Does your IT shop use a combination wrench?

More and more, IT shops seem inclined to consolidate and simplify their infrastructure to one platform. A mindset that all workloads can or should run on a single platform incorporated into ‘Software-defined this’ and ‘Software-defined that’.  It tantalizes the decision makers senses as vendors claim to reduce complexity and cost.

Technology has become Ford vs Chevy or John Deere vs Case International.  Whereas these four vendors each have some unique capabilities and offerings they are also leaders in innovation and reliability.  For IT shops, there is this perception that only Intel & VMware are viable infrastructure options to deploy every workload type.  Mission / Life critical workloads in healthcare, high-frequency financial transactions, HPC, Big Data, Analytics, emerging Cognitive & AI but also traditional ERP workloads that run entire businesses – SAP ECC, SAP HANA and Oracle EBS are probably the most common that I see as there are also some industry specific ones for Industrial and automotive companies – I’m thinking of Infor.

When a new project comes up, there is little thought given to the platform. either the business or maybe the ISV will state what and how many of server X should be ordered. The parts arrive, eventually getting deployed.  Little consideration is given to the total cost of ownership or the the impact to the business caused by the system complexity.

I’ve watched a client move their Oracle workloads to IBM POWER several years ago. This allowed them to reduce their software licensing and annual maintenance cost as well as to redeploy licensing to other projects – cost avoidance by not having to add net new licensing.  As it happens in business, people moved on, out and up. New people came in whose answer to everything was Intel + VMware.  Yes, a combination wrench.

If any of you have used a combination wrench,  you know there are a few times it is the proper tool. However, it can also strip or round over the head of a bolt or nut if too much pressure or torque is applied. Sometimes the proper tool is a SAE or Metric box wrench, possible a socket, even an impact wrench.  In this clients case, they have started to move their Oracle workloads from POWER to Intel.  Workloads currently running on standalone servers or at most using 2-node PowerHA clusters.  Moving these simple (little complexity) Oracle VM’s to 6-node VMware Oracle RAC clusters that have now grown to 8-nodes.  Because we all know that Oracle RAC scales really well (please tell me you picked up on the sarcasm).

I heard from the business earlier this year that they had to buy over $5M of net-new Oracle licensing for this new environment. Because of this unforeseen expense, they are moving other commercial products to open-source since we all know that open-source is “free” to offset the Oracle cost.

Oh, I forgot to mention.  That 8-node VMWare Oracle RAC cluster is crashing virtually every day.  I guess they are putting too much pressure on the combination wrench!

HPE; there you go again! Part 1

Updated Sept 05, 2016: Split the blog into 2 parts (Part 2). Fixed several typo’s and sentence structure problems. Updated the description of the Superdome X blades to indicate they are 2 socket blades while using Intel E7 chips.

It must be the season as I find myself focused a bit on HPE.  Maybe it’s because they seem to be looking for their identity as they now consider selling their software business.  This time though, it is self-inflicted as there has been a series of conflicting marketing actions. From what they say in their recent HPE RAS whitepaper about the poor Intel server memory reliability stating in the introductory section that memory is far and away the highest source of component failures in a system.  Shortly after that RAS paper is released, they post a blog written by the HPE Server Memory Product Manager stating “Memory Errors aren’t the end of the World”.  Tell that to the SAP HANA and Oracle Database customers, the latter which I will be discussing in this blog.

HPE dares to step into the lion’s den on a topic with which it has little standing to imply it is an authority how Oracle Enterprise software products are licensing in IBM Power servers.  As a matter of fact, thanks to the President of VCE, Chad Sakac for acknowledging that VMware has a Oracle problem.  On August 17th, Chad penned what amounts to an open letter to Larry & Oracle begging them …. No, demanding that Larry leave his people alone.  And, by “his people”, I mean customers who run Oracle Enterprise Software Products licensed by the core on Intel servers using VMware.

Enter HPE with a recent blog by Jeff Kyle, Director of Mission Critical Solutions.  He doesn’t distinguish if he is in a product development, marketing or sales role.  I would bet he it is the latter two as I do not think a product developer would put themselves out like Jeff just did.  What he did is what all Intel marketing teams and sellers have done from the beginning of compute time when the first customer thought of running Oracle on a server that wasn’t “Big Iron”.

