Infrastructure at your Service

Grégory Steulet

All you need to know about Oracle Database licensing with VMware

You are running Oracle on VMware and are not 100% sure that you are compliant with the Oracle licensing rules? This article is for you! As I have been confronted several times with Oracle License reviews with VMware installations, I decided to write this article in order to provide answers to the most frequent questions I have received from customers.


Licensing is not an easy topic to address and this difficulty is not specific to Oracle. Additionally, this difficulty increases with the number of different software editors and the related software policy you have to manage as a License Manager, IT manager or CTO. In this article, I will focus on Oracle licensing and more specifically on a very frequent use case: Oracle Database installed on a VMware ESX infrastructure. Indeed, there is really few information about this topic in Oracle’s documentation and a simple mistake in your setup can easily cost you up to a million dollars. Lots of the information provided in this article originates from the Oracle Software Investment Guide. However, the very first element to read is the Terms and Conditions specified in your Oracle contracts.


Oracle on VMware: supported, but not certified

Before diving into the Oracle licensing questions, the very first thing you have to know about any Oracle product, not only the Oracle Database, is that there is no Oracle product certified on a VMware architecture. However, all Oracle products are supported on VMware infrastructure. What does this mean, supported, but not certified? Oracle does not guarantee the proper working of these products on VMware architecture, but will support you in case of incidents not related to the VMware infrastructure. In cases where the VMware could be involved, the Oracle support may ask you to reproduce the incident on a certified environment. Below, you will find an extract of the Oracle Support Doc ID 249212.1.:

Oracle Support will assist customers running Oracle products on VMware in the following manner: Oracle will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS, or can be demonstrated not to be as a result of running on VMware. If a problem is a known Oracle issue, Oracle support will recommend the appropriate solution on the native OS.  If that solution does not work in the VMware virtualized environment, the customer will be referred to VMware for support.   When the customer can demonstrate that the Oracle solution
does not work when running on the native OS, Oracle will resume support, including logging a bug with Oracle Development for investigation if required.If the problem is determined not to be a known Oracle issue, we will refer the customer to VMware for support.   When the customer can demonstrate that the issue occurs when running on the native OS, Oracle will resume support, including logging a bug with Oracle Development for investigation if required. 1

1 My Oracle Support (2014), Support Position for Oracle Products Running on VMWare Virtualized Environments

Crash course on Oracle licensing terminology

Since explaining the subtleties of Oracle licensing without sharing some insight about the Oracle licensing terminology is very difficult, I will give you some explanation about the most common and basic Oracle licensing terms.
Oracle products are freely available for download on the Oracle website. However, before using it, you need to agree with the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) Developer License Terms. You can find an extract of the LICENSE RIGHTS Chapter below:

We grant you a nonexclusive, nontransferable limited license to use the programs only for the purpose of developing, testing, prototyping and demonstrating your application, and not for any other purpose. If you use the application you develop under this license for any internal data processing or for any commercial or production purposes, or you want to use the programs for any purpose other than as permitted under this agreement, you must obtain a production release version of the program by contacting us or an Oracle reseller to obtain the appropriate license. You acknowledge that we may not produce a production release version of the program and any development efforts undertaken by you are at your own risk. We may audit your use of the programs1.

1 Oracle (2014), Oracle Technology Network Developer License Terms


A license according to Oracle definition is “the non-exclusive and limited right to use Oracle software under the agreed terms and conditions”. The overarching license rights are described in the Oracle Master Agreement(OMA) and the rights regarding specific products and services are described in the Ordering Document. Specifically, the OMA is the agreement that details the standard rights granted, ownership, restrictions, warranties, disclaimers, confidentialities, etc. The Ordering Document describes the specific products, types of licenses, number of users, level of support, and discounts (if applicable) a customer has ordered and will receive.

In order to quantify and measure the way customers are using Oracle software, Oracle has introduced the notion of License Metric. According to Oracle the “License Metric determines how the usage is being measured, when Oracle licenses its software to a customer” . For the technology related products (i.e. Oracle Database, Application Server products, Business Intelligence Technology products, Identity Management Products, etc.) Oracle uses two metrics:
a. Processor

b. NUP (Named User Plus)

The Processor License Metric is based on the number of processor cores in the Enterprise Edition or Sockets in the Standard Edition and the Standard Edition One, in the server where the Database or Middleware product is installed and/or running. This metric is used where users are uncountable (i.e. website) or when the number of users changes frequently. It is important to notice that all processors have to be licensed even if one of them is deactivated in the BIOS. In the case of the Enterprise Edition, customers have to count the number of cores multiplied by the core factor in order to determine the number of Oracle processor cores. The core factor determines the coefficient used depending on the processor type. This core factor is defined in the core factor table provided by Oracle at the following address:

Vendor and Processor

Core Processor Licensing Factor

Sun and Fujitsu UltraSPARC T1 processor (1.0 or 1.2 GHz) Only named servers including:

Sun Fire T1000 Server, SPARC Enterprise T1000 Server*, with 6 or 8-core 1.0 GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor

Sun Fire T2000 Server, SPARC Enterprise T2000 Server*, with 4, 6, or 8-core 1.0 GHz, or 8 core 1.2 GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor


Sun Netra T2000, 1.0 or 1.2 GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor


S PARC T3 processor


Sun and Fujitsu UltraSPARC T1 1.4 GHz

Only named servers including:

Sun Fire T2000 Server and SPARC Enterprise T2000 Server*, with 8-core,

1.4 GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor


A MD Opteron Models 13XX, 23XX, 24XX, 32XX, 41XX, 42XX, 43XX,

61XX, 62XX, 63XX, 83XX, 84XX or earlier Multicore chips


Intel Xeon Series 56XX, Series 65XX, Series 75XX, Series E7-28XX, E7-28XX v2, Series E7-48XX, E7-48XX v2, Series E7-88XX, E7-88XX v2, Series E5-24XX, Series E5-26XX, E5-26XX v2, Series E5-46XX, E5-46XX v2, Series E5-16XX, Series E3-12XX or earlier Multicore chips


Intel Itanium Series 93XX or earlier Multicore chips (For servers purchased prior to Dec 1st, 2010)


