Using Office 365 and DirSync? Make sure to license all sync-ed Active Directory accounts !

Office 365 is used by many organizations to offer mail and calender functionality to users. A common scenario is the usage of Office 365 in retail. Staff in shops just have access to Office 365.

IT can make two choices for management of user accounts for Office 365 users.

  1. create user accounts in Azure Active Directory (AAD)
  2. create user accounts in on-premises Active Directory and sync those to AAD.

The advantage of  option 2 is central management. There is just a single directory to manage. Another advantage is that users which need to authenticate to AD can use a single useraccount and password.

To synchronize user accounts and passwords stored in on-premises AD to AAD Microsoft offers a free tool called DirSync.

Mind that for each user account a Windows Server Client Access License (CAL) is required! The cost for such a CAL is about Euro 30,- or $ 40,- per user or device



Microsoft licensing explained (a try)

Microsoft licensing is hard and complex. Many options are offered by Microsoft for the right to use their software.

It is a skill to be able to provide the best advise and to implement licensing the correct way. First there are many different agreements, plans and programs. Secondly there are many rules, small letters, exceptions and not so obvious restrictions documented in not always very well known documents.

In this blog I will provide a highlevel overview of Microsoft licensing. When you understand the basics, Microsoft’s  detailed information on all the agreements and enrollments will provide the details.

Buy or lease agreements

The right to use Microsoft software can be obtained via two ways:

  1. as a retail boxed software. Customers buy a box with the software on DVD and the license to use the software.
  2. as part of Volume Licensing. Customers receive a license. Software is downloaded from a Microsoft portal. Customers which agree in a Volume Licensing agreement get discount and other benefits.

Volume Licensing  can be either purchased, leased or leased/purchased. Depending cash position, dynamics of the organization a lease or purchase is the best option.  Agreements for organizations with over 5 computers are part of the Microsoft Volume Licensing. There are programs for organizations with 5-250 computers and for organizations with over 250 computers.

For Service Providers Microsoft has a pay-as-you-go model available. A service provider is only charged for the actual usage of a product. This can even be a single hour.

Volume Licensing has three important components which you should be aware of.

  • agreements or programs
  • enrollments
  • software assurance

An agreement is an procurement contract. In the contract Microsoft and the customer agree on many things. It has information on processes like True-Up and defines the length of the contract, the payment, term for additional product license acquisitions, subsequent orders and perpetual rights.

Enrollements are available as part of enterprise agreement and select licensing programs. Enrollments are contracts about the ordering of software. The customer promises to buy a certain quantity of software and certain types of software. In return the customer receives discount.

Enrollments are a Microsoft way to push customers to a certain direction. This can be towards purchasing Software Assurance or towards purchasing Hyper-V, standardize on Office or consume cloud services like Azure.

Software Assurance (SA) is a kind of maintenance contract. Customers have the right to use the latest version software. Another benefit is the right to move license to other servers or to cloud environments. Microsoft is constantly moving benefits which were included in the  license to SA. Cost of SA is about 25% of the license price paid each year.

For some agreements the customer can decide to buy SA as addition to the license. In many agreements SA is included. SA has been introduced by Microsoft to guarantee a steady cashflow. Before SA Microsoft got a lot of revenue after the release of a new version of software. Then the revenue dropped to be increased at the next release. With SA Microsoft monthly gets money from customers on SA.

The reference guide explains it all.

Available Agreements 

The image below shows the major agreements available to corporate . There are also agreements for government, education, charity, service providers and partners of Microsoft.

These programms are all focussed on on-premises software usage. They offer however the possibility to use Microsoft cloud services as well.

Pricing for all agreements are very different. Organizations with over 250 users/computers get a better price than those with a few users. Organizations with many desktops get better discounts than with few desktops. Schools get about 80 % discount for licenses.

To be able to start an agreement organizations must meet certain conditions. For example a minimum purchase or have all workstations installed with the latest Office version.

It is perfecty possible to have a customer use various agreements.

