracle VM’s are only installed and/or running on a subset of the hosts within a cluster without any special storage configuration and also with the DRS cluster remaining fully automatic when used in combination with DRS Must Rules. This is fairly easy to administer and allows for the use of maintenance mode and VMware HA. You can use the advanced option ForceAffinePoweron to ensure the VM’s will only be restarted by HA on a fully licensed host when there is a host failure. You will need vMotion Logs, or an audit trial of some sort to be able to prove where the Oracle software was/is installed and/or running. Suffers from the same limitation as method 1 with regard to likelihood of reaching max number of LUNs per host. There was a video recorded with Richard Garsthagen of Oracle on VMworld TV during VMworld US 2012. The video can be viewed in this article on the License Consulting Blog – VMworld – Richard Garsthagen (Oracle) on licensing VMware / virtualized environments.

License Isolation Method #4 – Dedicated Oracle Cluster

While not technically a way of deploying a sub cluster of hosts for Oracle inside of a larger cluster this is often my preferred method of deployment. The main reason this is generally my preferred deployment method is because of it’s simplicity. Other reasons include:

  • You know the VM’s will only be running within this cluster, so you can license the whole cluster and be done with it.
  • You can ensure you make optimal use of your licensed hardware without any non-Oracle VM’s consuming valuable infrastructure that is licensed for use by Oracle.
  • This allows an easier isolation of resources, as you will not have any non-Oracle VM’s consuming resources as would be the case with method 1, 2 and 3.
  • You can run a different consolidation or overcommitment ratio for the Oracle Cluster, which you might want to do for availability and performance reasons.
  • You can right size the infrastructure for your exact Oracle requirements (smaller or larger hosts and NUMA node sizes).
  • No complicated settings for VMware HA and no risk of a VM restarting on an unlicensed host in the case of a host failure.
  • Much easier from an audit and compliance perspective.
  • Less likely to reach the limit of the maximum number of LUNs per Host compared to method 1, 2 or 3.
  • Much lower likelihood of human error causing a licensing compliance issue.

With a properly designed dedicated cluster for Oracle you can make efficient and optimal use of your physical licensed hardware while still allowing maintenance and failure capacity. I disagree that this is significantly harder to manage than having a subset of hosts in a larger cluster. I actually argue that this is far more efficient to manage, especially given the need to ensure license compliance and the financial consequences of getting it wrong and the much lower likelihood of human error. Even if your dedicated cluster has only 2 or 3 hosts it still has a number of benefits. Probably one of the most significant benefits is the reduced likelihood of reaching the maximum number of LUNs per host. If you are running a big Oracle environment this is a very real possibility especially if your databases demand maximum performance and are therefore configured with multiple LUNs each.

Audit and Compliance Made Easy

Although vMotion Logs may be an acceptable way to provide proof of where Oracle software was/is installed and/or running my preferred method would be to use vCenter Configuration Manager (vCM). vCM is a tool that is purpose built to ensure audit and compliance and configuration management. It will track every modification to configuration items including vMotion Migrations. It is also used to ensure regulatory compliance with standards such as HIPPA, SOX, PCI DSS, DISA STIG and others. vCM is accredited as a SCAP 1.0 tool. It is relatively easy to get up and running and produces all the necessary reports once it has been configured. It can be purchased in isolation or as part of the vCenter Operations Enterprise or Enterprise Plus Edition Suites. vCM is not limited to compliance of virtual machines and VMware environments, it also supports physical systems, including workstations and traditional Unix systems. I would strongly recommend you consider this given the direct integration with the VMware vSphere environment and the tremendous value it can add to your entire virtual and physical infrastructures.

If you didn’t want to use vCM you may want to consider another tool such as SPLUNK, which allows for secure storage of log records and easy visualization of those logs.

