Throughout many Oracle License Audits, virtualisation is a hot topic of discussion we will have with our customers. Countless times our conversation is led through a simple checklist of how infrastructure is configured to adhere to Oracle’s Hard Partitioning guidance to limit licensing requirements. The formal contractual basis to license Oracle on these systems is simple; Oracle Products are licensable where they are installed and/or running.
Soft partitioning segments the operating system using OS resource managers. The operating system limits the number of CPUs where an Oracle database is running by creating areas where CPU resources are allocated to applications within the same operating system. This is a flexible way of managing data processing resources since the CPU capacity can be changed fairly easily, as additional resource is needed.
Hard partitioning physically segments a server, by taking a single large server and separating it into distinct smaller systems. Each separated system acts as a physically independent, self-contained server, typically with its own CPUs, operating system, separate boot area, memory, input/output subsystem and network resources. - Oracle Partitioning Policy
Oracle understand the difference between Soft and Hard Partitioning to notably be the flexibility to change and manage the resources available as required on a given server. Soft Partitioning technology allows the capacity of CPUs to be changed and managed using the OS resource managers, whilst Hard Partitioning technology enables the server to act physically independent.
The key element when understanding Oracle licensing with any hypervisor-based virtualisation is to understand this technology is not Hard Partitioning, and therefore will need to be licensed in the same way as a physical machine. In addition, where storage is shared, Oracle licenses are required for any host(s) that have access to the install point of the Oracle Software, as this indicates the software is available to be run on any machine that can access the files. In the case of VMWare, the .vmdk file is the “install point”.
With VMware’s ever expanding and innovating technologies, keeping up with how certain features and options can impact how Oracle needs to be licensed can be difficult. VMware’s vSphere vMotion allows for a virtual machine (VM) to seamlessly live migrate from one physical server to another server with no downtime whilst retaining its network identity and connections.
Prior to vSphere version 5.1, this technology would allow VM migration between the cluster group (or datacentre). Up to version 5.5 the VM can migrate cross all clusters defined in the same vCenter. Most importantly, from version 6.0 and upwards, this technology now allows the VM to migrate from any host held within any vCenter at 6.0 or higher owned and connected via VMware SSO.
To reduce the impact and availability of the VM running Oracle products, we are able to configure specific elements to remove the functionality and availability to migrate to unlicensed hosts, depending on which vSphere version is used. From Version 6.0 onwards, any restriction to the environment to reduce the licensing requirements will need to be agreed and approved by Oracle.
In summary, regardless of the hypervisor you choose to run your Oracle programs, you need to understand the implications on how those programs need to be licensed. It’s no good assuming you are OK or following guidance from the hypervisor vendor. Oracle make the program, Oracle protect their IPR and it is your responsibility to abide to Oracle’s rules. Protect your investment by doing it right first time, not after an audit has found you at fault…
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