Intel or AMD Desktop, Laptop/Notebook, or Netbook Multicore chips


Sun UltraSPARC T2+






SPARC T4 processor








Sun and Fujitsu SPARC64 VI, VII


Sun UltraSPARC IV, IV+, or earlier Multicore chips


Sun UltraSPARC T2




IBM POWER5+ or earlier Multicore chips


All Single Core Chips


Intel Itanium Series 93XX (For servers purchased on or after Dec 1st, 2010)

Intel Itanium Series 95XX








IBM System z (z10 and earlier)


All Other Multicore chips


* SPARC Enterprise T1000 and SPARC Enterprise T2000 Servers may be sold and branded

by Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu or Fujitsu Siemens

Let’s take a simple example in order to demonstrate the calculation method.  An Oracle customer runs several Oracle Enterprise Edition Databases on one server equipped with two sockets. Each socket is equipped with an Intel XEON X7560 8 cores processor. The usual Intel core factor is 0.5 (c.f. core factor table). The customer has to license 2 sockets x 8 cores x 0.5 core factor = 8 Oracle processors. If this customer is running the same databases on a Standard Edition or a Standard Edition One, he has to license two Oracle processors since two sockets are occupied.
The NUP Metric is based on users and non-human operated devices accessing the database. This metric is usually used when users can be counted. Customers using this metrics have to license either the number of NUP accessing the Oracle software or the minimum NUP – whichever NUP is higher. The calculation rule for the minimum NUP customers have to license is 25 NUP per Oracle Processor for the Enterprise Edition and 5 NUP for the Standard Edition and the Standard Edition One. Please note that the number of NUP for the Standard Edition and the Standard Edition One is only 5, since the minima in the Standard Edition and the Standard Edition One is not related to the number of processor license.
Let’s come back to the example in the processor section: For the same architecture, the minimum Named User Plus this customer has to license according to the minima rules would be 8 Oracle Processor  x 25 = 200 NUP on an Oracle Enterprise Edition and 5 on an Oracle Standard Edition and Standard Edition One.
The same rules described above regarding the Enterprise Edition apply for the Enterprise Edition Options.

Differences between the different Oracle Database Editions

The main differences between the different Oracle Database Editions are:

  • Oracle Database Enterprise Edition has no license restrictions. This is the only edition that allows licensing Database options (e.g. Partitioning, OLAP, Data Mining, Spatial, Enterprise Management Pack, etc.). In addition, Oracle Database Enterprise includes an additional set of features that are not present in other editions (e.g. Data Guard, Transportable Tablespace, Materialized View Query Rewrite, Cross-Platform Backup, Flashback Table, Database, Transaction Query, etc.). In addition this edition is the only one allowed to be monitored by Grid Control or Cloud Control.
  • Oracle Database Standard Edition can only be licensed on servers that have a maximum capacity of 4 sockets. This edition encompasses Real Application Cluster, however, the addition of sockets into the cluster nodes cannot be superior to 4. The maximum number of CPUs defined is meant for the entire Real Application Cluster infrastructure; it is not a per node maximum.
  • Oracle Database Standard Edition One may only be licensed on servers that have a maximum capacity of 2 sockets. Unlike the Standard Edition, the Standard Edition One does not include Real Application Cluster. In addition, unlike the Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition, the Standard Edition One does not include Automatic Workload Management.
  • Oracle Database Express Edition (XE) can be installed on any size of host machine with any number of CPUs (one database per machine), but XE will store up to 11GB of user data, uses up to 1GB of memory and one CPU on the host machine. Many features integrated in other edition are not present in the Express Edition.

An exhaustive list of differences is provided on the following URL:

Hard and soft server partitioning

According to Oracle’s definition (cf. Oracle Partitioning Policy): “Partitioning occurs when the CPUs on a server are separated into individual sections where each section acts as a separate system. Sometimes this is called “segmenting.” There are several hardware and software virtualization technologies available that deliver partitioning capabilities, with varying degree of resource allocation flexibility.”
A partitioning strategy is more and more frequently used by customers. The underlying technologies and products aim to achieve several goals such as:

  • Workload balancing by allocating more or less CPU power to specific systems
  • Architecture consolidation by running multiple and different operating systems or multiple versions of the same operating system on the same physical server in order to optimize the resource usage
  • The deployment of economic models such as “Pay-As-You-Grow” and “Capacity on Demand”

Oracle distinguishes two main types of partitioning:

1. Soft partitioning

Soft partitioning is defined by Oracle as a flexible way to segment the operating system using OS resource managers, since the CPU capacity allocated to the operating system running an Oracle database can be changed fairly easily. Examples of such partitioning types include (non-exhaustive list): Solaris 9 Resource Containers, AIX workload Manager, Oracle VM, and VMware.
The key message regarding soft partitioning is: “soft partitioning is not permitted as a means to determine or limit the number of software licenses required for any given server.”
In other terms, customers using such soft partitioning technologies have to license the totality of cores or sockets of the physical systems.

2. Hard partitioning

Hard partitioning is defined by Oracle as “a way to physically segment a server, by taking a single large server and separating it into distinct smaller systems. Each separated system acts as a physically independent, self-contained server, typically with its own CPUs, operating system, separate boot area, memory, input/output subsystem and network resources.”
Oracle approved hard partitioning technologies as listed in this section of the policy document. They are permitted as a means to limit the number of software licenses required for any given server or a cluster of servers. Approved hard partitioning technologies include: Dynamic System Domains (DSD) — enabled by Dynamic Reconfiguration (DR), Solaris Zones (also known as Solaris Containers, capped Zones/Containers only), LPAR (adds DLPAR with AIX 5.2), Micro-Partitions (capped partitions only),vPar, nPar, Integrity Virtual Machine (capped partitions only), Secure Resource Partitions (capped partitions only), Fujitsu’s PPAR.

