Oracle partitioning policy – How to fight back in 2024


Oracle partitioning policy – How to fight back in 2024

The Oracle Partitioning Policy document is a non-contractual guide that Oracle uses to enforce its licensing rules for technology software, including database and middleware.

It provides licensing policies for Oracle technology software in various virtualization environments, such as IBM LPAR, Oracle Solaris, Oracle OVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware.

What is the Oracle partitioning policy document?

What is the Oracle partitioning policy document?

Oracle Partitioning Policy Document defines which virtualization technologies allow sub-capacity licensing.

Here’s a simplified explanation:

  • Sub-Capacity Licensing: This is a licensing approach in which you license only a part of the server, not the full server or pool of servers. You license only the processors you allocate to the Oracle software instance.
  • Types of Partitioning: Oracle differentiates between hard and soft partitioning technologies.
  • Oracle’s Decision: Oracle has unilaterally decided which technologies it approves as soft and hard partitioning in the policy document.

What is hard partitioning in Oracle?

What is hard partitioning in Oracle

Oracle-approved hard partitioning technologies are recognized methods to limit the software licenses required for any server or cluster of servers.

Here’s a simplified explanation:

  • Hard Partitioning includes Oracle OVM, IBM LPAR, and other technologies. However, it’s crucial to configure the hard partitioning according to Oracle’s instructions. Failure to do so might result in licensing the full server or cluster of servers, not just the instance running Oracle.
  • Approved Technologies: Oracle has deemed certain technologies, possibly modified by configuration constraints, as hard partitioning. No other technology or configuration qualifies.
  • List of Approved Technologies: Approved hard partitioning technologies include:
    • Physical Domains (also known as PDomains, Dynamic Domains, or Dynamic System Domains)
    • Solaris Zones (also known as Solaris Containers, capped Zones/Containers only)
    • IBM’s LPAR (adds DLPAR with AIX 5.2)
    • IBM’s Micro-Partitions (capped partitions only)
    • vPar (capped partitions only)
    • nPar
    • Integrity Virtual Machine (capped partitions only)
    • Secure Resource Partitions (capped partitions only)
    • Fujitsu’s PPAR
  • All approved hard partitioning technologies must have a capped or a maximum number of cores/processors for the given partition.

What is Oracle soft partitioning?

  • Soft partitioning is another virtualization technology that is not listed as hard partitioning. Oracle claims you need to license all physical hosts in those scenarios.

“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.”

  • It is non-contractual; note at the bottom of the document

“This document is for educational purposes only and provides guidelines regarding Oracle’s policies in effect as of February 14, 2022. It may not be incorporated into any contract and does not constitute a contract or a commitment to any specific terms. Policies and this document are subject to change without notice. This document may not be reproduced in any manner without the express written permission of Oracle Corporation”

Oracle is clear that the policy document does not constitute a contract or commitment about your licensing. It is for educational purposes only. In other words, to understand how to license Oracle, you need to go back to your contact.

How to challenge Oracle’s position

oracle partitioning policy

Navigating Oracle’s position can be complex, but here’s a simplified approach to how to challenge Oracle’s position:

  • Non-Contractual Document: The partitioning policy document is non-contractual. It’s not part of any contract you’ve signed with Oracle, and there is no hyperlink from any document to this licensing policy document.
  • Oracle’s Policy vs. Customer Contracts: Just because Oracle publishes a policy document on their website, does it override what’s in the contracts with their customers? This question remains unanswered. However, it’s important to note that interpreting the partitioning policy and Oracle’s license definition in your contract can lead to drastically different results when counting Oracle licenses.

Oracle’s Contractual License Definition

Oracle’s Contractual License Definition

During an audit, Oracle’s audit organization, Oracle LMS, will refer to the Oracle OMA for licensing definitions.

Here’s a simplified explanation of how to navigate this process:

  • Oracle OMA and Schedule P: These documents deal with Oracle Programs and outline the rights granted to you. They state that upon Oracle’s acceptance of your order, you have the non-exclusive, non-assignable, royalty-free, perpetual right to use the Programs and receive any Program-related Service Offerings for your internal business operations.
  • Processor Definition: Oracle defines a “Processor” as all processors where the Oracle programs are installed and/or running. This definition doesn’t reference the partitioning policy document for guidance on counting licenses in virtual environments. According to Oracle’s licensing definitions, you only need to license processors running Oracle software.
  • Partitioning Policy Document: Despite the clear definition in the contract, Oracle sales and Oracle LMS often refer to the Partitioning Policy Document as the guide to licensing Oracle software.