Microsoft license agreements

Agreements for small orgs with 5-250 computers or users 

  • Open License
  • Open Value
  • Open Value Subscription

Open License is just buying the license. This provides the customer the right to use to software as long as he wants. There is no rental available. A maitenance program called Software Assurance can be purchased if the customer wants to upgrade to the most recent version software. Software is paid upfront.

Open Value is including Software Assurance. The customer can annualize their billing over 3 years or they can pay upfront. After three year no more payments and the license belongs to the customer. Licenses can only be added to the agreement. So if your organization shrinks you might have to pay for more licenses than needed.

Open Value Subscription means the customer rents the software. When the rental period has expired and is not extended the software may not be used anymore. Licenses can be added (True Up) or removed from the agreement (True down)

These agreements can be sold by any Microsoft partner.

Agreements for large orgs with over 250 computers or users

  • Select and Select Plus
  • Enterprise Agreement
  • Enterprise Agreement Subscription

Select Plus is a purchase programm with an option to buy SA. To qualifiy for Select Plus customers have to buy an initial order of 500 points per product pool. Microsoft products are groups in three pools: applications, systems, and server.  500 points equals for example 250 Office licenses. The more points a customer has, the better discount.  More on Select Plus here.

Select Plus is being replaced by  a new agreement for midsized organisations called Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA). A FAQ here. The general rollout of MPSA licensing is planned for late 2014 which is when all enrollments will be expected to start following the MPSA model. Microsoft describes the MPSA as blending elements of the Microsoft Business and Services Agreement, Select Plus licensing and Microsoft Online Services subscriptions. A compare between Select Plus and MPSA is here.

Microsoft Enterprise Agreement can be purchased at a Microsoft Licensing Solution Provider  only. The Microsoft Enterprise Agreement allows organizations with more than 250 PCs, devices and/or users to purchase  Microsoft licenses  and cloud services over a three-year period at the best available pricing. As Software Assurance is included customers have the right to use the most recent version. At the end of the three years the license becomes a perpetual license. This means the customer can use it as long as he wants. Customers cannot reduce the number of licensed software during the three year period.

Microsoft Enterprise Subscription Agreement is a pay-as-you-go model. It is a rental agreement for three year which includes Software Assurance. Customers have the ability to decrease the number of licensed software each year during the True-Up process. There is no initial CAPEX. Costs are booked as operational costs. Licenses in this agreement are  nonperpetual (or subscription) licenses, which provide the right to use a particular licensed product until the end of the license-agreement term.  A requirement is that all desktops of the customer are standardized on Office, Windows or the Core CAL.

More info here. 

The difference between both is explained here.

MOSA Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement

MOSA is a dedicated licensing agreement for using Microsoft Online Services like Office 365. After signing the MOSA customers can purchase subscriptions under the  Microsoft Online Subscription Program (MOSP). This is a subscription-based Microsoft Volume Licensing program for organizations with one or more users that want to subscribe to, activate, provision, and maintain services seamlessly and affordably. The services available in this program  include Office 365, Windows Azure Platform, CRM Online, and Intune

Agreements for Service Providers

  • Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA)

Agreements for Education

  • School Enrollment
  • Campus and School Agreement (CASA) = Specifically for qualified academic institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, including research facilities, interested in purchasing five or more licenses.
  • Enrollment for Education Solutions (CASA+EES or OVS-ES).
  • Microsoft Campus Agreement for higher education
  • Microsoft School Agreement for primary and secondary education institutions.


An enrollement is an extension of some agreements like the Enterprise Agreement. The target of an enrollment is to stimulate customers to buy a number of licenses or standardize on Microsoft products. In return they get discount.

For Enterprise Agreements the following enrollements are available:

  • Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE). The most recent enrollment which replaces the ones listed below.
  • Enrollment for Application Platform (EAP)
  • Enrollment for Core Infrastructure  (ECI)
  • Enrollment for Windows Azure (EWA)

Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE) covers datacenter products both on-premises and in the cloud. It  includes SQL Server, SharePoint, Biztalk, the Core Infrastructure Suite, Visual Studio and Azure.  There is no growth of licenses required but a minimum purchase of licenses is required. For example to meet SCE requirements customers must purchase minimum of 50 SQL Server core licenses or 5 SharePoint licenses. Also customers needs to cover the entire Enterprise server footprint with SA.
More info on SCE

Enrollment for Application Platform contains SQL Server, Visual Studio, SharePoint and Biztalk. It provides up to 40% discount but a license growth is expected to be 20-30% over a baseline.