FUD #3 – Oracle is NOT Certified to Run on VMware vSphere

This isn’t FUD, it’s true. Oracle isn’t certified to run on VMware vSphere. This is because Oracle does not certify below the Operating Systems. So your system isn’t certified to run on Dell, HP, or IBM hardware either. Oracle instead certifies the operating systems that run their software. So provided you are running a fully certified and supported version of the OS then you are covered. This is because VMware does not modify the OS. This topic is covered in the Understanding Oracle Certification, Support and Licensing for VMware Environments white paper published by VMware.

FUD #4 – Oracle Does NOT Support Running on VMware vSphere

Is Oracle trying to tell you that if you virtualize on VMware vSphere that you won’t get support? Are they saying that they will fail to meet their contractual obligations and support the software that you’ve potentially paid millions of dollars for? That although your running on a certified and supported OS, that because you’ve changed the underlying hardware that they won’t support you any longer? Or are they just saying you will have to move your databases back to physical if there is a support problem?

I’ve heard all of the above, and still do sometimes. It’s very surprising given that Oracle has been supported on VMware since 2007 and Oracle RAC 11g R2 ( has been supported on VMware vSphere 4 and above since November 2010. Oracle has a very explicit support statement when it comes to operating in a VMware environment. The support statement is covered in Metalink 249212.1 and an extract is below:

Support Status for VMware Virtualized Environments
Oracle has not certified any of its products on VMware virtualized environments. Oracle Support will assist customers running Oracle products on VMware in the following manner: Oracle will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS, or an be demonstrated not to be as a result of running on VMware.
If a problem is a known Oracle issue, Oracle support will recommend the appropriate solution on the native OS.  If that solution does not work in the VMware virtualized environment, the customer will be referred to VMware for support.   When the customer can demonstrate that the Oracle solution does not work when running on the native OS, Oracle will resume support, including logging a bug with Oracle Development for investigation if required.
If the problem is determined not to be a known Oracle issue, we will refer the customer to VMware for support.   When the customer can demonstrate that the issue occurs when running on the native OS, Oracle will resume support, including logging a bug with Oracle Development for investigation if required.
NOTE:  Oracle has not certified any of its products on VMware.  For Oracle RAC, Oracle will only accept Service Requests as described in this note on Oracle RAC and later releases.

So we’ve had that ‘Not Certified” statement come up in this, so refer to FUD #3. Let’s break this down.

  1. The above is very clear. Oracle support will recommend an appropriate solution on the native OS for any known issues. This makes perfect sense and as VMware does not modify the native OS this is absolutely fine.
  2. If the solution does not work in a VMware virtualized environment the customer will be referred to VMware for support. This is perfectly understandable and acceptable. If there is a problem with the VMware software then VMware will need to support it, I’ll discuss the VMware extended support policy below.
  3. If the problem is an unknown issue then the customer will be referred to VMware Support and when it’s demonstrated to be an issue on the native OS Oracle will resume support. Again this is perfectly understandable. If the problem is with VMware software that VMware should fix it. However VMware does not modify the OS therefore the problem if it’s not directly related to the VMware vSphere software will is being experienced and would be experienced by the native OS.

So the above means for any Oracle problems with the Oracle software Oracle will support you. End of story. You potentially have to prove it’s an Oracle software problem, but that is no different to the system being run on a native OS. If it’s an unknown problem to Oracle they may ask you to reproduce on a different hardware platform.

If the above isn’t enough to satisfy you that you are supported when running on a VMware vSphere platform and on a supported and certified OS then the VMware Extended Support Policy should. Under the VMware Extended Support Policy for Oracle Databases VMware Technical Support will take total ownership of any Oracle Database problems reported to them, as well as providing access to a team of Oracle DBA resources, and working with Oracle support until resolution.

I have to say that the Oracle Support team is world class and I’ve always had a good experience dealing with them. I have had the same world class experience when dealing with VMware Global Support Services, and especially the Oracle Technical Support Engineers.

In addition to the above it wouldn’t do any harm to get Oracle to confirm in writing that your environment will be supported.  Oracle backed down after they knew a customer of mine was serious and put in writing that they would fully support the environment in accordance with the terms of the contractual obligations and their support policy.  So now there is absolutely no ambiguity about the situation. It is supported, end of story.