To counter this approach, we recommend the following:

  • Document Usage: Ensure you document that you have not used unlicensed Oracle hosts to utilize Oracle environments. This helps build an “audit defense” strategy against Oracle’s claims on how to license in VMware or other virtual environments that fall under Oracle’s soft partitioning guidelines.

VMWare recommendations

oracle vmware license

Here are VMware’s recommendations for running Oracle software:

  1. Dedicate a vSphere Cluster: Allocate a specific vSphere cluster solely for Oracle software.
  2. Use VM-Host Affinity Rule: Implement a common vSphere cluster with a VM-host affinity rule. This binds Oracle hosts to a set of ESXi servers dedicated for Oracle workloads within the vSphere cluster.
  3. Apply VM vCPU Affinity: Bind the Oracle VMs to a specific number of physical cores within a physical socket of an ESXi server.

It’s important to note that Oracle does not accept these options. These are potential risk mitigation strategies if you run Oracle on VMware without a contractual agreement with Oracle.

Soft Partitioning Policy – Oracle on VMware

Soft Partitioning Policy - Oracle on VMware

Here’s a simplified approach to how to push back:

  • Document Oracle Licenses in VMware: Use vMotion events to document your Oracle licenses in VMware. VMware provides an example of this in their blog post titled “Oracle VMware vSphere SAN preparing Oracle audit.
  • Defend Yourself: The final step in defending yourself against Oracle involves presenting your documentation during an audit. Essentially, you’re asking Oracle to prove you’ve used processor licenses outside your grant.
  • Oracle’s Stance on VMware: It’s worth noting that Oracle has never taken legal action over VMware deployment. Oracle tends to avoid litigation on Oracle licenses on VMware. While there are numerous cases where Oracle has found customers to be running on VMware and have refused to pay, customers also paid much more than they anticipated.
  • Strategy and Management Support: Every company should carefully evaluate the different licensing options and build a strategy with management support. This advice also applies to Oracle Java Licensing.

What Oracle wants you to do

In recent years, Oracle has softened its stance on customers who are found to be non-compliant in software audits where VMware is used.

Previously, they required all hosts in all vCenters to be licensed. They still do, but they let the customers off the hook by insisting they do not need to purchase licenses for hosts in vCenters where no Oracle software is running as long as the customer agrees to a network and storage segregation agreement.

It sounds good, doesn’t it? It is a step in the right direction, but in our experience, very few customers find the solution acceptable.

Oracle Is Proposing a network and storage isolation agreement.

Oracle can agree to limit the number of processor licenses required if you agree to their network and storage isolation requirements.

See the picture for Oracle requirements. It is important to note that a contractual agreement is required for such an environment to be valid from a licensing perspective.

oracle network and storage isolation agreement

Is Oracle ULA the answer to Oracle on VMware?

We will not address all the different use cases for Oracle ULAs here; we will only address the ULA when it is proposed as the solution to running Oracle on VMware.

If you signed up for a ULA to solve the challenge with virtualization, you will be fine as long as you are within an active ULA.

The problem is when you are stepping out of the ULA, where a couple of things happen:

  • ULA Certification – You will go through a certification process where you count the number of Oracle licenses you are running. The problem is you will only be counting “installed and running licenses.” Subsequently, you run the risk of ending up in a situation where you are compliant while you are in an active ULA, but the second you certify, you will be leaving the ULA with far fewer licenses than needed to be compliant on your VMware environments because the certification process is not aligned with Oracle’s licensing policies, the Oracle partitioning policy.
  • VMware growth / Growth in the use of virtualization technology – Another problem is that the use of virtualization technologies is often a vital part of an organization’s IT strategies. As such, it tends to grow after you end your ULA. Again, Oracle ULAs might have a minimal period where you are covered, given the term of the ULA’s unlimited deployment period. Even with a certification process where you can account for all servers in the virtualized environments and claim a license for them, your use of VMware might very quickly push the need for Oracle licenses beyond your current Oracle estate, especially in these Hyper-Coverged times.

The Oracle ULA is often not the right solution to Oracle’s position on licensing in virtual environments unless you know what to ask for.

We recommend reviewing your situation and device an Oracle strategy with Oracle license experts.

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  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson brings two decades of Oracle license management experience, including a nine-year tenure at Oracle and 11 years in Oracle license consulting. His expertise extends across leading IT corporations like IBM, enriching his profile with a broad spectrum of software and cloud projects. Filipsson's proficiency encompasses IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce platforms, alongside significant involvement in Microsoft Copilot and AI initiatives, improving organizational efficiency.

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