Oracle VM Server can be used as a hard partitioning technology if customer bind vCPUs to physical CPU threads or cores as explained in the following paper:

Licensing of VMware on Oracle

As described in the soft partitioning chapter, VMware is considered by Oracle as a soft partitioning technology.
Some white papers provided by VMware such as the one named “Understanding Oracle Certification, Support and Licensing for VMware Environments”  state that it is possible to partially license cluster using DRS Host Affinity.
This document has never been approved by Oracle and you won’t find anything about such statements in the Oracle documentation, the Oracle licensing terms, or in the Oracle support. Oracle does not allow to partially license an ESX cluster using DRS technology. Up to VMware 5.0, customers running a virtual machine with Oracle installed had to fully license the physical hosts composing the VMware cluster. Since VMware 5.1, if only one Virtual Machine is running Oracle managed within a vCenter Server Instance, you have to fully license all the physical hosts managed by this vCenter Server instance and not only the cluster instances. This decision has probably been taken by Oracle due to the new features coming with VMware vSphere 5.1, particularly one named vSphere vMotion: This new feature leverages the advantages of vMotion (zero-downtime migration) without the need for shared storage configurations. Indeed, this new vMotion capability applies to the entire network.
In addition, in order to license only the vCenter Server Instance (or the cluster up to VMware 5.0) where Oracle products are running, you have to dedicate a separate physical storage to this vCenter (or cluster up to VMware 5.0). Virtual storage separations such as Vplex technology or dedicated LUN are not considered as a physical separation.
Regarding Oracle Standard Edition, it can be licensed if each individual physical server on the vCenter Server instance does not exceed the maximum capacity of 4 sockets. Oracle Standard Edition One can also be licensed if the maximum capacity of each individual physical server in the vCenter Server Instance does not exceed 2 sockets.

Practical case

In the example illustrated in Figure 1Figure 1: Customer VMware 5.1 architecture a customer has a VMware infrastructure of version 5.1 with two servers in a cluster and a third separated server. All servers are managed by the same Vcenter Server Instance.

  • The servers in the cluster are equipped with two Intel Xeon with 8 cores each. The third server is equipped with one Intel Xeon with 4 cores.
  • Each server on the cluster hosts two Virtual Machines. 8 cores are allocated to each Virtual Machine. The third server has only one Virtual Machine with 4 dedicated cores.
  • Oracle Database Enterprise Edition is installed on one Virtual Machine on the cluster (VM1). This VM can only run on server1. The database is used by 300 users.

In this example, the following restrictions apply:

  • VMware is counted as soft partitioning and therefore any dedication or restriction of the Oracle programs using it is considered as soft partitioning and hence you will still need to license the whole environment.

  • Since no physical server has more than two sockets, Oracle Standard Edition or the Enterprise Edition One can be licensed.

  • Oracle will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS or can be proven not to be a result of running on VMware.

The customer will have to purchase:

  • 450 (36 cores x 0.5 core factor x 25) Named User Plus in Enterprise Edition in order to respect the minima rules.

  • Alternatively, the customer can acquire 18 (36 cores X 0.5 Intel core factor) Oracle Processor of Oracle Enterprise Edition.

Architecture solutions

Taking into consideration the facts described in the preceding section, what are the possible solutions in order to be compliant with Oracle licensing terms and conditions? Below, you can find a non-exhaustive list of solutions. I voluntary decided to mostly focus on Oracle propositions:

1. Dedicating and licensing a new VMware vCenter Server Instance to Oracle products with a separated physical storage for Oracle in order to limit the Oracle license footprint to this specific vCenter Server Instance. This solution can be interesting if your company strategy is to install VMware systematically as an “under layer” for each system. The cost of this solution mostly depends on the chosen storage system.

2. Consolidation on a physical host. It is indeed perfectly possible to run several Oracle products of different version on the same physical host. Of course, this solution is not the most flexible, but will cost you close to nothing in terms of license. However, it will be mandatory to migrate all your Oracle products running on Virtual Machine to a physical server and this can be time consuming and tedious. The price of this solution mainly depends on the chosen physical server.

3. Using a hard partitioning technology such as the one presented in the chapter “hard partitioning”. The price and time needed to migrate from VMware to another system varies greatly from one system to another depending on the chosen hard partitioning technology. For instance, Oracle VM (in hard partitioning mode) is capable of loading both VMware and Hyper-V Virtual Machines and converting them automatically to an Oracle VM. An Oracle VM with a one year support will cost you 599 dollars per server with a maximum of 2 CPUs or 1’199 dollars per server with any number of CPUs1. This solution also offers the advantage to rapidly deploy the application via the Oracle VM preconfigured templates.

4. Switching on an Oracle Appliance such as the Oracle Database Appliance (ODA): Indeed, this appliance can be installed in a bare metal or in a virtualized mode. One of the advantages of this technology is that you can license a minimum of 2 cores per node (a total of 4 cores) in a virtualized mode and you can activate up to 48 cores (with increment by 2)! Nowadays, finding a solution of two servers with only 4 overall cores, meaning two Oracle Processor Licenses, is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, one drawback is that you cannot license the Standard Edition on this box. A license revalorization is however frequently possible, which means you do not have to pay the full conversion price from the Standard Edition to the Enterprise Edition. Finally, Oracle Database Appliance will offer you a simple and highly available solution. The price of this appliance according to Oracle’s Engineered Systems price list is 60’000 dollars.2

2 Oracle (2014), Oracle Engineered System Price List

5. Using the Server Trusting Partitioning mode. Oracle provides a relatively new third server partitioning mode. It allows the use of Oracle VM Server (OVM) as a means to limit the number of Oracle Processor licenses required in order to license a sub-capacity of total physical cores without the drawback of OVM in hard partitioning mode. This server partitioning mode is named: Trusted partitioning. The usage conditions of trusted server partitioning are the following:

  1. Using an approved Engineered System (such as Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Exalytics In-Memory Machine, or Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance – OVCA)
  2. Using an Oracle Enterprise Manager or higher (either in connected or disconnected mode) to monitor VMs participating in Oracle Trusted Partitions
Customers will get the following advantages when running OVCA with trusted partitioning:
  • You do not have to license the totality of cores: Only used physical cores have to be licensed.

  • On an OVCA, two Virtual CPUs (vCPU) are counted as equivalent to a physical core. For instance, licensing 4 Oracle processors enables you to use 8 physical cores and 16 vCPUs.