Jeff sets up a straw man stating “software licensing and support being one of the top cost items in any data center” followed by the obligatory claim that moving it to an “advanced” yet “industry-standard x86 servers” will deliver the ROI to achieve the goals of every customer while coming damn close to solving world hunger.

Next is where he enters the world of FUD while also stepping into the land of make-believe.  Yes, Jeff is talking about IBM Power technology as if it is treated by Oracle for licensing purposes the same as an Intel server, which it is not.  You will have to judge if he did this on purpose or simply out of ignorance.  He does throw the UNIX platforms a bone by saying they have “excellent stability and performance” but stops there as only to claim they cost more than their Industry standard x86 server counterparts.

He goes on to state UNIX servers <Hold Please> Attention: For purposes of this discussion, let’s go with the definition that future UNIX references = AIX and RISC references = IBM POWER unless otherwise stated.  As I was saying, Jeff next claims AIX & POWER are not well positioned for forward-looking Cloud deployments continuing his diminutive descriptors suggesting proper clients wouldn’t want to work with “proprietary RISC chips like IBM Power”. But, the granddaddy of all of his statements and the one that is complete disingenuous is:  <low monotone voice> “The Oracle license charge per CPU core for IBM Power is twice (2X) the amount charged for Intel x86 servers” </low monotone voice>.

In his next paragraph, he uses some sleight of hand by altering the presentation of the traditional full List Price cost for Oracle RAC that is associated with Oracle Enterprise Edition Database.  Oracle EE DB is $47,500 per license + 22% maintenance per year, starting with year 1.  Oracle RAC for Oracle EE EB is $23,000 per license + 22% maintenance per year, starting with year 1.  If you have Oracle RAC then you would by definition also have a corresponding Oracle EE DB Licenses.  The author uses a price of $11,500 per x86 CPU core and although by doing he isn’t wrong per se, I just do not like that he does not disclose the full license cost of #23,000 up front as it looks like he is trying to minimize the cost of Oracle on x86.

A quick licensing review. Oracle has an Oracle License Factor Table for different platforms to determine how to license its products that are licensed by core. Most modern Intel servers are 0.5 per License.  IBM Power is 1.0 per License.  HP Itanium 95XX chip based servers, so you know also has a license factor of 1.0.  Oracle, since they own the table and the software in question can manipulate it to favor their own platforms as they do, especially with the SPARC servers.  It ranges from 0.25 to 0.75 while Oracle’s Intel servers are consistent with the other Intel servers at 0.5.  Let’s exclude the Oracle Intel servers for purposes of what I am talking about here for reason I said, which is they manipulate the situation to favor themselves. All other Intel servers “MUST” license ALL cores in the server with very, very limited exceptions “times” the licensing factor which is 0.5.  Thus, a 2 x 18 core socket would have 36 cores. Ex: 2s x 18c = 36c x 0.5 License Factor = 18 Licenses.  That would equal 18 Oracle Licenses for whatever the product being used.

What Jeff does next was a bit surprising to me.  He suggests customers not bother with 1 & 2 socket Intel “Scale-out” servers which generally rely on Intel E5 aka EP chipsets.  By the way, Oracle with their Exadata & Oracle Database Appliances now ONLY use 2 socket servers with the E5 processors; let that sink in as to why.  The EP chips tend to have features that on paper have less performance such as less memory bandwidth & fewer cores while other features such as clock frequency are higher, a feature that is good for Oracle DB.   These chips also have lower RAS capabilities, such as missing the MCA (Machine Check Architecture) feature only found in the E7 chips.  He instead suggests clients look at “scale-up” servers which commonly classified as 4 sockets and larger systems.  This is where I need to clarify a few things.  The HP Superdome X system, although it scales to 16 sockets, does so using 2 socket blades.  Each socket uses the Intel E7 processor, which given this is a 2 socket blade is counter to what I described at the beginning of this paragraph where 1 & 2 socket servers used E5 processors.  The design of the HP SD-X is meant to scale from 1 blade to 8 blades or 2 to 16 sockets which requires the E7 processor.