Enrollment for Core Infrastructure offers discounts for a bundle of  Windows Server and System Center. Two bundles are available. The Core Infrastructure Suite Datacenter and Core Infrastructure Suite Standard. Discount of 20% is given on bundle as compared to product licenses individually

More info on ECI and EAP

This image compiled by clearly shows the differences in enrollements

enrollment programs

Legal documents

When the agreement has been signed the customer should comply to certain Microsoft published documents. These documents explain how licenses should be applied.

The Microsoft Business and Service Agreement (MBSA) is the perpetual umbrella agreement that dictates the basic terms for all signed licensing agreements between your organization and Microsoft. This master agreement defines contract terms common to Microsoft licensing, service, and support agreements. MBSA is applicable for Select, Select Plus and Enterprise Agreements.

An important document for on-premises software is the Product Usage Rights. Service Providers have to use the Services Provider Use Rights (SPUR)  document. These are frequently published by Microsoft. The PUR describes per Microsoft product how the license should be used.

The Product List is another important document. It has info on avilability of new products, point values, product migration paths and Software Assurance benefits.

Both are binding documents. The customer should apply to what is written in those documents.

It is important to understand to what license the PUR applies. An excellent post at about the PUR states:

  • For customers that elect to leverage downgrade rights, the Product Use Rights for the version licensed, not the version running will apply.


Some terms being used

Microsoft uses various terms in licensing documents. Some are explained here.

Customers with an Enterprise Agreement or Open Value contract agree to use a certain number of licenses. The customer is allowed to use more licenses than agreed. Once a year the customer reports the number of licenses in use. The difference between the number of licenses in the EA or Open Value and the actual usage is the True-up. Reporting the true-up once a year is mandatory.

Level and No Level
Microsoft provides discount when customers purchase a certain number of licenses. If the number of license is below a threshold this is called no Level. Level means the customer has acquired more licenses than the threshold and will get more discount. So LEVEL licenses are always cheaper than NOLEVEL

Levels in some products have numbers like Level C or Level D.

Pricing levels 
For enterprise Agreements there are pricing levels. Starting at Level A which provides the lowest discount to Level D which offers the highest discount. Governments always get Level D discount. The numbers in the second column shows the number of desktops in use by the organization.

EA level A 250 – 2.399
EA level B 2.400 – 5.999
EA level C 6.000 – 14.999
EA level D 15.000 +

Step-up licensing 
customers with a volume agreement including Software Assurance can upgrade the edition of software for a reduced price. For example they can upgrade from Windows Server Standard Edition to Datacenter Edition.
more info here 

Some agreements like Select Plus use points to determine if a customer qualifies for the agreement. Each Microsoft product has points. These are documented in the Product List.


Many pricelists are available on Internet. Prices are hard to understand as you will see different prices for what looks like the same product. As you have learned the price depends on type of organization, agreement, enrollment, number of licenses in use etc.

This is a pricelist of Kernel Software


Virtualizing Oracle software: Don’t pay for what you don’t need

This is a blogpost in a serie about software licensing published on my site. The other postings in the serie are shown below.

This post will focus on Oracle software licensing in virtualized infrastructures. In the past I did quite a few postings about this subject. There is a lot of misunderstanding about correct licensing of Oracle products when running in a virtual machine. Oracle will not help to make things clear as a large part of their revenue comes from software audits.