Key Questions to Ask Oracle to Fight the FUD

  • Where does it say in my OLSA, which is our legally binding contract, that I must purchase licenses over and above the licenses I require for all of the CPU cores or Sockets where the Oracle Software is running and/or installed?
  • Where does it say in the OLSA, which is our legally binding contract, that I am not able to run on a subset of cluster hosts provided I can prove where the Oracle Software is installed and/or running in accordance with the contracted terms and conditions?
  • How is licensing a complete cluster with the required number of hosts any different from licensing the required number of standalone native physical servers?
  • Does Oracle Certify the underlying hardware platforms below the OS that run Oracle software such as IBM, HP or Dell servers?
  • Given that you don’t certify below the OS why would running a fully certified and supported OS on top of VMware vSphere be unsupported or be any different from a support perspective than running on native given that VMware does not modify the OS?

Final Word

I hope this article has been some help and has empowered you to stand up for your rights under your legally binding contracts. You can find more commentary from Jeff Browning and Dave Welch at the following locations: Oracle Storage Guy – Dave Welch of House of Brick on Oracle on VMware LicensingComments by Dave Welch of House of Brick on Oracle on VMware Licensing and Oracle Licensing on VMware – Reprise.

Read Certification of an Oracle ULA Agreement (or: Need to defuse a time bomb). It will help you understand where you might end up during an Oracle audit / certification process and how to use the process to your best advantage and avoid some traps. Follow this up with this article by the same authors – The impartial objective of Oracle’s compliance auditors: A 5 Million Dollar target.

A great reference for Oracle Licensing and Support has been written and published by VMware titled Understanding Oracle Certification, Support and Licensing for VMware Environments.   Some of what I’m about to describe is covered in this document and I would definitely recommend you read it.

Maybe a reason Oracle appears to be trying to perpetuate these myths around licensing and support is because the traditional Unix hardware business and Solaris is on a major downward trend. See IT Candor’s Server Market Report for the details.

For guidance and ides for design and architecture for your Oracle Databases on vSphere here are two great articles. Deploying Enterprise Oracle Databases on vSphere, Blueprint for Successful Large Scale Oracle Virtualization on vSphere.

For additional information on virtualizing Oracle visit my Oracle Page.

This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com, by Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2012 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.

  1. July 22, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Great article Michael. I run into the issues you discuss on a regular basis, in my case from an inhouse team of Oracle DBAs. They don’t think virtualisation is appropriate for a production environment, and certainly not Oracle. Having articles like this at least gives me a fighting chance when up against the might of Oracle! Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

    • July 22, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Thanks for the comment Ed. Breaking through the skeptical DBA is one of my favorite past times. Especially when they actually ‘get it’ and see how beneficial virtualization can be, without sacrificing performance or availability. I had a skeptical 15 year Oracle DBA Vet tell me once after I spent a week with them on a project that they didn’t believe it would work, but it is amazing, it’s just like magic. This was after he saw vMotion of an Oracle RAC database without impact to his workload. I admit that pretty much is like magic.

      I find that taking the DBA’s through a very methodical and disciplined process, which should be standard for business critical apps, and having them as key stakeholders in the design, deployment and testing, is a good way to start. Giving them real world evidence where others have succeeded and had great results also helps. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, we need to help the DBA’s get to the table to they can take a sample. I hope all my articles help with that. Even with the most skeptical DBA’s. I’m also a fan of giving the DBA’s more tools rather than less to understand their environment. So in the projects I’ve worked on they’ve gotten access to restart their VM’s and also to see all the infrastructure statistics and movements of their VM’s. They have and maintain the complete visibility and control they need to deliver the high quality DBA services that everyone is used to. In most cases they get more visibility and more detail than they ever have before, and then the ability to stand up a new database in 30 minutes.

      Good luck with your continued efforts to get your DBA’s on board. We have the largest organizations with their most critical databases virtualized where I live. It’s only a matter of time before this starts to happen in the rest of the world.