With the latest Intel Broadwell EX or E7 chipsets, the number of cores available for the HD SD-X range from 4 to 24 cores per socket.  Configuring a blades with the 24 core E7_v4 (v4 indicates Broadwell) equals 48 cores or 24 Oracle Licenses.  Reference the discussion two paragraphs above.  His assertion is by moving to a larger server you get a larger memory capacity for those “in-memory compute models” and it is this combination that will dramatically improve your database performance while lowering your overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

He uses a customer success story for Pella (windows) who avoided $200,000 in Oracle licensing fees after moving off a UNIX (not AIX in this case) platform to 2 x HPE Superdome X servers running Linux.  This HPE customer case study says the UNIX platform which Pella moved off 9 years ago was actually a HP Superdome with Intel Itanium processors server running HP-UX.  Did you get this? HP migrated off their own 9-year-old server while implying it might be from a competitor – maybe even AIX on Power since it was referenced earlier in the story.  That circa 2006 era Itanium may have used a Montecito class processor. All of the early models before Tukwila were pigs, in my estimation.  A lot of bluff and hyperbole but rarely delivering on the claims.  That era of SD would have also used an Oracle license factor of 0.5 as Oracle didn’t change it until 2010 and only on the newer 95xx series chips.  Older systems were grandfathered and as I recall as long as they didn’t add new licenses they would remain under the 0.5 license model.  I would expect a 2014/2015 era Intel processor would outperform a 2006 era chip, although if it would have been against a POWER5 1.9 or 2.2 GHz chip I might call it 50-50 J .

We have to spend some time discussing HP server technology as Jeff is doing some major league sleight of hand as the Superdome X server supports a special hardware partitioning capability (more details below) that DOES allow for reduced licensing that IS NOT available on non-Superdome x86 servers or from most other Intel vendors unless they also have an 8 socket or larger system like SGI – oh wait, HP just bought them.  Huh, wonder why they did this if the HPE Superdome X is so good.

Jeff then mentions an IDC research study; big deal, here is a note from my Pastor that says the HPE Superdome is not very good; who are you going to believe?

Moving the rest of the blog to Part 2.



Intel Vendors & VMware have a Oracle Problem

Houston, we have a problem!

Intel server vendors Dell, VCE, HPE, Cisco, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Huawei, white box vendor Super Micro and any other server vendor using Intel chipsets have a problem if their customers use VMware to host Oracle Enterprise products (ie Database).

What’s “their” problem

In a nutshell, Oracle’s position is that customers running their Enterprise products like Oracle Enterprise Edition Database,  licensed by core (all cores in the server x 0.5) in a VMware environment must license every core on every server in which that Oracle workload could ever potentially reside managed by vCenter.  Server vendors, VMware, consultants and so on have a vested interest for Oracle to not do this because this Oracle tax is an extreme approach with their licensing terms that concern customers if they are running Oracle on Intel servers for fear Oracle will initiate a LMS audit leading to a substantial license settlement.

Quick Background

In my previous blog I wrote about “Intel; the Great Charade” where I discuss  each new generation of Intel processors having less performance per core than the previous generation.  As you read this and the ones referenced in this article (VCE & HoB) keep this ‘per core’ licensing approach in mind as this topic is central to how Oracle (typically) licenses its enterprise products.  For example, if a clients current server models are Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge era servers and plan to upgrade to the latest generation Broadwell you actually decrease the per core performance while increasing the number of cores per socket (if staying with the same SKU). Meaning 12 Ivy Bridge cores requires a little over 13 rounded up to 14 Broadwell cores to deliver equal performance. You don’t upgrade to get equal performance so you now have to move to a 16 or maybe 18 core SKU to gain additional socket performance or go with a higher frequency & lower core per socket SKU to obtain receive more performance per core….but now do you have enough overall performance?  To summarize my previous blog: It takes more cores from Haswell or Broadwell to equal the performance of the previous generation chips.  Since this increase in performance is at the socket and not with the core or thread (where most databases almost almost always prefer a stronger core vs more cores let alone weaker cores in a socket).  Since Oracle’s license calculation on Intel is to license all of cores in the server x 0.5 you may end up buying 1 or 2 extra Oracle licenses for every upgraded Intel server running VMware so be sure to factor that into your budget.

