Oracle licensing and VMware

I was talking to a DBA the other day about oracle licensing, so I decided to write a post about it. Not only because it is confusing as hell but it’s a good to know for any potential oracle implementations in the future. But before we begin a couple of terms we need to know and understand for any of this to make even the slightest of sense.

We are going to assume enterprise licensing will be used in this case.

Soft Partitioning-

Oracle definition- “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.” – As stated in


Hard Partitioning-

Oracle definition- “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.” – As stated in

Now if you had a virtual machine that was running an oracle database you would assume that the partitioning method that would be used is soft partitioning. Because having the ESXi software make software partitions out of a physical socket .

BUT this is not the case. There is a key phrase in that definition that really stands out.

“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.”

Since assigning a vCPU and vCores to a machine doesn’t limit that particular VM to only use only those resources  that’s one reason why oracle does not consider VMware a soft partitioning product.  (Unless you have CPU affinity enabled)

If you had a box with 4 physical sockets and 8 cores per socket that VM will be able to use any of the 32 cores. Oracle has a simple formula to offer a good insight into how much licensing will cost for a database, it looks something like this.

# of sockets*# of cores*CPU factor*License

So let’s say for a 4 socket intel Xeon system with 8 cores per socket and enterprise licensing. CPU factor chart will be found here

4*8*.5*$47,500= $760,000 Per VM Per host.

That is a lot of money! But it gets more complicated than that. Say this particular VM is in a 3 host cluster. When you introduce VMware technologies like DRS and vMotion is that considered partitioning technology? So does the cluster need to be licensed? There has been more discussion on this in the IT community than there has been about aliens in Area 51. But the short answer is yes. if you have a 3 node cluster with the same specs stated above you will need to have all of those physical machines licensed. Any CPU that the oracle server can touch ( or potentially touch) needs to be licensed under the oracle license agreement.

Here might be a couple of solutions to this issue.

The first solution is to make your own cluster for Oracle database. Make it a 2 node cluster that in the event of a host failure you have it moved to another node. Spec out the physical host configurations to match exactly what you need and not over power it. If you need a 2 socket 4 core setup then just buy 2 of those. Don’t over provision!

The second solution might be to set up CPU affinity. Set the database to only use one particular CPU in the host and make sure it stays there. Now there are obvious downsides to this, one failing over would not happen. This practice has a lot of debate surrounding it. and definitely use it at your own risk. There has been mixed results from Oracle and the team of lawyers they employ.

And the third solution is probably the most painful. Pay Oracle. It’s simple and feels like you need a shot of penicillin after but it is the easiest solution.

-Resources and sources-

Thanks for reading!

I try my best to give the most accurate information possible! But I don’t know everything. If you found something I said not accurate let me know!



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