  • Licenses are procured in increments of 2 physical cores (1 Oracle Processor), which provide a high level of flexibility.

  • On an OVCA, you can run a Standard Edition, which is not possible on an ODA. Thanks to Oracle Virtualization, you can even run other RDBMS, such as Microsoft SQL Server on Windows, for instance.

  • Even if this appliance is an important investment in terms of capital expenditure, such a solution could drastically reduce your operational expenditures.


Running Oracle products on VMware offers flexibility advantages. However, if you do not have a deep knowledge of Oracle licensing rules, it can expose you to high financial risks. In addition, the probability of facing a license control is quite high: In French-speaking Switzerland alone, there are more than 20 Oracle LMS (License Management Services) audits each year.

The core message of this article is not to switch from VMware to another solution. However, if you have any uncertainty, you should ask an Oracle LMS or Oracle sales specialist before designing your Oracle architecture. Of course, dbi services can also help you maintaining your Oracle licenses either through our SLA or through periodic reviews.

You can find in the blog named Oracle Licensing (R)evolution the last experiences I encountered in terms of Oracle Licensing Audit.


  • Jeff Browning says:

    To say that you are misinformed would be an understatement. Folks like House of Brick are making a lot of money figuring out how to help the customer pay less licensing fees in a virtualized context. Your post plays right into the Oracle position. I would say that the likelihood that you will get hired to help out with Oracle licensing for a customer with VMware: Rather remote!

  • Greg says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your message. I don’t know if it can convince you regarding the accuracy of this blog. However I’m License Management Service (LMS) qualified auditor and this blog have been reviewed by Oracle LMS team. Therefore there is no possible doubt about the accuracy of the information provided through this blog. If you need additional information regarding Oracle licensing feel free to ask!

  • Christian says:

    thanks for the very good article. You write to Oracle XE “one database per machine”. If I have a VMware cluster of 2 hosts, can I run an Oracle XE database only per cluster host, or per virtual machine? Can I use “Oracle XE databases” on a VMware cluster on multiple virtual machines?
    Many Thanks!

  • Anton Ivanovitch says:

    Hi Greg,

    as Jeff I am kind of sceptical when it comes to this article. You are right though that everything you wrote is in compliance with Oracle LMS. But when you have a look at the VMware white paper you mentioned, the House of Brick Blog Jeff mentioned or other articles discussing this specific topic you will notice that those usually have got one argument in common. They say that many official LMS statements concerning licensing in virtual environments are lacking contractual backup. And as a customer I only feel obligated to what is in my contract – not to out-of-contract statements even if they come from official representatives.


  • Hi Christian,

    According to Oracle XE documentation (

    “Only one installation of Oracle Database XE can be performed on a single computer. This does not affect any existing installation or new installations of Oracle Database 11g Standard Edition, Oracle Database 11g Standard Edition One, or Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition. In addition, users can run only one instance of the Oracle Database XE database on each individual computer. To run more than one Oracle Database server instance or install more than one copy of the database software, upgrade to Oracle Database 11g Standard Edition, Oracle Database 11g Standard Edition One, or Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition.” Which means that you can install only one copy of the database software per physical machine.

    • Claude D says:

      I’m not convinced by your answer… In my understanding, a single computer could represent a virtual instance on a physical machine, no ?

      Perhaps is it possible to install one Oracle XE instance per VM ? (on a same esx)

      Has anyone performed the test ?

  • Gregory Steulet says:

    Hi Anton,

    It is a very interesting point. I have to admit that I do not have any legal knowledge, I’m neither a jurist or a lawyer. I did my best to stay only informative and factual in this blog, I didn’t give any opinion or prediction. The purpose of this article is not to say whether the Oracle Licensing policy is fair or legal. The aim of this article is to inform or prevent customers about what Oracle will say if there are doing an LMS audit in a VMware environment. I do not have the necessary skills to estimate the outcome of a trial on the issue and I’ve no experience of such a case.

    The fact is that if customers are running Oracle on VMware they better have to be informed about what I mention in this blog. Personally I prefer to avoid a trial rather than to win a trial.

  • Pierre says:

    Personnally, I’d rather pay only what I owe under my contractual obligations, than give away money just in case, especially when we are talking about hundred thousand of euro/dollars.

  • Pierre says:

    Two last points:
    – what documents do you base your assumptions ?
    – If you are not a jurist or a lawyer, why do you offer counsel on contractual matters between Oracle and its clients ?

  • Hi Pierre,

    Thanks for your comments and questions. In this blog I do not make any assumptions regarding VMware licensing.

    It is not needed to be a jurist or a lawyer to relate rules and facts. It is necessary to have these skills in order to decide if these rules and conditions are legal/fair or not. If you read my blog carefully, you will see that I do not take position regarding any legal aspect. In addition, legal aspects can probably vary depending on customer’s country.

    As LMS Qualified auditor I relate facts and rules that I encountered. Rules that have been crosschecked by Oracle LMS and facts encountered for each LMS audit.

    These rules are based on contractual and non contractual documents (educational purposes) such as:

    – The TOMA where you can found the License Definition and Rules
    – Oracle Partitioning Policy where you can found the hard and soft partitioning definition
    – OTN License Agreements
    – Customer contract
    – The Oracle Technology Global Price List which includes several definition such as the Processor definition

    Finally I’d say that everybody is free to trust or not in what is written in this blog. The aim of this one is only to inform people about bad experiences I did as an LMS auditor and to prevent cases where we are “talking about hundred thousand of euro/dollars”

  • Pierre says:

    I am aware of all these documents. Which leads to the following comment:
    – Customers are required to license all servers where Oracle is installed and/or runnning (as per SIG).
    – All physical core of a single ESX server hosting a VM running Oracle must be fully licensed, since Vmware technology is not recognized a as valid soft partioning technology.
    We are in total agreement on these points, but once these pre-requisites are satisfied, Oracle has no say in how they are satisfied.