Who is complaining?

I could write the rest of this blog on this topic alone; around the right and wrong of Oracle’s licensing methods in VMware environments but I’ll defer to the thousands already available on this very topic.  This is not the reason I am writing this blog but to call out the self-serving and irresponsible Call-to-Action from House of Bricks and leader of a major CI player; VCE and to discuss why Oracle has no incentive to stop doing what they are doing.

Chad Sakac, the President of VCE which is the the Converged Infrastructure (CI) arm of EMC and soon Dell as the acquisition of EMC should be complete any day.  He is a regular blogger and in my opinion a master of marketing, technology & motivation.  On August 17, 2016 Chad wrote a blog titled “Oracle, I’m sad about you, disappointed in you, and frustrated with you.” in which he lays out how Intel server customers running Oracle Enterprise products, most often Oracle Enterprise Edition Database, are fed-up with Oracle’s abusive licensing tactics when Oracle Enterprise Edition products are installed and running in VMware.  He passionately pleads years of Oracle licensing frustration on behalf of clients while challenging clients to stand up to Oracle and not let them be bullied anymore.  He admits to selfishly partnering with House of Bricks (HoB), a VCE partner by funding their analysis on this situation.  HoB has been a leading voice in this fight in there own right so receiving compensation from VCE check was the proverbial icing on the cake IMHO as they were fighting the fight anyway.  What is VCE’s angle? They either have, or are losing  business due to clients fear of running Oracle workloads using VMware vSphere & vCenter.  There must be enough business at stake or EMC / VCE is desperate enough (not being critical here, just observing) to force them down this path to take such a in your face approach to Oracle.

House of Bricks, who is VCE’s partner and author of the whitepaper had a generally fair and moderated tone throughout the whitepaper.  That said, I do find they are irresponsible by encouraging VMware customers who are running  Oracle Enterprise Edition products licensed by core/processor (not socket or NUP) to run in configurations which are in direct conflict with Oracle’s standard licensing practices.  I’m not arguing the merits, fairness or legality of those licensing practices so save your comments.

Fight Mr Customer So We Can Sell You More!

Simply stated, Chad Sakac, the President of VCE and House of Bricks are actively encouraging system administrators, DBA’s and IT organizations to not only defend your use of Oracle Enterprise products in VMware environments, VMware clusters and VMware environments managed under vCenter but also to license Intel servers using sub-capacity licensing, using the BIOS to limit access to sockets or cores, only license the cores being used by Oracle.  Do these things and stand up to Oracle.  Do it for you….do it for us….just do it!  Of course, VCE funded the HoB paper but they won’t be funding your legal case (or bills) with Oracle.  All of this “encouragement” while at the same time promoting EMC / VMware / VCE products in lieu of traditional Oracle availability & replication products seems a little disingenuous…maybe….why not just keep your argument on the complaint of Oracle licensing with VMware?.  But instead, among many “do this instead of that” statements such as liminating Oracle RAC and use VMware HA and consider EMC RecoverPoint / SRDF in lieu of Oracle Active Data Guard (ADG).

Multiple agenda’s

Much of the HoB whitepaper feels like a marketing slick for EMC / VCE products. Then to have Chad be the front man out front crying on behalf of all customers seems a little too self-serving.

My Good Buddy Larry

Now back to Oracle….everybody knows I am NO Oracle fan.  A good day is any day I beat Oracle (anybody beats Oracle) or reduces their revenue.  But, with regard to Oracle’s practices on how they license their Enterprise products in a VMware environment, they have ZERO (0) motivation to loosen their licensing rules given Intel’s continued growth in the marketplace – Oracle is in the drivers seat!  Oracle wants customers to buy infrastructure from them running OracleVM with Oracle Linux hosting the Oracle software stack.  Oracle receives ALL of the Sales & Support dollars this way.  In addition to this, Oracle is predisposed to litigate.  Larry likes to fight!  HP and now HPE, SAP, Google (2 suits, going to a 3rd), Rimini Street, Oregon Healthcare, Mars and many more.  The Oracle v Mars case is a recent example of how Oracle goes after customers using their License Management Service (LMS) group to drive license revenue thru audits.  “Mars stated that Oracle was unwilling to “come to a mutually agreeable process” for completing an audit. Oracle then sent Mars a letter stating Mars had materially breached its license agreement”.  The greatest leverage clients have is to move off of Oracle products (hardware & software) to alternative solutions; specifically database variants such as IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server or Open Source alternative PostgreSQL from EnterpriseDB not to mention the many NoSQL alternatives that probably do a far better job.


