As the year winds down, I thought it would be a good time to think about New Year’s resolutions. Let’s face it. A lot of us come up with New Year’s Resolutions each year. Sometimes we see them through, and sometimes we don’t. I don’t think it would be very interesting to blog about my personal New Year’s Resolutions, so instead I thought it would be good to make some New Year’s Resolutions for vendors. Today I’m going to start with Oracle, and plan to blog on resolutions for a couple of more vendors in the coming weeks.

I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times that I have spoken to a client or given a seminar this year and the topic of Oracle licensing or support for x86 virtualization came up. Oftentimes, these sessions would borderline on group therapy. Many of our clients have become utterly frustrated in their efforts to get Oracle to officially support their x86 virtualization environments (namely VMware today). Getting what they see as fair licensing for these environments has been a struggle as well. The pain felt by our clients has led me to vendor New Year’s Resolution #1:

Oracle: Publicly define official support and offer virtual CPU-based licensing for all prominent x86 virtualization environments.

Oracle’s role in x86 virtualization is not black and white. Not all Oracle database implementations require massive amounts of compute and I/O, and those are often well-suited for x86 virtualization today. In fact, multiple Burton Group clients are already running lower tier Oracle databases in VMware VMs. Some of them have even been able to negotiate support with Oracle. If you’re a large enough client and have the leverage of a software license or support contract renewal, it’s amazing what you can achieve. Still, this shouldn’t be the case. Oracle should have a public support policy for all major x86 virtualization platforms.

It’s not just the end user organizations that are frustrated by Oracle’s support stance. Many vendors share in this frustration. Case in point is Citrix CTO Simon Crosby’s recent blog, where he states:

…it is well known that Oracle only supports Oracle apps virtualized on Oracle VM, which is, as I said earlier, all but identical to mainline Xen.  Is this a reasonable position? No, it’s ridiculous.

By only supporting their own OVM (Xen-based) virtualization platform, Oracle has thus far shown that they are purposefully not willing to integrate with other infrastructure vendors, something which clearly is not good for their customers.

Now let’s move on to licensing. Oracle defines licensing for virtual environments in its “Partitioning” document. This document defines most x86 virtualization hypervisors (note there are exceptions only for Oracle’s OVM hypervisor) as soft partitioning. With regards to licensing, the document states:

…soft partitioning is not permitted as a means to determine or limit the number of software licenses required for any given server.

What does this mean? If you’re running Oracle applications such as Oracle Database in a VM, licensing is determined by the number of active processors on the physical host. Burton Group has maintained that Oracle should offer a virtual CPU-based licensing model. In one case, Oracle agrees. To see this, take a look at the Oracle document “Licensing Oracle Software in the Cloud Computing Environment.” In the document you will see that Oracle allows virtual CPU-based licensing on Amazon cloud platforms. This is stated in the second paragraph:

For the purposes of licensing Oracle programs in the Cloud environment, customers are required to count each virtual core as equivalent to a physical core.

Amazon EC2 runs Xen. So there’s one example of virtual CPU-based licensing on an x86 hypervisor. If this model is OK for Amazon EC2, why not offer it for VMware ESX, XenServer, or Hyper-V? All of these platforms can provide the necessary accounting to ensure that customers are not trying to bind a virtual CPU to multiple physical CPUs as a way to dilute licensing costs. So if this model is acceptable for Xen on EC2, why is it not for other hypervisors?

Oracle - I think the New Year’s Resolution I’m asking you to achieve can be accomplished with minimal effort. I’m not asking you to lose 50 pounds or quit smoking. I just want you to fix one of the issues that give our clients a great deal of pain. What do you say?