It was on tape, removed but recovered: Oracle supports VMware DRS Host Affinity

Update December 17: good posting titled Virtualizing Oracle: Licensing And Support Considerations by Kenneth Hui

update September 4: very good posting which clarifies customers can perfectly subcluster to run Oracle.

Update August 29: Daniel Hesselink of License Consulting put the video online again. Read his blog here.

Update August 29: The video interview (a copy can be seen here ) in which Richard Garsthagen of Oracle confirms DRS Host Affinity can be used to subcluster a VMware vSphere cluster has been removed from YouTube. Is this because Richard was a bit too transparent about this?

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There is a lot of misunderstanding about technical support by Oracle for running their software in virtual machines. Also for a lot of Oracle customers Oracle’s licensing policy for running virtualized Oracle workloads is confusing.

VMworld 2012 visitors: Be sure to visit session bca1751 on tuesday at 2 pm, Moscone West 2006 which deals with this subject.

For the first time Oracle now makes a clear statement about vSphere Host DRS Affinity. Customers do not have to license a complete cluster if Oracle VMs will not run on all nodes in the cluster because of DRS Host Groups. Read on for the statement which is taped!

In November 2011 VMware released a very good whitepaper titled Understanding Oracle Certification, Support and Licensing for VMware Environments. It clearly describes there are no issues on running Oracle on VMware and that running Oracle virtual is cheaper than running on physical boxes.

Oracle sales staff, driven by their bonus incentive, will tell their customers only part of the licensing story, or even false stories so their customers are badly informed and pay more than needed. Lots of evidence about this behaviour can be found on the internet..

Basically licensing Oracle on a VM running on vSphere , XenServer, Hyper-V and others (excluding Oracle VM)   means:

  • each core in each physical processor of the virtualization host needs to be added in the license calculation
  • for most Intel and AMD processors the total number of cores is multiplied by a factor (0.5)
    for example a host with 2 x Intel CPU’s with 6 cores each will need: 2 x 6 x 0.5  = 6 CPU licenses.
  • licensing can be done based on CPU or named user plus licenses. Named users are human beings accessing Oracle software. Named users licensing can be usefull for small environments like test/dev or apps which cannot be access from internet.

There is a lot of confusion with Oracle customers how many virtualization hosts  needs to be licensed. Oracle sales tries to convince customers that all VMware /Hyper-V etc hosts in a cluster needs to be licensed. Even when the Oracle VM will never use most of the hosts because it runs on one or a limited number of hosts in that cluster.See this posting (dated 2009) by Edwin Weijdema which gives a good insight in Oracle sales and licensing.

THE MASTER blogposting explaining everything for running Oracle on vSphere is this written by Michael Webster. MUST READ! However the statement which was made by Oracle at VMworldTV was not known by the time of writing of that post!

VMware offers several features to ‘glue’ Oracle VMs to one or a limited  number of hosts in a cluster. Disable DRS per VM, disable HA per vM and DRS Host Affinity can be used to control the movement of VMs in a VMware cluster.

However most customers do not use those features. Instead they build a dedicated VMware cluster which will run Oracle VMs. This is a way to reduce the number of host and this reduce license costs. The disadvantage   is costs for extra hosts, extra licensing, extra management etc. The reason for building a dedicated cluster is they do not want to argue with Oracle about DRS Host Affinity and risk getting in a legal fight.

Earlier I blogged about the DRS host Affinity feature in a blog titled Oracle supports VMware DRS Host Affinity (but does not want you to know it)

In March 22 I again blogged about Oracle and DRS Host Affinity in this posting titled DRS Host Affinity rules can be used to run Oracle on a subset of the hosts within a cluster.

This posting has a lot of links to other blogs stating DRS Host Affinity can perfectly be used to subcluster.

Its on tape: Oracle supports VMware DRS Host Affinity
In a video interview which has been removed but can be seen here  here for VMworldTV at VMworld 2012 (August 27) done by blogger and scoop meister Eric Sloof of NTpro.nl  at VMworld,  Richard Garsthagen, Director of Cloud Business Development Oracle EMEA clearly confirms vSphere DRS Host Affinity, Host groups and VM groups are a legal way to subcluster a VMware cluster with the intention to reduce the number of Oracle licenses.

Garsthagen is clear in stating that only the VMware hosts on which Oracle VMs have run must have an Oracle license. Log files in vCenter Server are used by the Oracle license auditors to determine the number of hosts Oracle VMs have run.

In the video Eric Sloof takes an example of a 4 node cluster. Two of those nodes are configured using host groups in such way selected Oralce VMs  can only run on those two hosts. vSphere has  ‘must run’ and  ‘should run’ rules for DRS Host Affinity. A must run  rule means that if both vSphere nodes fail, the VM will not be restarted on a host not part of the host group. A should run rule will restart the Oracle VMs on hosts outside the failed hosts part of the host group.

Garsthagen states that in that case additional licenses will need to be purchased. That because Oracle ran on three hosts while only two were licensed. I believe that is an incorrect statement. A customer can run Oracle for 10 days on an unlicensed host. Mind that even when an Oracle VM has run for 1 minute on an unlicensed host, it will count as 1 day.
Oracle states in a document on the  Oracle website.

Failover: In this method, nodes are configured in “clusters” with the first installed node acting as a primary node. If the primary node fails, one of the surviving nodes in the cluster acts as the primary node. In this type of environment, Oracle permits its licensed Technology customers to run the Technology Programs (listed on the Technology Price List) on an unlicensed spare computer for up to a total of ten separate days in any given calendar year. The above right only applies when a number of machines are arranged in a cluster and share one disk array. Once the primary node is repaired, you must switch back to the primary node. Only one failover node per clustered environment is at no charge for up to ten separate days even if multiple nodes are configured as failover nodes. When licensing options on a failover environment, the options must match the number of licenses of the associated database. Additionally, when licensing by Named User Plus, the user minimums are waived on one failover node only. Any use beyond the right granted in this section must be licensed separately. In a failover environment, the same license metric must be used for the production and failover nodes when licensing a given clustered configuration.

Make sure to read the blogposting of Viktor van den  Berg about the same subject.

Oracle Storage Guy has a blogposting on this as well
vKnowledge.net has a posting about this video as well

vPivot.com has a posting on this as well

Viktor made another blogposting with info on the breakout session he was able to attend at VMworld APP-BCA1751 “Virtualizing Oracle to Save on Licensing Costs” , which gave some additional information on the subject.. Read his post  titled Oracle licensing on vSphere: Things cleared up

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About Marcel van den Berg
I am a technical consultant with a strong focus on server virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and business continuity/disaster recovery.

3 Responses to It was on tape, removed but recovered: Oracle supports VMware DRS Host Affinity

  1. Pingback: Oracle licenties en virtualisatie: is dit nu eindelijk duidelijk genoeg? « EarlyBert

    • Dave. The blogposting of Oracle is exactly in line with their policy of being unclear. Nowhere in the posting I read about subclustering. Oracle just confirms that for Oracle VMs one must license all cores in the virtualization host.(hard- versus softpartitioning)

      Oracle, mostly sales, states in interviews, not on paper that all *servers* in a VMware cluster needs to be licensed. That is only true if your Oracle VMs actuall ran or are running on all nodes. To prevent this, subcluster your VMware cluster using DRS Host Affinity.
      Perfectly legal way to control the number of licenses.

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