      If any of your DBA’s come to VMworld I would offer them a personal 1 hour session with me so they can ask any questions they like. No obligations and no charge. I’d be happy for them to grill me with their toughest questions.

  2. July 23, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Great write up Michael!

  3. July 24, 2012 at 4:00 am


    Thanks very much for your kind words concerning my blog. I am in violent agreement with everything you say in this post.

    I think you cover the native VMware options very well. One additional resource that I have recently become aware of is IQuate’s IQSonar software product, which is probably the best software license product around (at least from a virtualized Oracle perspective). You can find more information on IQSonar here:


    Fundamentally, IQSonar allows you to monitor your entire data center from a perspective of software license compliance. All Oracle software editions and paid features are covered. IQSonar is also VMware-aware, so the movement of a VM running Oracle software is monitored and logged by the product. Oracle has actually certified IQSonar as providing authoritative information for Oracle licensing purposes.

    The use of IQSonar is generally cost effective, in that it allows you to detect Oracle paid features (such as partitioning) that are installed but not running. Oracle does not charge for these features if you can prove that they are not actually in use. Thus, the use of IQSonar frequently often ends up saving you money. In any event, it eliminates any questions regarding the hardware where Oracle software is installed and running at any given time, and thus there is no fear uncertainty or doubt in the Oracle software space when you have a product like this in your datacenter. I certainly consider it well worth the peace of mind.


    • July 26, 2012 at 5:10 am

      Thanks Jeff. I really appreciate your comment, glad you enjoyed the article. Great to know there is an Oracle approved tool to help with license compliance.

  4. James
    July 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Excellent work Michael, I’m sure this will be of great assistance to a great deal of people.

  5. Cameron
    July 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Mike, Love it. However trying to find more info on ”Oracle Standard Edition is not memory limited, and is licensed by CPU Socket up to a maximum of 4. ” I’ve checked the link and sure it says that Standard Edition is up to 4 sockets, but if you have hex cores in each socket = 24 cores, surely you’d need to license all cores * 50% = 12 Processor licences? The Oracle shop (online) allowes for #users or Processor, in this case I’d inclinded to say that I’d be needing 12 processor licences???? Any further infomation would be fantasic.

    • Cameron
      July 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm

      Sorry Mike further googling found this snippit

      “Different editions of the Oracle database have different ways of counting the number of processors that require licensing. For Standard Edition or Standard Edition One editions of the programs, a processor is counted as equivalent to a socket, irrespective of the number of cores on the chip in the socket.”

      • July 26, 2012 at 1:51 am


        That’s right. This is one of the main reasons that Intel continues to scale their processors by adding cores and increasing the number of threads (4 thread cores are on the horizon and 8 thread cores not much later). Remember that a vCPU is a thread, not a core. Also, Oracle is very hyper threading aware, so scalability in terms of hyper threading is fairly high.

        This means in terms of vCPUs that a hex core processor with 4 threads per core would be able to support 24 vCPUs with no software-based CPU sharing (but of course the hardware based core / thread sharing overhead would still apply).


      • July 26, 2012 at 3:52 am

        Hi Cameron, There are great use cases where customers have deployed Oracle on AMD chips with 12 and 16 cores or the Intel 8 and 10 core CPU’s, up to 4 sockets total (no core per socket or memory limit or DB size limit). The key thing to remember is that you must license all the physical sockets, up to a maximum of 4, and then you can run unlimited number of virtual machines. So in the scenario I explain you can deploy 4 ESXi hosts, each with say 128GB, 192GB or 256GB RAM, you can run unlimited number of Oracle SE DB VM’s across those 4 hosts, provided they have no more than 1 socket each, which could be up to 10 cores on Intel or 20 threads. This allows you to virtualize a lot of databases, including RAC, at a very affordable price, especially if you already own SE licenses. As a bonus this also allows HA and vMotion for your SE databases, including RAC, which allows better than physical availability, as when a host fails the RAC node restarts, non-disruptive maintenance and upgrades, much easier scalability of hosts.

