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CIO - Despite its recent acquisition of second-tier virtualization software developer Virtual Iron, Oracle has yet to move into the century of the virtual server when it comes to the nitty gritty of supporting and licensing Oracle software running on virtual servers, analysts say.
While Oracle databases and applications will usually run on virtual servers-the point of x86-based hypervisors is that their virtual nature is invisible to the software running on them-Oracle has not certified any of its products to run on hypervisors other than its own, and hasn't changed its licensing to make virtualization any easier, according to Chris Wolf, analyst at the Burton Group, who recently blogged on this topic.
Essentially, if a customer encounters a known problem on a VMware ESX server, for example, Oracle support will provide the solution. If it's not a known problem, however, the customers either has to reproduce the problem on a physical server or solve it themselves- one of the most restrictive policies of any enterprise software vendor, Wolf says.
Even worse, Oracle's database licensing requires customers to either pin a database to a single processor-eliminating the benefit of being able to move a virtual server from one physical machine to another-or buy a license for every processor on every physical server on which the database might run, Wolf says.
Running an Oracle database on a VMware ESX VM cluster made of two servers with four processors each would require eight licenses instead of just one, just in case the VM was shifted from one machine to another, or even from one processor to another.
There is a provision to allow customers to pay for only one processor, if the application can be pinned to that processor and not allowed to move even when that machine has to be taken down for maintenance without incurring additional license fees, Wolf says. That amounts to a tax on customers who want to virtualized, he says.
"We've been having the licensing conversation with Oracle for some time on this issue, going back to when we were doing research for a report on it in 2007," Wolf says. "They understand the requirements customers face and, in my opinion, have made a conscious decision not to provide licensing that would be fair for virtualized environments in order to forestall adoption of virtualization."
"This is not a new issue with Oracle," according to Gordon Haff, analyst at Illuminata. "People were complaining about Oracle pricing since long before virtualization came around. So the acquisition of Virtual Iron is more an acknowledgement that virtualization is key, not something that's going to get them to change faster. "
Oracle will, inevitably, change its licensing to be more friendly to virtual infrastructures, Haff says, because it has no choice. All software is going to have to be priced in a way that is flexible enough for virtualized infrastructures, he says.