    That’s why I asked on what ground you claim that “Oracle does not allow to partially license an ESX cluster using DRS technology” or “Since VMware 5.1, if only one Virtual Machine is running Oracle managed within a vCenter Server Instance” since AFAIK the terms DRS (in Vmware sense of the term) or VCenter are not mentionned in any Oracle literature such as the documents you mention for example.
    The argument is even more surprizing concerning VCenter since it’s a administration console, that controls potentially dozens of cluster on dozens of physical sites accross the world. Would that mean that if single Oracle VM was deployed in Europe for large bank, it would have to license 800 ESXi accross the world ?
    I guess that even Oracle would not be as bold as to make such claims to its customers….

    • Chris says:


      You are being too hard on the man. The article is very factual and to the point. If you play, then you must pay. However, the oracle position goes a step further than you let on, in that you need to license every node in the cluster. Do you have 800 ESX nodes globally? First, i’d questions that design, but yes, they expect you to pay for every core across the glob in every one of the 800 ESX servers you have in the same VMware cluster where the single oracle vm resides. However, if you limit where the vm can run within the cluster, ie 1 or 2 nodes via affinity rules, then you are putting yourself in a defensible position. You can prove that you only “installed/ and or ran” the db on 1-2 nodes via logs. LMS would have to prove that you didn’t, and the scope was larger.

  • Anton Ivanovitch says:

    Hi Lomar,

    you should ask Oracle where the statement you quoted can be found in your contract. Insist on this. I wouldn’t pay if they can’t. You can also find additional Information on this specific topic in a very good article on longwhiteclouds (Oracle FUD – The Phantom Menace).


  • Hi Anton,

    The article you mentionned is really interesting. The author point out on one of the core of the issue. The processor definition. “Standard Oracle contracts require that customers license all processors where Oracle is installed and/or running”.

    According to Oracle you can, could or might execute Oracle on any VM of the vCenter Server Instance and have to pay according to the number of cores included in vCenter Server Instance.

    Is it correct from a legal point of view? I’ve to admit that I’ve no idea. But for sure I won’t go for such a solution knowing the potential legal issues I could encounter.

  • Andy says:

    I am in a similar position to Lomar, having just received a report from a recent Oracle audit and with Oracle now demanding I license all hosts in my VMware clusters.

    Lomar: I’d be very interested to know you got on with Oracle. Did you manage to push back or come to some sort of compromise?

  • Ashok Singh says:

    If I am using only 4 threads out of 8 threads available on a core using dedicated or capped CPUs, how OracleDB Enterprise license will be computed?

  • Jaime says:

    Hi Greg, great article. Very clear way to explain all the rules. I was looking to give an example about this soft/hard partitioning thing and you made my day easier.

  • Brett Murphy says:

    I’ve had a couple of discussions internal to my company and in various social media sites on this topic. To the person, those with a interest in the x86 & VMware industry take the liberal approach with Oracle licensing stating the scope is more narrow than you articulate. I agree with your analysis and want to state that Oracle has little interest or motivation to support a narrow interpretation. They love scale-out servers with as many (more cores with each core less powerful than the previous generation) cores as possible as they sell more and more new licenses. Use VMware then pay the Piper. Want to use bare metal with fewer cores, fine but you will probably have more servers thus more cores and more licenses. Oracle wins no matter what. The only option for customers to lower (at least their perception) their Oracle licenses on x86 as I see it is what Oracle has done with their Exadata X5 products where they have introduced hard partitioning concepts to reduce x86 licenses that other x86 vendors cannot take advantage with. This, combined with the shifting of DB server licenses to Storage licenses (I think they charge $20K per drive – ouch) which offload a portion of the DB workload will make Exa products look more appealing – again, Oracle wins. The only option for customers running Oracle to control software licensing is with IBM’s Power servers; both in terms of performance, high utilization rates & options to license just the cores required. With Power8 servers offering price competitive options to x86 the argument that RISC is expensive is no longer the case. There are still large RISC servers who need mainframe like features. For those customers using x86 have already decided Good Enough ‘commodity’ is good enough but don’t want the software cost penalty of running Oracle on x86 can dramatically lower their Oracle licenses with Power.

  • ORALAUGH says:

    I have worked with Oracle on this topic several times. They will not budge in terms of calling VMWare with DRS soft partitioning. I like that fact that Oracle VM is considered Soft Partitioning, but with utilities and configurations similar to DRS, it can also be considered Hard Partitioning. I believe it is a strategy to get more money out of the VMWare users and promote the usage of Oracle VM instead. Oracle has made licensing of virtual environments so confusing that you get different answers from their own internal people when the subject is mentioned. If you follow this link, you will see an Oracle employee at VMWare World say that DRS in VMWare is okay to use for compliance. Basically you have 2 options, throw out a lot of money to follow the threats of Oracle and comply to what they call “Soft Partitioning”, or ride the fine line and fight it in a legal battle if it ever comes to that.

  • Yves says:

    The article mentions ‘Since VMware 5.1, if only one Virtual Machine is running Oracle managed within a vCenter Server Instance, you have to fully license all the physical hosts managed by this vCenter Server instance and not only the cluster instances’
    The practical example: ‘Customer VMware 5.1 architecture a customer has a VMware infrastructure of version 5.1 with two servers in a cluster and a third separated server. All servers are managed by the same Vcenter Server Instance.’
    => Therefore the total CPU count is 40 (8+8+8+8+4) and not 36. Can you verify/confirm?

  • Graeme Lawton says:

    You write “It is important to notice that all processors have to be licensed even if one of them is deactivated in the BIOS”.

    How exactly did you reach this conclusion? Is this specifically stated somewhere in Oracle’s standard contracts or in a non-contractual whitepaper? Or is it derived from the absence of this approach from their hard-partitioning white-list?

  • Brett Murphy says:

    I don’t want to look it up but it says in the licensing guide something like “you shall not do anything reduce the number of cores for licensing” purposes. This supports the comment that not all processors or cores (want to be clear as processors are also sometimes uses for the chip / socket) must be licensed that are installed. Only exception is now Oracle’s Exadata products if they use their new rules to reduce the amount. It’s a trap for sure, requires a minimum number of activation and I think new licenses have to be added in quantities of 2 or more. Again, without looking it up. 🙂

  • Graeme Lawton says:

    Anton, thanks for the response. I had also seen this statement in their partioning policy document and wondered how on earth one determines, for the purposes of a license audit, whether the core was active or not at time of shipping.