  6. July 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Thanks for taking the time to write this, Michael. I’ll definitely be referring to it if questions come up about Oracle on VMware.

    Bottom line for me – people need to STOP using Oracle! I know that’s not always an option, but they’ve proven time and again that they, 1. Can’t be trusted, and 2. Have no problem screwing with their customers. They’re not worth doing business with in my opinion. I was very happy to see them lose against Google in their recent lawsuit. That said, during those times that an application comes into our environment from an “Oracle only” vendor, I’ll certainly be keeping this post in mind.

  7. July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Great write up Michael!!!!

  8. July 27, 2012 at 1:39 am

    Hi Michael,

    I enjoy references to Elmer Fudd, and this is not unusual for any software vendor to use this to get market share and force their customers to license their software in a vareity of sometimes un-necessary ways.

    We also have an Oracle Verified tool that looks at VMware usage, we have recently added the excellent VMware Java api.


    For us the following statement is probably the best approach, with whether to go with Oracle on VM: Cost of Licensing v Cost of utlization & Cost of managability. We recommend Linear regression modeling to enable decent utilization data to be clearly understood, (Oracle Database actually helps perform this, there is an excellent artical by a DBA I’ll try an track down the link).

    As an Oracle licensing specialist I feel I need to point out that there is a big difference in your OLSA, and the order forms that give you “your rights to use” which are defined at time of purchase license metrics. It is these that you need to understand clearly, please bear in mind that Oracle have changed these on a regular basis. The OLSA is in effect your master agreement, however each transactional purchase you have made over the years has embeded license metrics that supperceed those of the OLSA.

    So for example the number of minimum users in differs in some years. it is this kind of detail that you need to look at to make the informed decision whether to use Oracle on VM.

    I agree wholeheartedly that if you are running a single Oracle DB on a VMware cluster, then that is not going to be value for money. But the same would apply to running it in an uncapped container, or LPAR on IBM. The key is to use Oracle only where you need to, the amount of cpu wastage we see is phenomenal. When we look at live production systems, that are utlizing less than 30% of CPU even at peak transaction load, then we know where the money is being burned.

    I expect though that in the EU at least the Oracle VM and VMware licensing differences could be seen to be an anit-competive instrument. Not dsmiliar to the HP/Oracle suit.

    Good luck with your campaign!

    • July 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Hi Alex, thanks so much for this valuable contribution to the discussion and for letting us know about this additional tool for help manage this process. I should have covered the amendments to agreements over time in the article and “your rights to use”, but I thought Jeff Browning and Dave Welch covered the necessary components adequately, so thank you for including this in your comment. The main point I’m trying to make is that the written and executed contracts with it’s written and executed amendments and supporting written documents they reference is what determines the conditions customers need to operate under. Not some unwritten policy. Oracle’s documents aren’t as confusing as some of the other software vendors. I agree with you 100% that cost of licensing vs cost of utilization and management are critically important factors. Customers can benefit greatly in all of those areas by virtualizing on vSphere when they can boost their license utilization.

      You make a great point about running a single DB on a Cluster vs running on an uncapped LPAR. Another big difference there is the core licensing factor that would apply, as the LPAR would be 1.0 vs 0.5 on the vSphere Cluster. But there is no point licensing a whole cluster for one DB. Customers are far better off licensing a single host or a couple of hosts and then making the best use of their licensed capacity they can, and potentially switching to Standard from Enterprise licenses at the same time if that makes sense.

      I also agree that the difference between Oracle VM and VMware around partitioning could be seen as anti-competitive and an anti-trust issue. It will be interesting to see if the EU does anything about this and if they do whether the US follows.

      Thanks for your comments, it’s really good to get validation of this from an Oracle Licensing specialist. I hope that customers based on this article start to push back on Oracle and force them to behave fairly, and make the best use of their licenses and the massive ROI and operational benefits that they can achieve by virtualizing their workloads without sacrificing performance and availability. Help me spread the word and we can help benefit all Oracle customers.

  9. July 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the email I shared with you. Yes indeed customer holds the key. Never gets bullied by your vendor (any vendors).