Mind as a customer you:

  • your last option is to pay Oracle more money
  • your first option is to inform you about Oracle licensing from an independant expert. Some work on no cure no pay base.
  • can unit using Oracle user groups etc.
  • have a choice. Do not blindly believe what Oracle tells you
  • have a choice to choose another vendor which has clear licensing conditions for a much better price

In short Oracle tactics on software licensing and audits are:

  • be vague about correct usage of software licensing. Leave room for a number of ways to interpret the license.
  • offer discounts at year quarter end (or before fiscal year ends in May) which turn out to be not such a good deal later on (because of commitments on support, multiple products customers do not need)
  • disguide a license audit (benefit for Oracle) as a License Review (“you have been selected for a free license consult/license health check/license review”). Read this BTW other license authorities do the same thing like BSA. It is like the trap of carnivorous plants.
    emember: Oracle will give nothing away for free. There is no such thing as a free Oracle lunch. Remember the house of Larry, his boat etc.
  • perform audits by organizations who get incentives by finding any incorrect licensing (according to Oracle interpretation of license agreement)
  • if customers stop buying Oracle products, give them a visit and audit those customers for software compliancy.
  • demand customer to buy more licenses because according audit customer did not comply
  • if customer does not pay, threaten with going to court. See for some more detail this great blog If IRS Audits Were Run Like Oracle Audits
  • if customer refuses to pay and agrees to go to court: settle the case and let customer sign a NDA about this .
  • acquire many competing companies so customers leaving Oracle will eventually be dealing with Oracle again (Oracle bought 92 companies since 2005) 
  • if media asks for comments: do not comment
  • result:

Pasalide, a license consulting firm, has some interesting experiences described in blogs. An example here titled Doing Business with Oracle, “Everything is Backwards!”

One of my blogs is titled It was on tape, removed but recovered: Oracle supports VMware DRS Host Affinity . It describes about a video taped at VMworld 2012 in which an Oracle employee confirms DRS Host Affinity can be used to subcluster a VMware vSphere cluster. This video however was removed within 24 hours after publication on YouTube. However licensing firm License Consulting captured the video and placed it online.

VMware states in a whitepaper DRS can be used for subclustering according to VMware. I blogged about this here.

Computerworld published a long article about Oracle licensing in a May 2014 blogpost. It is a must read if you are an Oracle customer. It has lots of information like tips on negotiating with Oracle. Some  interesting  quotes taken from the Computerworld article:

(Editor’s note: During the months of reporting this story, we contacted Oracle 13 times, and the vendor’s spokespeople declined to comment on this story on three separate occasions.)

One client called Palisade after installing Oracle database software on two servers in an eight-server vSphere cluster. Oracle discovered the configuration during a software audit and demanded that the customer buy a license for every processor and server in the cluster.Before the audit, the company had been paying Oracle $50,000 per year. The list price for licensing the new configuration: Just over $1 million. The customer ended up reconfiguring the vSphere infrastructure to limit the number of servers in the cluster, and bought more Oracle licenses. Guarente wouldn’t say exactly how much the customer saved, but did say the customer paid a fraction of that original $1 million bill.

Running Oracle on a dedicated group of servers within a vSphere cluster, sometimes referred to as a subcluster, is a different matter, however. “Oracle likes to tell prospects and customers that if they are running Oracle on any physical server within a large vSphere cluster they have to license the entire cluster for Oracle. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Welch says.

But Welch doesn’t think customers should worry about pushing back, at least when it comes to vSphere clusters. “There’s no case law anywhere where Oracle has gone after a customer for subcluster licensing,” he says.

“The contract states that you must license any physical server on which you have installed or are running Oracle binaries. But you don’t have to license other servers in that cluster,” he insists. “Amazingly, many organizations don’t know that.”

The costs of over-licensing can be substantial, and Welch thinks many customers make unnecessary “donations” to Oracle when it comes to virtualization. “When buying licenses for a new project on a vSphere cluster, we see 150% to 300% overspend on Oracle licenses alone,” he says. “This overspend dynamic with respect to VMware is unique to Oracle, in our observation,” Welch says.

Make sure to consult an independant license consulting firm. A simple phone call can save your company lots of money, time and frustration. Some names are:

David Welch of House of Bricks  in the USA
Craig Guarente of Palisade Compliance in the USA
Danniel Hesselink of License Consulting in the Netherlands

You can also contact your VMware representative.