    However, the statement you originally wrote, i.e., that “processors must be licensed even if deactivated in the BIOS” is not in line with the statement “activated when the server is shipped”. Is it?

  • John Smith says:

    I think there are two camps here- one camp wants to stick to VMWare- and interpret all guidelines, and provisions to make them friendly to VMWare shops. The other camp wants to use Oracle VM/Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance et al, to comply with Oracle licensing obligations.

  • Alex says:

    I don’t see those 2 camps here.
    I think you either decide to face Oracle after the audit and debate based on your contract or try avoiding the debate by deploying a separate vCenter.

    To make things worse, I heard you can’t link dedicated Oracle vCenter to the rest in order to have a single point of management (linked mode). If you do so, then again, you need to license the whole environment. Did anyone hear the same?

  • Gabriela says:

    Hi everyone,
    Does anybody have a document (educational purposes) of Oracle licensing with vCenter that can send to me? It says something like Licensing Requirement:
    “With VMware 5.1 or later, the customer has the ability to easily move the vm running Oracle via vMotion to any 5.1 host within the vCenter Server Instance.
    All 5.1 hosts within the vCenter Server Instance will need to be licensed. Further, due to the 5.1 environment having access to the shared storage of the 4.1 Cluster A, the Cluster A must also require licenses.
    The vMotion feature can move the Oracle across the 5.1 host to 4.1 cluster by connected shared storage. ”
    I can not find it. My email is [email protected]
    Thank you very much, best regards! Gabriela

  • Mark says:

    For me the bigger issue is in having dedicated storage just for my Oracle environment. We’re a fairly small shop that I’ve been aggressively moving toward virtualization. I’ve got one primary SAN, plus one in DR. All of my servers map back to that shared storage. Of my 300+ servers, 8 are Oracle production servers. My Oracle LMS is informing us, and this article appears to agree, that all servers attached to that shared storage would be part of the calculation. That is just insane.

  • Lotto says:

    Overall, from my point of view there is one key issue:
    There are Oracle installations with standard terms AND with individual terms.
    So e.g. there are cases out there where partial licensing with Soft-Partitioning is granted.
    Who has smaller installations won’t never have the deal size to get beyond standard terms

  • Danile says:

    Thanks it is so helpful

  • […] may ask you to reproduce the incident on a certified environment.” – Grégory Steulet, All you need to know about Oracle Database licensing with VMware, dbi Services; Twitter: […]

  • You state that the Standard Edition license can be used if each physical host in a cluster does not have more that 4 CPU sockets. So in my Oracle DB dedicated VMware cluster with 3 hosts, each with 4 sockets, I will need 3 Standard Edition licenses. Right? But on other Internet sites I read that you cannot have more than 4 sockets in the VMware cluster, regardless the number of physical hosts ( So you can have a maximum of 4 physical hosts with 1 socket or 2 physical hosts with 2 sockets. Who is telling the truth?

    • Sam Eng says:

      Hi Martin,
      SE is to be licensed to servers of maximum capacity of 4 processors (inclusive of both occupied and unoccupied processor) where one processor is equivalent to one socket for single chip module (e.g. Intel Xeon processor)
      As such, to comply to SE license, you can only have a maximum capacity of 4 sockets on a VM cluster.
      So, you either setup a VM cluster with 4 one-socket servers or 2 two-socket servers or 1 four-socket server.
      You can have many VM clusters on a vCenter instance and each individual physical server on the vCenter instance cannot have more than 4 sockets.

      Unfortunately, you might have to make some changes to your existing VM cluster setup.

      Option 1, you might have to consider downgrading your servers from four-socket server to two-socket server
      and setup 2 two-socket servers on a VM cluster in order to comply to Oracle SE license.
      And you need to purchase 4 SE sockets license for this option.

      Option 2, you have to split your existing VM cluster to have only 1 four-socket server per cluster if you were to keep these servers for Oracle SE. However, you are going to lose HA capability by adopting this option and you have to purchase 12 SE socket license instead of 3 that you mentioned.

      I would chose option 1 as I only need to purchase 4 SE sockets instead 12 which save me lots of licensing cost. Furthermore, I want to provide HA capability for database in case of hardware failure.

      You also need to aware that the max capacity of processors is inclusive of unoccupied socket. In other words, unused socket (empty slot) is also counted as part of the max capacity. However, you only need to purchase SE license based on occupied socket (used).

      Make sure you are running on single chip module processor(e.g Intel Xeon) where each chip is counted as one socket. AMD Opteron 62XX and IBM power is counted as multi-chip module.

      Sam Eng

      • rigail olivier says:

        Hi Sam Eng,

        “As such, to comply to SE license, you can only have a maximum capacity of 4 sockets on a VM cluster.”

        i think that what you are saying is only true if you are using RAC with the SE. if you are not using RAC, you may have 4 servers with 4 socket on your cluster.

        extract from Oracle website :

        Oracle Database Standard Edition and Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC)

        When used with Oracle Real Application Clusters in a clustered server environment, Oracle Database Standard Edition requires the use of Oracle Clusterware. Third-party clusterware management solutions are not supported.

        The license restrictions for Standard Edition must be adhered to. The maximum number of CPUs defined is for the entire cluster; it is not a per node maximum.

  • Anis Mohammad says:

    Dear Grégory,
    Thanks for a nice write-up on Oracle Licensing.
    One suggestion, If I have VMware 5.1 vCenter for existing setup. We are planning a new Oracle Application (Hyperion) which has Per User Licensing but we will also be using Oracle Database. So I am planning to have new vCenter only for Oracle DB Host and Application (Hyperion) will be in the existing vCenter as Per User Liceing apply for this. So please suggest if this is a valid solution considering the Oracle Licensing. The idea is to minimize the Licencing cost by having only DB Host in the new vCenter. The doubt I have is having Application in different vCenter which is already having too many Hosts, should not be included to count the DB licensing which is in another vCenter with less Host as the application is using this DB.
    Hope my query is clear. Waiting for your response.