  10. August 31, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Brilliant overview of all the key points to consider with Oracle on VMware. Having been through a number of TCO comparisons there’s one key point you only lightly touch on that I believe needs expanding – rightsizing of hosts. In an era of dual/quad socket hosts running hex core procs and above, it can be a challenge to provide adequate hosts for failure and maintenance in a cluster, and/or right size DR and pre-production environments.

    Large environments migrating from legacy Unix will find this a doddle. Smaller Oracle customers moving from dual/quad x86 physical environments may find it a challenge unless they have many many nodes to consolidate. For example an environment consisting of 8 dual-core physical machines (16 cores) will require additional licenses to move to 3 hosts with a single hex core each (18 cores). Also, a hardware failure will now incur a 6 core capacity penalty vs a 2 core penalty previously (assuming core for core performance and clustered via RAC).

    The other scenario is where multiple Oracle products are used – such as WebLogic etc. All the above rules and lack of hardware/license optimisation apply on a per-product basis.

    In some cases OVM and the inane CPU pinning rule can be a more cost effective way to manage the cost of Oracle licenses. As always the key is to model and compare for each use case – always easier with the right facts on the table. One hopes Oracle roll over and allows their customers to chose the hypervisor they prefer!

    • September 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Hi Matt,

      I agree I could have spent more time on the right sizing considerations, this could itself be an entire post. It is a challenge with such limited time to cover everything in sufficient depth. When dealing with low scale / low numbers of DB’s sufficient infrastructure to provide failure and maintenance capacity needs to be considered in line with licensing requirements. There is no single right way of designing the solution, it has to be driven by business requirements, risks, and constraints. Also when upgrading from one hardware platform to the next you need to purchase what is required to deliver the desired requirements and not too much. For small scale environments you may only have a couple of hosts in a cluster, or in a very small scenario just a single host. The advantage remains that you can then utilize all of the hardware that is licensed to run as many database server instances as you wish and choose which ones will survive in the case of failure (assuming more than one host). Even with a single host there are still benefits to virtualizing, such as hardware independence, easier backup and DR, potentially better security, resource isolation, easier hardware upgrades, additional management tools, rapid provisioning etc.

      You’re also quite correct that the amount of licensed capacity lost during a failure should be a consideration. It’s something that should be dealt with in the design, which should support the business requirements, which themselves should be well understood, defined and documented. There is no reason the older hardware couldn’t be reused for vSphere provided it’s supported on the hardware compatibility list, again provided it meets the customer requirements for service levels, availability and performance. The fact remains the licensing cost is the same regardless if you virtualize or not. In aggregate you still need the same quantity of resources for performance, availability, scalability and other service levels and to meet business requirements. So you’re still far better off virtualizing, especially as the environment grows.

      I would argue that the OVM pinning isn’t a cost effective or efficient way to manage the environment as it introduces additional management complexity and costs. It also introduces an additional virtualization platform that requires skilled people to maintain and operate and additional training over and above existing investments. It’s a complex topic with many factors to consider that can’t be evaluated in isolation to determine the most appropriate solution. It needs to be approach holistically.

  11. caraus
    September 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Excellent article!

    Did you check the 2012 partitioning doc posted by Oracle?

    And here is another doc describing hard partitioning implemented by Amazon and certified by Oracle – i am assuming that amazon might be using Oracle VMS instances to run Oracle DB:

    • September 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      Yes I have read the Oracle partitioning guide (referenced in my article). For the most part it is not relevant except in very small environment, debatable even then, even less relevant with enterprise edition as covered in the article. The deal with Amazon is a special deal between Oracle and Amazon and not available to other providers at this point. Database as a Service is an interesting proposition. Other service providers will need to negotiate their own agreements with Oracle.

      • September 9, 2012 at 4:13 am

        Great post Michael,
        We are a large company > 150K users and planning to migrate to Linux/VMware from Unix. However, it has been a challenge to find big companies running oracle on Linux/VMware platform.


