Virtualization offers a great way to cut costs but is fraught with potential licensing time bombs that could incur expense greater than the original savings. This is particularly so in the Oracle world due to Oracle’s very tight definition as to what it recognizes as virtualization.
Oracle focus on partitioning and state that there are “… several hardware and software virtualization technologies available that deliver partitioning…” In the world according to Oracle there are 2 types of partitioning – hard and soft.
Soft partitioning divides the OS using OS resource managers. Oracle explicitly states that “… soft partitioning … is not permitted as a means to determine or limit the number of software licenses required for any given server or cluster of servers.”
What does this mean exactly? Well, if you implemented, say VMWare, on a cluster and you run Oracle on any machine in that cluster, you will need to license every single machine in the cluster – not just the server it is installed on.
As you can imagine, this will be pretty expensive and quickly eradicate the virtualization savings. We have come across many sites who have made just this mistake and usually it is only picked up when Oracle COLS or LMS audit leading to a large true-up costs and typically fines.
Hard partitioning is where a single server is separated physically into “distinct” smaller systems acting as a physical, independent and self-contained servers.
Oracle has specifically identified and approved a number of these technologies that it recognizes for licensing purposes:
- Physical Domains – also known as PDomains, Dynamic Domains or Dynamic System Domains
- Solaris Zones – also known as Solaris containers, capped zones/containers only
- IBM LPAR – plus DLPAR with AIX 5.2
- IBM Micro-partitions – capped partitions only
- Integrity virtual machine – capped partitions only
- Secure resource partitions – capped partitions only
- Fujitsu PPAR
Oracle VM Server can also be used, but the rules for this are precise and complex and should be investigated thoroughly before implementation.
The morale of the story is tread very carefully when virtualizing/partitioning in the Oracle world!
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