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Oracle Licensing in a Fluid Virtual Environment

The following question has been posted within the Virtual User Group (VUG) by an ITAM Review reader.

If you have experiences or advice to share regarding managing this type of Oracle licensing scenario please post your comment below or respond directly within the VUG. Thank you.

Question:

Introduction 

We rely heavily on virtualization technologies to create a flexible platform that supports multiple applications.

One of the outcomes of this flexibility is the fluidity in which logical server partition (LPAR) can be moved between physical hardware platforms (host server) or have its processor and memory allocations adjusted based on demands.

Our license agreement with Oracle is based on the number of processor cores. The net result to us is that we have the maximum flexibility and least overhead. We have used the practice of counting all processor cores on a host server as being available to support a product even if the LPAR that is hosting that product has an allocation lower that the maximum processing cores available on the host server.

The situation is made more complicated by features for specific products that may be turned on or off and have separate license charges. For example, the Oracle Database is licensed as well as the optional Real Application Cluster and Partition features.

Scenarios

  • 2 Host Servers: Earth and Venus, both starting with 4 processing cores.
  • 2 Oracle Database LPARS: Accounting and Logistics, both with a base allocation of 1 processing cores, but the allocation can increase based on demand.

Scenario 1

Accounting and Logistics LPARs are hosted on Earth. Result: 4 processing cores are counted towards the Oracle Database license count.

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Scenario 2

Accounting and Logistics LPARs are hosted on Earth. The Partition feature is enabled on the Logistics LPAR. Result: 4 processing cores are counted towards the Oracle Database license and also to the Partition license count.

Scenario 3

Accounting and Logistics LPARs are hosted on Earth. The Partition feature is enabled on the Logistics LPAR and the processor capacity is increased to 8 processing cores. Result: 8 processing cores are counted towards the Oracle Database license and also to the Partition license count.

Scenario 4

The Logistics LPAR is relocated to Venus (4 cores) while the Accounting LPAR remains hosted on Earth (8 cores). The Partition feature is left enabled on the Logistics LPAR Result: 12 processing cores are counted towards the Oracle Database license and Partition license count is reduced to 4.

Questions

  • We cannot be unique in the requirement to manage product licenses in a fluid virtualization environment.
  • How are other companies handling this?
  • Are there software packages available to assist with the license management?

This question has been posted on the Virtual User Group (VUG) by an ITAM Review reader.  If you have experiences or advice to share regarding managing this type of Oracle licensing scenario please post your comment below or respond directly within the VUG. Thank you.

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4 Comments

  1. Alex Andrew says:

    Hi there,

    We have advised various customers with the above issue, We would need to know which OS, AIX sounds likely. OS level output of the Processor configuration, eg LPARSTAT. Are you using VCS failover, where are your DEV/TEST/STAGE/UAT environments in this, are you using other backup. How is the application tier configured?

    It also sounds like you are using or wish to use advanced CPU resource management, to push the transaction load to where the demand is, therefore a quick reveiw of this would be beneficial.

    Best Regards

    Alex Andrew

  2. Paul Bullen says:

    It’s good to see someone using technology in the best way to provide the best service to your business >as well as< understanding the Oracle licence implications of doing this: we commonly see people not fully appreciating the effect on licensing that such technologies have. We also see a disturbingly large number of organisations architecting their systems in order to minimise Oracle licence costs rather than focus on providing the best solution for the business! We have not seen any credible tools so far which would make the >whole< licence management problem easier. In order to do that you need to understand entitlement and usage thoroughly. Some products promise to capture Oracle’s licensing complexities from an entitlement point of view however they are typically limited in under-estimating just how complicated it can be. A number of products out there will be able to pick up the technology details of the problem, (iQuate’s is the leader in the Oracle domain): they report the LPAR details, cores allocated and the frame they reside on. However, this is just raw data: it still needs interpretation: what impact does scenario X have on your licence estate? What happens when a number of LPARs move or change and the total licence consumption is greater than your entitlement? How often do these changes take effect and when would these products scan your network to see this effect? Could you miss a non-compliance situation as your LPARs move around or change? A flexible and agile technology estate such as one using LPAR mobility/LPM is important for meeting business needs however Oracle licensing inherently lacks both flexibility and agility. The best way to try and overcome this is to intelligently control both your usage and licence estates, updating each regularly with accurate data: perhaps a start would be by using customised scripts which trigger when LPAR changes take effect? Or even at a basic level, including communication of an infrastructure change within the change or schedule of events when LPAR migration takes place. What happens to this ‘event’ depends on how (or if!) you store your Oracle entitlement details.

  3. License management in virtual environments is especially challenging precisely because of the fluid nature of these environments. It requires having the processes and tools in place to accurately collect inventory of virtual machines and hardware partitions. The tools must be able to correlate VMs and logical partitions to the physical host server, collect information on server hardware characteristics, and determine resource allocations to VMs and partitions. In addition, the tools must understand the license entitlement rules associated with virtual environments for a given software product and vendor. All of this is necessary so that hardware based license models, such as the Oracle processor model, can be managed effectively when the software is used on virtualized servers. Without the proper processes and software asset management tools, it is virtually impossible to manage these licenses, maintain license compliance and avoid over spending on licenses.

    The Oracle processor license model supports LPAR and other types of hardware partitioning and only the CPUs available to the partition actually need to be licensed. Distinct rules exist to count the cores for dedicated LPARs, where whole processors are assigned to a single partition, as compared to the case when processors are allocated from a shared processor pool. In the latter scenario, for a capped micro partition, the entitled capacity is the committed capacity that is reserved for that partition. For an uncapped partition, the number of online virtual processors is counted. Once the number of cores has been determined, the Oracle processor factor is applied and the result is rounded up to calculate the required number of licenses.

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