      • September 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

        Hi Othman, I know of a few large organizations running Oracle on Linux / VMware. One that springs to mind immediately is Indiana University with over 130K users. EMC is another big company, although not at the 100K user mark. There are a number in Europe also with large SAP systems with Oracle DB back ends. I’m in the process of virtualizing some of the Oracle systems for an organization with over 6million end users / 1million online users. There are some good reference cases on VMware’s web site – Virtualizing Oracle with VMware, and we have some other good ones in the APJ region. You should look for references that are similar in size and scale to your systems, as well as companies of a decent size. Also it’s more important that you understand the application service levels, system requirements and infrastructure metrics than pure numbers of end users. One of my previous projects I virtualized 80 Oracle DB systems (PeopleSoft 9.1 front end / apps already virtualized) for an organization that had 45K users, up to 10K concurrent users, 40TB data for these databases. We went through a very methodical process to design, verify and migrate the systems of the source system to RHEL on vSphere 4.1. Saved them 90% Capex and they achieved 5x performance gain, on top of significantly lower Opex costs. I have a number of other architectural posts that you might find useful on my Oracle page (longwhiteclouds.com/oracle). There are a number of options to help you through the process including my company, VMware Professional Services, and VMware Partners that have achieved the Virtualizing Buisness Critical Applications competency for Oracle (which I have).

  12. September 11, 2012 at 2:06 am

    TBPH, I can run out of fingers and toes on every extremity on my body counting Fortune 100 companies who are running Oracle on VMware / Linux / x86-64, at this point, at least in test / dev mode. The use of VMware for non-production Oracle database servers (test / dev, backup proxy server, data warehouse staging / ETL, monthly close, and so forth) has become so commonplace as to be standard. Let me know if you want company names, but pretty much name any major household name (Bank of America, GE, UBS, etc.) and they are doing it. The use of Oracle for the hard core production stuff is less common, but that footprint is also growing, as folks become more comfortable with the environment on their non-production stuff.

    • Othman
      October 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks for the reply. Can you please share the list especially Oil & Gas companies?

  13. October 20, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Thanks for the very concise write-up Michael it’s a very big help!

    I’m currently working through the process or verifying that we are properly licensed in both our physical and virtual environments. I realize your discussion is around VMware but is it your understanding that any Internet facing applications require per processor licenses as opposed to Named User Plus?

    Also curious if anyone is using a standby VM host in their cluster for HA/DR and if they are also licensing the cores in that host. From what I’ve read here and other places the consensus seems to be you only need to license the cores of the hosts you are running on. Understanding that you’ll need to prove which hosts your Oracle instances have been running on if ever audited.


    • October 20, 2012 at 5:09 am

      Hi Michael, Processor based licensing in that scenario is much more cost effective. Named User Plus Licensing is used where you can easily identify the users who will be accessing the system. Unless you want to license everyone on the planet, which would be cost prohibitive, then processor based is the way to go. With regard to the HA/DR host there is specific wording in most Oracle license agreement around what you can do from an HA/DR perspective. I think there would be some restrictions on how you set up the cluster also. Most customers will run their Oracle workloads on a group of hosts that includes capacity for HA failover events. In which case they are licensing the failover host. This means during normal business they will get full use of the host and all of it’s performance capabilities. Normally you would reserve sufficient resources to allow the minimum acceptable performance taking into account host failure and then use the additional capacity for extra performance. In theory you might be able to set up a dedicated host or hosts for failover in the cluster, but then you can’t utilize them for anything, not just your Oracle workloads.

      You will be audited, it’s a given, so my advice is to design your environment so it is as easy as possible to prove where your Oracle software is installed and run, without any ambiguity. Make it easy to deploy, easy to operate, easy to remain compliant, and reduce risk of configuration errors that could impact performance or compliance.

  14. December 21, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Reblogged this on The Licensing Guru and commented:
    great insight on Oracle on Vmware infrastructure

  1. July 24, 2012 at 4:15 am
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  5. September 7, 2012 at 3:34 am
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