If you cannot negotiate better conditions with Oracle, consider moving to another database. It might not be that complex as you believe it is. PostgreSQL is a serious alternative. It will cost a faction of Oracle while delivering most if not all of the features you use on Oracle. Mind Microsoft is also constantly changing license costs & benefits, to the advantage of Microsoft.

Comparing Hyper-V to vSphere: licensing hosts for disaster recovery

In a serie of blogposts I will explain licensing of Microsoft products. Licensing is not a sexy thing, most of us like to concentrate on technical aspects. However licensing can make or break a business case for a solution.

So some knowledge about it can be very usefull.

In this blogpost I will inform about licensing in a disaster recovery scenario when vSphere or Hyper-V is used. Lets take the following example:

An organization wants to built new greenfield IT-platform. It is decided to house servers, storage etc in serverrooms located in two different sites. Services of a service provider are not used. One site will be active, the other will be passive. Replication will be used to keep both sites in sync.

In case VMware vSphere is selected as hypervisor, each server on which ESXi is installed needs to be licensed. So all servers in the primary, active site as well as all servers in the passive site. Even when those servers are not used to host production workloads. In this scenario the ESXi servers in the passive site only host replica’s of VM’s. vSphere Replication (included free in vSphere Essentials and higher editions) can be used for replication. VMware states in this document about using VMware Site Recovery Manager (not included in vSphere license).

Do I need to purchase VMware vSphere licenses for both the protected and recovery sites?
A. vSphere licenses are required for any server on which vSphere is installed—whether that host is at a protected site
or a recovery site, and whether a server is running or powered down at the recovery site. Site Recovery Manager requires at
least one licensed vSphere server at both the protected site and the recovery site

Here a VMware KB article confirming both active and passive site needs VMware ESXi licenses. When using vSphere Replication (feature of vSphere) you need a vSphere license for each host as well. Otherwise the VMware host will not function.

If you have questions on VMware licensing contact them at

The situation is different if Microsoft Hyper-V is selected as the hypervisor. If the organization acquires Windows Server plus Software Assurance all Windows Hyper-V hosts used as recovery server in the secondary site do not require a Windows Server license. However Hyper-V Replica must be used to replicate virtual machines to the secondary site.

This could be a financial advantage compared to buying VMware vSphere. I am not saying it IS a financial advantage. To benefit from the ‘disaster recovery rights’ Microsoft customers are required to acquire Software Assurance (SA). SA is an add-on to the purchase of the software license. Costs for SA are about 20-25% of the license costs each year. Organizations need to consider the complete scenario.

Without Software Assurance Microsoft customers are very limited in moving licenses to other locations. For example without SA on SQL Server 2014 & 2014 customers are not even allowed to perform a vMotion/Live Migration to another host in the same cluster!

So Microsoft certainly is not a charity organization. What they give away for free or pretend to give away for free is being paid by customers using for example SQL Server on-premise.

These  ‘Disaster Recovery Rights’ are documented in the Microsoft Product Use Rights or PUR. The PUR is updated by Microsoft each month. Download the PUR here.

One of the Software Assurance benefits is described in Appendix 2 of the PUR.

Servers — Disaster Recovery Rights

For each instance of eligible server software you run in a physical or virtual OSE on a licensed server, you may temporarily run a backup instance in a physical or virtual OSE on a server dedicated to disaster recovery.   The license terms for the software and the following limitations apply to your use of software on a disaster recovery server.

The OSE on the disaster recovery server can run only during the following exception periods:

  • For brief periods of disaster recovery testing within one week every 90 days
  • During a disaster, while the production server being recovered is down
  • Around the time of a disaster, for a brief period, to assist in the transfer between the primary production server and the disaster recovery server

In order to use the software under disaster recovery rights, you must comply with the following terms:

  • The OSE on the disaster recovery server must not be running at any other times except as above.
  • The OSE on the disaster recovery server may not be in the same cluster as the production server.
  • Windows Server license is not required for the disaster recovery server if the following conditions are met:
  • The Hyper-V role within Windows Server is used to replicate virtual OSEs from the production server at a primary site to a disaster recovery server.

