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Oracle Licensing and Hard and Soft Partitioning with Oracle VM

Two and four core CPUs are now end of life. New Intel and AMD x86 servers ship with quad-, hexa-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and 16-core CPUs. As Intel and AMD add more cores to CPUs, your next hardware refresh could dramatically increase your Oracle CPU license costs. The goal of this chapter of the Oracle Cloud Cookbook is to explain how Oracle VM for x86 can be used with hard and soft partitioning to gain total control over Oracle CPU license costs. 

 
Most Oracle customers license their Oracle technology products, including database and applications, by physical processor, and/or by named user. With physical servers, Oracle processor and named user licensing is static, with each Oracle product bound to a physical server licensed by the number of the server's processors. Conversely, with server virtualization, Oracle processor licensing is dynamic, with each Oracle product allocated to a subset of a hypervisor's CPUs, this is referred to as hard partitioning, and/or bound to a single hypervisor, or a subset of hypervisors within a cluster, this is referred to as soft partitioning. Unlike hard partitioning that allows us to license a subset of a hypervisor's CPUs to Oracle products, soft partitioning requires all of a hypervisor's processors to be licensed for each Oracle product. Many Oracle customers often select standard editions products over enterprise editions products to reduce Oracle licensing costs. The Oracle Software Investment Guide (SIG) states that Oracle standard edition products are limited to 4 CPU sockets. Oracle standard edition products are fully supported with Oracle VM soft partitioning. Understanding how to use hard and soft partitioning with Oracle VM can help your organization gain total control of their Oracle licensing costs.
 
Since the first release of Oracle VM, which was announced at Oracle Open World in November 2007, Oracle has provided certified support for Oracle technology products on Oracle VM, including both hard and soft partitioning for Oracle license management. Oracle VM is Oracle's flagship server virtualization solution that makes Oracle applications easier to deploy, manage, support, and license. Oracle VM is the only x86 virtualization solution that Oracle tests, certifies and is fully supported by Oracle for Oracle technology products. Oracle does not test, certify, or support Oracle technology products on any Non-Oracle x86 virtualization solutions. With Non-Oracle x86 virtualization solutions, the only Oracle licensing option is soft partitioning.
 
To help understand how to use Oracle VM as an Oracle license management tool, lets review how Oracle processor licensing is calculated. Oracle processor licensing is calculated by counting the number of each CPU core accessed by an operating system running an Oracle technology product, this calculation is called a processor factor. Oracle recognizes each CPU core as a separate CPU and each CPU type with a different processor factor. 
 
Table 1 lists Oracle' processor factors.
Oracle Processor Licensing
Processor Factor
UltraSparc T1
0.25
AMD/Intel
0.50
All other Multi-core Servers
0.75
Single Core Servers & IBM’s P6 and P7 Multi-Core chips
1.00
 
Note: Oracle VM for x86 exclusively uses Intel or AMD CPUs. 
 
To better understand Oracle processor licensing with Oracle VM and AMD/Intel multi-core CPUs, let’s review List 1.
 
List 1 shows the processor factor for a single socket four, eight, ten, twelve and sixteen core Intel and/or AMD CPU.
  • Intel or AMD CPU
    • 1 four core CPU requires 2 processor licenses
    • 1 eight core CPU requires 4 processor licenses
    • 1 ten core CPU requires 5 processor licenses
    • 1 twelve core CPU requires 6 processor licenses
    • 1 sixteen core CPU requires 8 processor licenses
As shown in List 1, as the core count increases, so does the Oracle processor license count, and Oracle licensing costs.
 
Intel/AMD CPUs have Hyperthreading technology that makes one CPU core look like two. From an Oracle processor licensing perspective, Hyper-threading does not increase the Oracle processor license count. Enabling Hyper-threading will increase the overall processor capacity of an Oracle VM Server, and an Oracle VM Server pool. For example, with hyper-threading disabled, a CPU is running a single thread per core. With hyper-threading enabled, the number of threads within a core double, and virtual machines can use the additional threads without incurring additional Oracle processor licensing penalties. With hyper-threading enabled, a virtual machine with 4 CPUs is actually is accessing 2 CPU cores, 4 CPU threads, or 1 Oracle CPU license. With hyper-threading disabled, the same virtual machine with 4 CPUs is actually is consuming 4 CPU cores, or 2 Oracle CPU license. Oracle recognizes each CPU core as a separate CPU and each CPU type with a different processor factor. The processor factor determines the processor count. The processor count determines the number of processors required to license the Oracle product.
 
