Oracle Licensing – Serious Risks when you upgrade VMware

Following on from my previous post on Oracle Licensing – The vMotion Trap I thought it appropriate to warn you of an even greater risk when it comes to Oracle licensing, upgrading VMware from 5.0.

Root Cause

The root of the problem of course is that Oracle does not recognize VMware partitioning when it comes to assigning resources to the virtual machines. This means that you must license all cores on the physical servers even if the Oracle product is only deployed on one virtual server. With the introduction of vMotion Oracle expanded this definition to include all servers in a cluster now needed to be licensed.

With this very liberal interpretation of the licensing rules you’d think Oracle LMS would have reached the limits of compliance, think again.

VMware 5.1 and later have introduced additional features that have opened a new area of compliance risk for anyone running an Oracle product on VMware, the features of concern are vSphere Replication and Storage vMotion. As you can see from the table, it doesn’t matter what edition you are on, these features are available to you, meaning everyone is at risk.

Oracle LMS argument

The basis of the Oracle LMS argument is that a virtual machine running an Oracle product can move, not only between the nodes in a cluster, but could, in theory, move to other clusters that are linked via vSphere Replication or Storage vMotion. Their logic follows that now all cores in all linked clusters must be licensed.

This is not a hypothetical argument, in projects we have worked on it has come up in 3 separate audits, in 3 different countries in the last year. Given that the majority of large organizations have already upgraded to 5.1 this presents a huge compliance risk to anyone running VMware.

What to do?

There are a number of steps you can take at a network / vMotion level that have been mentioned in a previous post but at a project level, here are a few:

  • First of all you need to establish how serious the problem is for your organization and this means a review of your entire VMware architecture.
  • Next you’ll need to establish the actual deployment of your Oracle products, in particular Oracle Databases, Options, Packs and Middleware. Unfortunately there is no one product or scripts that will automate this process (iQSonar from iQuate is about the closest) so you’ll have to use a variety of tools to get all the information required.
  • Get expert advice from a trusted Oracle License Advisor to establish the size of the problem
  • With the size (cost) of the risk established it should be very easy to get approval to set up a project to reduce, redeploy or purchase licenses before an audit.


It remains to be seen if Oracle LMS have stretched their interpretation of the license rules a little too far this time. Without exception, every customer we’ve talked to have been stunned and then furious that such a compliance gap can be retrospectively applied.  Does this now mean that Oracle products must have their own dedicated SAN array and backup media? We have not heard the last of this story.

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Piaras MacDonnell