The disaster recovery server may be used only to
o    run hardware virtualization software, such as Hyper-V,

o    provide hardware virtualization services,

o    run software agents to manage the hardware virtualization software,

o    serve as a destination for replication,

o    receive replicated virtual OSEs, test failover, and

o    await failover of the virtual OSEs.

o    run disaster recovery workloads as described above

  • The disaster recovery server may not be used as a production server.

  • Use of the software in the OSE on the disaster recovery server should comply with the license terms for the software.

  • Once the disaster recovery process is complete and the production server is recovered, the OSE on the disaster recovery server must not be running at any other times except those times allowed here.

  • Maintain Software Assurance coverage for all CALs, External Connector licenses and Server Management Licenses under which you access your licensed software running on the disaster recovery server and manage the OSEs in which that software runs.

  • Your right to run the backup instances ends when your Software Assurance coverage ends.

Reduce costs for cloud scenario’s by using Microsoft Subscriber Access License for Software Assurance (SAL-SA)

While software licensing is not the most sexiest thing, a good understanding of licensing is very import. Either to be sure not paying to much for licenses or to prevent an extra charge by a software vendor when an audit shows the customer is not compliant. In a series of blogposts I will try to give some information on licensing for Microsoft products in scenarios like:

  • moving workloads to the cloud
  • protecting workloads for a disaster by having a second instance running in a second location

While doing research on Microsoft licensing I learned a couple of things:

  1. Licensing is very complex. Fully understanding licensing is very time consuming
  2. Customers without Software Assurance (costs 25% of license cost per year) hardly have any benefits besides using the software tied to the original server it was installed on. Microsoft is really pushing customers to SA.
  3. There are just a very few people who really understand licensing
  4. Microsoft is stimulating customers to move to the cloud by raising on-premise license costs while reducing those of the cloud

One type of license which stimulates using Microsoft sofware from the cloud is called SAL-SA which stands for Subscriber Access License for Software Assurance (SAL for SA). This license can be purchased by service providers participating in Microsoft SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement). All SPLA licenses have Software Assurance.

A Subscriber Access License is a combination of a Client Access License (CAL) and a server license. So in an on-premise scenario a customer purchases CALs and server licenses (depending on the product, some situations only cores are licensed). In a hosting/cloud scenario the customer rents/subscribes to Microsoft software and pays for a SAL.

SAL for SA are priced very attractive. This protects the investment made by the customer in Software Assurance for on-premise software. The service provider reports each month the software usage and gets billed from Microsoft.

SALs for SA are available for both virtually dedicated and multitenant instances.
SAL for SA is available for a limited number of Microsoft products:

    • Exchange Enterprise SAL for SA
    • Exchange Standard SAL for SA
    • SharePoint Standard SAL for SA
    • SharePoint Enterprise SAL for SA
    • Lync Standard SAL for SA
    • Lync Enterprise SAL for SA
    • Lync Plus SAL for SA

Details can be found in the SPUR or  Service Provider Use Rights.

Information for this blog was taken from a  blogpost titled Disaster Recovery Rights for SPLA

DRS Host Affinity rules can be used to run Oracle on a subset of the hosts within a cluster

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.

The whitepaper is the first written statement of VMware I am aware of which clearly states *that according to VMware* DRS Host Affinity can be used to limit the number of Oracle license needed without having to use a dedicated cluster. The text below is taken from the whitepaper.

Oracle cannot be licensed by virtual CPUs today, but as long as Oracle software runs on fully licensed hosts, customers are not in violation of published Oracle policies. In particular, DRS Host Affinity rules can be used to run Oracle on a subset of the hosts within a cluster. In many cases, customers can use vSphere to achieve substantial licensing savings.