If VCE really wanted to partner with an enterprise quality commercial-grade database technology to help clients run VMware with sub-capacity licensing for just the servers where the workloads are running and find an alternative to Oracle, they should look at IBM’s DB2 . DB2 is available in multiple editions from a free edition to Advanced Enterprise Server Edition.  What makes it different and better than both Oracle or SQL Server is that AESE, for example, includes many of the products & features that a client desires of Oracle Enterprise Edition products yet have to pay for À la carte.  DB2’s AESE cost $56,210 (list price for 70 PVU) per license which would match up against the Oracle Enterprise Edition portfolio which when you add up those products cost over $225K (Note: DB2 ESE is a level down from AESE, cost less and probably meets 90% of the customers requirements so the story just gets better).  DB2 always includes its first year of maintenance then 20% each year thereafter while Oracle always charges 22% for the first year then 22% each year thereafter.  Of course, DB2 runs 2X faster with Linux on POWER vs Intel. Clients can try it out for free in SoftLayer for 30 days running Linux on a OpenPOWER server.  Since LoP isn’t the topic of this blog, I’ll save that for another day but know that at least both Intel with VMware and IBM POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing with virtualization.


I didn’t write this blog to be a shill for IBM’s DB2 either, it just came to me as I was reading the HoB paper as it felt like they were trying to slyly present SQL Server as a more agreeable alternative to Oracle – maybe they are … either way thought I would mention DB2 for some balance.

There is ONE Platform …

At the end of the day, clients have a choice if they run Oracle products such as PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Oracle Apps, Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) or standalone Oracle Enterprise products like Database, RAC, WebLogic and many others.  Clients can run Oracle on Intel with VMware then surely deal with the risk and issues discussed by Chad and House of Bricks OR clients could run Oracle on the only platform which controls Oracle licensing without all of the consternation, debate and angst; IBM POWER servers running AIX.  For those who have read this far and were begging to say “But POWER servers have a core license factor 2X of  Intel so they cost twice as much”.  Enough please! I may hire House of Bricks to write a paper to put an end to this FUD, myth and farce. With POWER8 outperforming Intel servers generally around 2X per core it eliminates this argument right here. But, since we are talking about licensing a product at the core level it is important to remember that POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing natively, without debate from Oracle.  Last and most importantly, IBM’s Power Hypervisor suite, called PowerVM manages the compute resources more efficiently where it scales the 2X performance per core advantage typically increasing it up to 4X, 8X, 12X, even 20X (your mileage will vary).  This isn’t a performance advantage as much as it is an efficiency statement.  I call it the “Total Cost of Efficiency” as it takes into account the TCA, Performance advantage & Hypervisor efficiency and depending on the discussion, years 2-5 maintenance which is TCO.  I have personally sized, architected and delivered these solutions to customers who have in turn realized these very savings.

Now the Call-to-Action!

If you believe VMware & Intel are a critical part of your business identity that make your products better then continue using them with your Oracle products. You will pay more (compared to POWER) due to lower performance & less efficiency and pay the Oracle tax.  If you view IT as an enabler to your bottom line and use the right tool for the job then give me a call as I can help you as I have helped dozens of others save $100K’s to $M’s with IBM server technology.   Oh, and for those last few sharpshooters who want to remark that IBM servers are more expensive go ahead and save your comment.  First, I’ll shut you down by comparing a proper IBM server with the class of Intel server that you present me.  Next, we won’t go the 1 for 1 server route. As I recently showed a customer a reduction of 24 x Dell servers with 596 cores or 298 Oracle licenses to 7 x POWER8 servers with 168 cores and Oracle Licenses. My 7 servers are far less expensive than your 24 servers  not to mention the infrastructure required to support it (power cables, LAN/SAN cables, switch ports, cooling, etc). What makes me different is I show you how it’s possible to save  significant money running Oracle on IBM servers. What makes Ciber different is we have an Oracle consulting practice to help you implement, migrate or optimize your environment.

