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.
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).
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.