With Oracle VM, hard partitioning allows us to pin a virtual machine's CPUs to a subset of an Oracle VM Server’s CPU cores, and only pay Oracle for the pinned CPUs. For example, with Oracle VM hard partitioning, a standard or enterprise edition Database could run on a virtual machine that is pinned to an Oracle VM Server with 4 CPUs (four sockets) each with 24 cores (96 cores), and you only pay Oracle for the pinned CPUs, i.e. you can pin the virtual machine's CPUs to the exact number of CPUs you need. The same virtual machine running on a VMWare server with 4 CPUs (four sockets) each with 24 cores (96 cores) with a standard or enterprise edition Database would require 48 Oracle processor licenses. With any Non-Oracle x86 virtualization solutions, the only Oracle licensing option is soft partitioning. With hard partitioning you only pay Oracle for the CPUs you actaully need/pin. 
 
Soft partitioning requires all of the physical server's processors to be licensed. The number one use case with soft partitioning is the ability to license a subset of Oracle VM Servers within a cluster. For example, with Oracle VM soft partitioning, a standard or enterprise edition Database could run on virtual machines that are restricted to a subset of Oracle VM Servers within a cluster, for example 2 Oracle VM Servers from 32, essentally reducing the processor count and licensing costs from 32 servers to 2 servers. Customers elect to use soft parttitoning over hard partitiong to take advantage of Oracle VM's Live Migration, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Distributed Power Management (DPM) features that are only supported with soft partitioning. The use of hard and soft partition will influence your Oracle VM server pool design.
 
Tip: Hard and soft partitioned virtual machines can be restricted to one or more Oracle VM Servers by placing the virtual machine files on a storage repository that is presented only to the Oracle VM Server(s) were the virtual machine can run.
 
Table 1 provides an overview of hard and soft partitioning with Oracle VM.
Partitioning Type
Overview
Requirements
Hard Partitioning
Hard partitioning allows us to pin a virtual machine's CPUs to a subset of an Oracle VM Server’s CPU cores, and only pay Oracle for the pinned CPUs.
 
Note: Oracle VM High Availability is fully supported by Oracle with hard partitioning. Live Migration, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Distributed Power Management (DPM) are not supported by Oracle with hard partitioning.
CPU pinning is a manual process that includes documenting an Oracle VM Server's CPU topology, then pinning each virtual machine's CPUs to the desired Oracle VM Server CPU cores using ovm_vmcontrol. ovm_vmcontrol is included in the Oracle VM 3 utilities. The Oracle VM 3 utilities are available via My Oracle Support Patch 13602094.
Soft Partitioning
Soft partitioning requires all of the physical server's processors to be licensed. The number one use case with soft partitioning is the ability to license a subset of Oracle VM Servers within a cluster.
 
Note: High Availability, Live Migration, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Distributed Power Management (DPM) are supported with soft partitioning.
Soft partitioned virtual machines can take advantage of Live Migration, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and/or Distributed Power Management (DPM).
 
The next example in Figure 1 shows three AMD/Intel servers, each server has two eight core CPUs with a processor factor of eight. The first AMD/Intel server is an example of a physical server with an operating system installed directly on the server hardware, running a single Oracle 11G Database. The second AMD/Intel server is an example of soft partitioning with Oracle VM installed directly on the server hardware running eight virtual machines, each virtual machine is running an Oracle 11G Database. The third AMD/Intel server is an example of hard partitioning with an Oracle VM installed directly on the server hardware running eight virtual machines, and only one of the eight virtual machines is running an Oracle 11G Database with one pinned Oracle processor license.
Oracle VM Hard and Soft Partitioning
 