    Thanks in advance.

    Best Regards,

  • Yann says:

    Très bon article, utile, merci Grégory !

  • Glenn says:

    Hi Thank you for this article, can you please point me to the oracle statement that say’s this “Up to VMware 5.0, customers running a virtual machine with Oracle installed had to fully license the physical hosts composing the VMware cluster. Since VMware 5.1, if only one Virtual Machine is running Oracle managed within a vCenter Server Instance, you have to fully license all the physical hosts managed by this vCenter Server instance and not only the cluster instances. ”

    I can’t seem to find it.

  • Gilles says:

    Hello Gregory,
    I have a different scenario. I have Oracle SE processor db running on RedHat Server within a VMWare workstation. The VM is located on a removable device. If I have 3 of these removable devices configured the same way, each with a VM running Red Hat and Oracle SE. I use these devices as an offline solution. The removable device is connected to a Windows 7 single socket laptop. Here is how they are being used. One drive is connected to the laptop when is it offsite without network connectivity. One drive is with the laptop but not connected. It is with the laptop as a spare in the event the first drive fails. The 3rd drive is locate on a networked connected desktop in order to re-synch with a master database. My question is do all 3 drives need an Oracle SE proc license? or would I simply need the 2 that are “active” at the time. Or would a single license cover the 3 removable devices?

  • Paul says:

    Hi Gregg, Good article but to confirm the position on storage; I have two VMWare vSphere v6 farms, which as you know can live migrate between them and across clusters etc. This means all ‘Visible’ compute is subject to licensing (CPU cores).
    So how about storage ? If each farm has its own SAN with seperate heads and arrays, then does this fall into the same trap that CPU cores do ? That is they are soft partitioned due to live storage vMotion as opposed to Hard partitioned.
    If this is the case then any current version of VMWare becomes liable unless you use a solution without vCenter.

    Any ideas?

    • Grégory Steulet says:

      Good question, unfortunately I didn’t get the official LMS position regarding vSphere v6 farms. My assumption is that you need to have a dedicated physical storage for your Oracle databases otherwise you will have to license all the servers storing data on your physical storage.

      • Ted Nanayakkara says:


        I was told vCenter isolation was not possible with v6. The new vCenter to vCenter vMotion feature was introduced with v6.


        • Zibi says:

          What about the scenario when 2 vcenter servers are not linked together with sso ? Vsphere 6 is available for a year now – are there any clarifications available ?

          • Grégory Steulet says:

            Hi Zibi, Ted,

            For the moment I didn’t get any clear statement regarding the Oracle licensing on vSphere 6. I asked it several times to the Oracle LMS team but never got any clear rules. I don’t even know if the LMS team got clear statement about this version.

            Best regards

  • Alexandre says:

    Although my question is not entirely related to ESX but applies to it as well as far as I am concerned, Standard Edition is per socket. Now if I have a T5 system with two physical cpus I am not really sure how standard licensing applies.

    T5-2 is a two socket system with 2 x 16 cores.

    So, if my understading is correct to use standard edition, I have to pay for 2 socktes*16 cores =32 licenses since in their global price list it is stated:
    ” processor is counted equivalent to an occupied socket; however, in the case of multi-chip modules, each chip in the multi-chip module is counted as one occupied socke

    Althought in the previous comments it is only stated that you pay for the physical socket.

    • Grégory Steulet says:

      Hi Alexandre,

      Thanks for your question. When licensing Oracle programs with Standard Edition One, Standard Edition 2 or Standard Edition in the product name, a processor is counted equivalent to a socket; however, in the case of multi-chip modules, each chip in the multi-chip module is counted as one occupied socket.

      Your configuration is a 2 socket setup and since you installed a Standard Edition, you will have to license 2 CPUs and not 32 CPUs.

      Best regards

  • Allan says:

    Hi Gregory, Thanks for the posting.

    If you are correct with your statement indicating that Oracle would accept that if a customer had the Oracle EE DB product on a separate vcenter and separate storage that it would limit the licensing to only those servers in that vcenter and using that storage, then why is there no formal document from Oracle stating this?

    I know you say that Oracle has reviewed this blog and agreed with it but I doubt that will holdup in a court of law.

    • Grégory Steulet says:

      Good question. Oracle licensing is considered by some customers as one of the most unclear. You will find some requests that “Campaign for Clear Licensing” (CCL) did to Larry Ellison regarding this problem on the following URL: The biggest issue customers encounter is the lake of official information (not the one for educational purpose only) regarding licensing policy.

      You’re true this blog won’t holdup in a court of law and this blog does not bind Oracle in anyway. This blog is simply the result of my own experience as an LMS qualified auditor. In addition what is written in this blog could potentially be totally wrong with future VMware versions. The best you can do is making an agreement with Oracle regarding the usage of your licenses on VMware infrastructure when you buy Oracle licenses.

  • I read carefully your article about licensing for vmware platform, annd everything you wrote is sadly conform with cases I met.
    However, I wonder how LMS will consider the following architecture :
    – A Vmware farm of 2 nodes with at most 2 sockets each, and 1 proc each, dedicated to Oracle Database SE or SE2 proc.
    – Shared & dedicated storage (for example Datocore vSan)
    – Vmware Vsphere Essentials + version 6.x (Cross vCenter vMotion isn’t a feature of this edition) and dedicated vCenter is compulsory
    – many other Vmware farms with Enterprise Edition 6.x (but without Oracle Database)

    As I’m not able de move VM from farm under vSphere Essentials + to other farms, how many proc licenses do I need ? 2 ? or every processor of all servers ?



    • Grégory Steulet says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for your question. According to the LMS licensing rules as soon as you have a shared storage (even if you dedicate LUNs to Oracle) you need to license all nodes whatever the VMware version you have.

      Regarding the licensing rules related to VMware 6.x I’ve unfortunately no information for the moment.

      Best regards

      • I have to be more precise. Shared& Dedicated Storage means in this case : shared storage between the 2 nodes of the farm, and dedicated storage to the 2 nodes of the farm. For example Flashgrid or Datacore vSAN using DAS storage from the 2 nodes can be good candidates for this purpose.