Will a Dell acquisition of EMC be another HP-Compaq disaster?

There is a feeding frenzy on the M&A speculation regarding Dell buying EMC.  How much will it cost, who is impacted and how big of an impact it will be?  Although the speculation is interesting, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is “What’s going on at EMC” to warrant this.

Working  in IT sales, I work and compete with EMC and their partner organizations; primarily VCE and VMware and their recently divorced partner, Cisco.  Following EMC and VMware at their respective vendor conferences; EMC World and VMworld they have an extremely large and dedicated following.  EMC sellers are some of the most aggressive and by extension successful compared to vendors.  I personally follow many of their technologist on social media reading their blogs and tweets – I view them as a very formidable competitor and occasional partner (even though I am not EMC’s biggest fan).

Why does a company whose products and partnerships are either #1 or leading in their respective areas desperate to find a company to acquire or possibly merge with them? It was shocking to hear HP’s name mentioned over a year ago.  They are an absolute train wreck as we now see.  If I was an EMC company officer or board member, I would not want to see my company consumed by the likes of HP.  Cisco makes sense but I don’t know how deep the recent divorce and hurt feeling goes.  Lenovo doesn’t make sense, nor Hitachi.  Fujitsu….well, they have their Oracle relationship and they seem content to with who and what they are? What about Oracle….EMC as a company has its own ego, I don’t think Larry’s ego and EMC’s ego would mesh. Although, Oracle’s storage is abysmal and this would elevate them to the leaders quadrant immediately. Maybe that would give Oracle the needed reason to finally kill off SPARC given its unending failures. How about IBM? Frankly, they have a great storage portfolio, they simply do not have comparable storage sellers to EMC. EMC’s software would fall into IBM’s vast portfolio then either rise to the top or fade into oblivion. I could see this making sense for IBM but don’t know if IBM has the stomach to ingest a company with such a different culture.  From Dell’s perspective, an EMC acquisition makes sense.  I see them having their most success in the SMB and academic markets then probably state and local governments.  At least in the US with corporate America, Dell is not a respected enterprise brand.  Buying EMC would give them immediate credibility, access to many customers data centers they are not in today.  They would have to decide what to do with their Compellent and EqualLogic products. I would probably keep the EqualLogic product family as it seems to service their low end SMB space, a space that I don’t think EMC cares much about.  Sell Compellent to get cash for the investments made as well as to strengthen the books.

From EMC’s perspective, they would be acquired by a company known for inexpensive laptops and decent desktops (How’s that market doing these days?) and reselling Lexmark printers (who makes them now?).  Only in the last couple of years do I occasionally hear Compellent’s name being mentioned and it is usually to smaller shops with lots of VMware….let’s say shops that aren’t very sophisticated. Their is still a relationship with Cisco both with EMC to Cisco but also with vBlocks.  VMware has their EVO:Rail and Dell has their partnership with Nutanix.  Lastly, their is VMware.  Here’s the irony of what is going on: Some people want EMC to spin off VMware while others want EMC to keep them to strengthen and shore up the Federation.  If the stories are right, Dell would buy EMC then sell off VMware to reclaim much of its acquisition cost.

We will  soon see if there is any truth to the rumors about Dell acquiring EMC. if they are true, will this be a repeat of what happened to HP after merging with Compaq (HPQ after all)?  They failed to integrate the many technologies and companies over two decades.  Some cost a fortune and often the cultures were vastly different.  HP is different from both Dell and EMC in that they made one bad M&A decision after another.  DEC, Tandem, Compaq, Autonomy, 3PAR, 3COM and Palm (just from memory).

Maybe a Dell acquisition of EMC makes sense but it will take a couple of years to see what products survive and what doesn’t. This of course will be disconcerting to customers who have invested in their respective technologies. IBM was often the source of FUD attacks claiming the end of every one of their businesses as well.  It is my contention that is how they have made it to 100+ years.  I hope we will hear someday what was really going on at EMC to warrant their ongoing search for a suitor.  The last mega merger of a commodity company to a enterprise company didn’t turn out so well: HPQ!