As shown in Figure 1, the first AMD/Intel physical server has only one Oracle 11G Database licensed with soft partitioning with eight Oracle processor licenses. With physical servers, Oracle processor licensing is fixed, with each Oracle product bound to a physical server licensed by the number of the server's processors. Regardless of the number of Oracle processor licenses you need, you must pay Oracle for all of the physical server's processors. The second AMD/Intel Oracle VM example is licensed with soft partitioning running eight Oracle 11G Database virtual machines, with eight Oracle processor licenses. In contrast to the first example with an operating system installed directly on the server hardware running a single Oracle 11G Database, the second example shows how Oracle VM with soft partitioning can run 8 or more Oracle 11G Database virtual machines on the same hardware as the physical server with 1 Oracle Database. An Oracle VM Server's CPU, RAM and I/O resources determine the number of virtual machines that can simultaneously run. I select the number 8 as an arbitrary example. The third AMD/Intel Oracle VM example is licensed with hard partitioning one Oracle 11G Database virtual machine using as little as one up to eight Oracle processor license. Using hard partitioning you can license only the CPU you need regardless of the physical server's processor factor. The additional Oracle VM Server CPUs could be used to hard partition other Oracle technologies, or be used to run other workloads along side the hard partitioned Oracle 11G Database virtual machine.
 
Tip: We can restrict hard partitioned virtual machines to one or more Oracle VM Servers by placing the virtual machine files on a storage repository that is presented only to the Oracle VM Server(s) where the virtual machine can run.
 
The next hard partitioning example in Figure 2 shows an Oracle VM Server with two eight core Intel CPUs, with one hard partitioned virtual machine running an Oracle 11G Database. The virtual machine is pinned to two of the Oracle VM Server’s CPU cores (2 cores = 1 CPU license). From an Oracle licensing perspective, the Oracle VM Server has a processor factor of 8. Using hard partitioning, the pinned virtual machine requires only 1 Oracle processor license. The additional 7 CPUs could be used to hard partition other Oracle technologies or be used to run other workloads on the same Oracle VM Server.
 
Oracle VM Hard Partitioning
 
The next hard partitioning example in Figure 3 shows an Oracle VM Server with two eight core Intel CPUs, with two pinned virtual machines running an Oracle 11G Database. The virtual machines are pinned to the same CPU cores, with a processor factor of 1. It’s possible to pin multiple virtual machines running an Oracle 11g Database to the same CPU cores, and only pay for the pinned CPU cores. In this example multiple virtual machines are running Oracle 11g Databases using the same CPU cores, and the same license. Please note that since each virtual machine is pinned to the same CPU cores, the performance of each virtual machine may be impacted by CPU contention. The additional 7 CPU cores could be used to hard partition other Oracle technologies or be shared for other workloads on the Oracle VM Server.
 
Oracle VM Hard Partitioning with the Same CPU
 
Soft partitioning requires all of the physical server's processors to be licensed. An interesting use case with soft partitioning is the ability to license a subset of Oracle VM Servers within a cluster. For example, with soft partitioning, it’s possible to license as little as 2 Oracle VM Servers from an Oracle VM cluster with 32 Oracle VM Servers, essentally reducing the processor count and licensing costs from 32 servers to 2 servers. Soft partitioning with Oracle VM supports High Availability, Live Migration, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Distributed Power Management (DPM) with total control over the total number of licensed CPU cores with an Oracle VM cluster.
 
Tip: We can restrict soft partitioned virtual machines to one or more Oracle VM Servers by placing the virtual machine files on a storage repository that is presented only to the Oracle VM Server(s) were the virtual machine can run.
 
The next example in Figure 4 shows an Oracle VM server pool with six Oracle VM Servers. Each Oracle VM Server has two eight core CPUs. The Oracle VM server pool has a total of 96 cores with a processor factor of 48 Oracle CPU licenses. In Figure 4, there are a total of eight virtual machines in the Oracle VM pool running Oracle Database 11G. The eight virtual machines with Oracle Database 11G can run on any of the 6 Oracle VM Servers, requiring a total of 48 Oracle processor licenses.

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