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Are You Fully Licensed?

A lot of preparation happens when you are upgrading hardware for your key database servers. User testing. Performance testing. Integration with other products, etc.

Everything is planned in detail to ensure cutover to the new hardware is seamless and transparent as possible. Everyone is happy when this all happens and no significant issue arise.

However not a lot of thought goes into what impact the new hardware has on software licensing. What hardware you are running can make a significant difference to what you need to license. What virtualisation platform can also have an impact as well.

Software Vendors regularly perform mandatory audits on their customers to ensure software licensing compliance. With all their investment in Research and Development, they need to protect their assets. However, ignorance or confusion on the part of the customer is rarely an excuse for license non-compliance, the financial penalties of which can be drastic.

The two most common licensing models are either based on Users or CPU.

Originally CPU licensing was based on Sockets but, as processing power became faster, cheaper and denser, it is now based on the number of cores available. For example:

  • Intel E7 Series CPU can have up to 18 cores per socket
  • IBM POWER8 CPU can have up to 12 cores per socket.

This is critical to understand as the core based licenses can be *very* expensive, ie:

  • SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition Core based licensing is around $29,000 per core.
  • Oracle Database 12c Enterprise Edition is around $65,000 per core.

There is a Standard Edition available for each which are a bit cheaper, however there are limitations in some areas to what the software is able to do. Oracle Standard, for example, will only use 4 sockets or 16 cores as a maximum.

User based licensing is another model available however you there are some issues with that also. User based licensing is not available for SQL Server Enterprise, so if you have specific requirements (Always-On as an example) you have to purchase core based licenses.

With Oracle you need 25 Named User Plus licenses per core, so if you upgrade your server hardware, there is a good chance you will also need to upgrade your associated licenses.

What Virtualisation technology you are running can also impact licensing. Oracle has stated:

“Unless explicitly stated elsewhere in this document, soft partitioning (including features/functionality of any technologies listed as examples above) is not permitted as a means to determine or limit the number of software licenses required for any given server or cluster of servers.”

This means that using Oracle in a VMware guest is not sufficient to limit the license required. Hyper-V is also the same in the sense that they are both considered ‘Soft Partitioning’, therefore all Cores on a server or cluster will need licenses to run Oracle.

Licensing is confusing at the best of times, but it is critical to understand. Organisations have ended up with significant under-licensing issues that have come out of hardware upgrades.  It is best to keep on top of these issues instead of finding out during an audit that you are non-compliant. It also helps with negotiating terms with your supplier, as discounts do not generally get applied to purchases from audits.

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