A response to the VMware whitepaper is posted by the blog Oracle Storage Guy titled VMware’s Official Support Statement Regarding Oracle Certification and Licensing. The same blog written by Jeff Browning can be read at as well.
Also at the forum an interesting thread on using DRS Host Affinity.

Michael Webster wrote a great posting titled Fight the FUD – Oracle Licensing and Support on VMware vSphere. The artivle has a lot of information and tries to get rid of all the FUD spread around by Oracle (not supported on VMware, you need to license all CPU’s)

Dave Welch of House of Brick responded in the thread listed above with a very detailed response explaining the use of DRS Host Affinity. Worth reading!
It remains to be seen if Oracle will ever respond to the whitepaper or even will confirm that DRS Host affinity is a way to limited the number of licenses. I believe they will not respond and will get their money from customers not willing to start a legal battle with Oracle.
Read this blog of Rocela– global leaders in consulting for Oracle licensing, cost management and compliance which states:

We work with clients using VMware and Oracle every day: we are unaware of any change of general stance from Oracle. Therefore, you should be fully aware of the potential licensing implications should Oracle audit your use of Oracle on VMware clusters.

Jeff  Browning of EMC wrote a nice blog explaining the licensing of Oracle on VMware. The blog is titled Oracle Licensing on VMware – no magic

Now that server virtualization is main stream technology companies are starting to virtualize their Tier1 applications on VMware vSphere and other platforms. However there are some concerns and misunderstandings about virtualization of Oracle products.

Organizations believe running Oracle in virtual machines is not cost effective because of the Oracle licensing policy. Sometimes this is solved by using a dedicated cluster just for running Oracle VM’s. Creation of a dedicated cluster is not needed when VMware Host DRS Affinity feature is used. This feature allows virtual machines to be active on a subset of hosts in a cluster. So only the CPU’s in those hosts needs to be licensed for Oracle, not all hosts. I wrote about this earlier in a posting titled Oracle supports VMware DRS Host Affinity (but does not want you to know it).

Also customers are being intimidated by Oracle to buy more licenses that needed. Because of the legal and unclear text most companies do not get into legal fight and pay. However in most cases this is not needed and things can be settled for a much lower price. publised an article in 2012 titled Oracle licensing for vSphere 4.1 irks VMware pros . A quote from the article

At the very least, users should “not just foolishly say, ‘My field rep interprets licensing requirements for me,’” Welch said. “The only thing that’s binding is on paper. In my opinion, Oracle is just delighted that this confusion is spreading, when how the licensing works is right here in front of us.”

Also the technical support by Oracle has been an issue. However Oracle does support running Oracle on vSphere and other platforms. In some cases the customer will need to prove the reported issue is not caused by the virtualization stack. I blogged about this in a posting titled Oracle slowly starting to support VMware

There are more interesting posting on the internet about Oracle licensing. Jay Weinshenker wrote an interesting post titled Licensing Oracle on VMware vSphere with usefull thoughts and comments from readers. Another blogposting by Jay titled Yet another way VMware saves a company money on Oracle licenses
House of Brick  can help you purchasing the right number of licenses.

In the Netherlands License Consulting can help you with making sure you do not pay too much for Oracle licenses.

Another concern which slow down adoption of virtualized Oracle instances is performance. As Oracle databases are often used for Tier1 application, performance is critical. A long time thought is that running Oracle on VMware might result in less performance. Several benchmarks showed there is none to hardly any performance difference between running Oracle on physical or virtual servers.

In March 2012 Confio released a whitepaper titled A Comparison of Oracle Performance on Physical and VMware Servers.  Confio is the developer of the Ignite family of performance and monitoring tools, including IgniteVM, the first database monitoring solution created for databases hosted on VMware. IgniteVM installs in minutes. Download a free trial from

The summary of the test: Performance and throughput results, as experienced by the order entry application, were essentially identical for the Oracle database on the physical and VMware servers. IgniteVM focuses on application response time, the most important performance measure. It illustrated identical throughput of 50 transactions per second, and negligible differences in response time for the highest volume queries, with the VM actually running faster at less than 2ms per execution vs. 3ms for the physical server.

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