        • Grégory Steulet says:

          Hi Daniel,

          The default rule regarding physical shared storage is clear. You have to dedicate a separate physical storage to your vCenter. Exceptions have to be negotiated with Oracle sales and duly written in your contract.

          The limitation regarding the number of socket in a vSphere architecture is only per node. Meaning that you can have 2 sockets per physical node with several such nodes in a same vSphere Server Instance.

          Unfortunately I’ve no official information coming from Oracle LMS team regarding vSphere 6.x

          Hope this helps

  • Ike says:

    Hey Greg,

    have you any idea if and when there will be an official statement from Oracle LMS around vSphere 6 and the licensing impact or even better about proven restrictions (dedicated VLANs/storage, non linked vCenters, …).

    or does anybody have any experience with audit results on a vSphere 6 infrastructure ?


  • manishd says:

    We have a 2 socket server .Each processor having 10 cores. We have installed OVM and created a VM with oracle Linux. Installed Oracle 11g EE. This server is having HyperThreading enabled. Hence we have total 40 vCores on the server. We have allocated 8 vCores to the VM hosting Oracle database and pinned the 8vcores (0-7) to the 4( 0-3) cores on one of the CPU.

    How many Oracle license we need to procure :
    Is it 8vCore *0.5 =4 license OR
    4*0.5 =2 license

    Please can you confirm. Thanks.

  • Frederick says:

    I have three physical VMWare host, each host has 2 socket. I use vCenter appliance to manage those hosts. All hosts are direct connect to SAN via fiber channel. My VMware license is Essential Plus, DRS is not included, storage vMotion is not available.

    I have two cluster, cluster A has two hosts with HA, cluster B has one host w/o HA.

    If I install Oracle Standard One in cluster B, am I comply with the licensing term?

  • Camillo says:

    Hello All,

    I’ve got a quick practical use case I’d like to submit:

    I’m fresh out of school and new to Oracle Architecture from a financial perspective.

    I’ve got an environment which is currently running a 3 node (3 physical hosts) clustered RAC environment. Each node has 4 quadcore CPU’s (Intel Xeon). 2 separate application database instances are being run across the 3 node cluster (i.e 2 separate instances are running on each host OS). All CPU’s in the 3 node cluster are being leveraged by the RAC database. Which means we are paying for 24 processor’s. (48 cores x .5 core factor).

    To protect against performance/availability/security issues interjected with running 2 separate application instances on each host (within the 3 node cluster), we are planning on virtualizing the environment to turn the 3 nodes into 6.

    What I would like to know, is if we turned this environment into a 6 node cluster (3 soft partitioned physical hosts) each running 2 quad core intel xeon processors. Would there be additional license fees if we ran 1 application instance on 3 nodes and the other on the remaining 3??

    From my calculator, that would still be 24 core billable processor’s.

    Calculated as (6 nodes x 2 CPUS x4 cores x .5 core factor) = 24 core billable processor’s.

    Is this right, are there any other licensing fees i’m missing??

    Anything helps!

  • Gabrie says:

    Reading your post and all the comments, but I still can’t find a link to any document that explains the cluster or vCenter limitation. Searching for the part that would explain that I also need to license all hosts outside the VMware cluster in which I run my Oracle VMs and even all connected vCenters. Imagine an ISP running 3000 hosts in a vCenter environment, which is not uncommon and connection to Amazon Cloud or VMware’s own Cloud. You would have to license all those hosts and even Amazon and VMware Cloud.

    So if you have a link to a document that explains that, that would be great.

  • Eneko says:

    This is a great article thank you. I also want to recommend you the next one:

  • Andrzej says:

    Thanks for very good article. I have still some doubts regarding Oracle SE1 on Vcenter/Vm Cluster. To simplify lets assume that we have only single chip module (Intel Xeon) and we use Vspher 6.0.
    Let’s assume that VCenter consist of two VM Clusters:
    Cluster1 3 Hosts each with 2 Sockets
    Cluster2 2 Hosts each with 2 Sockets
    Based on your previous post this configuration is not valid as VM Cluster 1 has in total 6 sockets not two which is max limit for Oracle SE1.
    Using SE1 I have to have maximum 2 sockets per cluster so 2 Hosts with on socket or 1 Host with two sockets. So theoretically following scenario would be valid:
    Claster1 1 Host with 2 Sockets
    Cluster2 2 Hosts with 1 Socket
    Total licenses needed for Oracle SE1: 4
    So assumption is that max 2 socket limit is based on VM cluster not Vsphere.
    To save money we need to create dedicated storage for Cluster 1 only for Oracle and then we need to buy only 2 SE1 Socket licenses. Do we need to create in this case dedicated vsphere for this cluster?
    I assume that on such cluster we can install many Oracle instances without additional costs.
    Thanks for clarifications

  • ChadiRafaa says:


    I would like to know if i run Oracle DBSE2, processor based license on VMWare ESXi host with 3 guests running Oracle. Do I need to license each guest or 2 processor based license will do. Am i compliant?


  • unicon says:

    hi, Grégory

    My company has Oracle Enterprise Edition *146 Concurrent Devices.
    I would like to know how the Concurrent Device converts to named users.
    Thank you.

  • unicon says:

    hi, Grégory

    My company has Oracle Enterprise Edition *146 Concurrent Device.
    I would like to know how the Concurrent Device converts to named users?
    Thank you.

  • Lezley says:


    Please advise, I have a 25NUP license assigned to an Oracle environment on a server. If we move another environment to the same server (I now have 2 separate environments installed on the same server)…can the 25NUP be shared between both environments? Or will the requirement be to license both environments separately?


    • Hi Lezley,
      You can be covered by the same 25 NUP if the end-users are the same. But if you had 25 NUP for production having 25 users, and now had development environment used by 10 developers who are not the same as the production users, then you need to buy additional licenses.

  • Santosh says:

    Hi ,
    Please help me on.RedHat KVM – Oracle Licensing .Required more licensing details.

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Grégory Steulet
Grégory Steulet

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Partner Manager
Delivery Manager