What’s Next for Your Virtualised Oracle Database Tier?

Recent uncertainty about VMware’s strategic future might already have given you plenty to think about, if you have a major investment in their virtualisation tools. But for Oracle database workloads that are running in VMs, you also need to be aware of your licence obligations.


Virtualisation technologies revolutionised the way businesses manage their IT infrastructure, providing flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency. Specifically, we see many of our customers with a significant investment in virtualisation technologies from VMware, amongst other major vendors. 

Broadcom’s planned acquisition of VMware has thrown some doubt around the future of those technologies, especially amongst smaller customers who rely on vSphere for their on-premise workloads. If you’re relying on the long-term supportability of your existing VMware estate, you might already have some questions. 

However, when it comes to running Oracle databases in a virtualised environment, there’s another angle too. Unless you’ve been very careful about your licence position, there’s a risk that your virtualised database tier may be incorrectly licensed, which can lead to substantial additional costs. In this article, we will explore the risks associated with running a virtualised Oracle environment, and discuss how improper licensing can increase costs.

Understanding Virtualisation of Oracle Database Environments

Virtualisation allows businesses to run multiple virtual instances on a single physical server or cluster, optimising resource utilisation and reducing hardware costs. Oracle databases, being critical components of many enterprise applications, have often been virtualised to achieve these benefits. 

However, Oracle’s licensing rules are complex and can make virtualised environments a potential minefield for unsuspecting organisations.

Risks of Incorrect Licensing
  1. Licence Compliance Challenges: Oracle’s database licensing model is complex, and it requires a deep understanding of its terms and conditions. Virtualised environments can introduce some extra wrinkles, because Oracle licences are often based on the total number of CPU cores that exist in the underlying physical hardware. That includes all the CPUs where your VM might run, not just those where it’s running right now. Failure to properly account for the total CPU count can result in non-compliance.
  2. Over-licensing: Many organisations, in an attempt to avoid licensing issues, may overestimate the number of licences required for their virtualised Oracle environment. This can lead to unnecessary expense as Oracle licences can be costly.
  3. Under-licensing: On the flip side, some organisations may underestimate their licensing needs, either intentionally or unintentionally. Running Oracle software on more cores than what is licensed can result in significant financial penalties if your licence compliance is ever audited.
  4. Dynamic VM Movement: To properly meet your licence obligation, you’ll need to take account of the way that your VMs can move dynamically between hosts. You need to ensure that your VMs can never migrate to hosts that have insufficient licence coverage.
  5. Licensing for Disaster Recovery: The licence implication for dynamic VM re-location applies to disaster recovery (DR) environments too. Most of our customers have DR environments that can take over from their production systems in the case of a failure. DR environments count towards your licence obligation in the same way as your production environment does – and it can sometimes be challenging to get this right, especially if the configurations of production and DR systems are not symmetrical.
  6. Licensing in Cloud Environments: Many businesses are moving their Oracle databases to the cloud. Oracle’s licensing model varies across different cloud platforms, with pay-as-you-go, minimum commit and bring-your-own-licence (BYOL) options that might apply in some cases – so organisations need to understand the specific terms and costs associated with running Oracle database workloads in their chosen cloud platform.
Consequences of Incorrect Licensing

Oracle is known for its aggressive stance on licensing compliance. If your organisation is found to be non-compliant during an audit, you may face several consequences:

  1. Financial Impact: Oracle may charge you for the licences (and backdated support) you should have purchased, which can result in substantial costs.
  2. Reputational Damage: Non-compliance can damage your organisation’s reputation, affecting customer trust and investor confidence.
  3. Legal Action: In extreme cases of non-compliance, Oracle may pursue legal action against your organisation, which can lead to even more significant financial burdens.
  4. Operational Disruption: Resolving licensing issues can be time-consuming and disruptive to your operations.
Mitigating the Risks

To mitigate the risks associated with running a virtualised Oracle environment and avoid fines for incorrect licensing, consider the following steps:

  1. Educate Your Team: Ensure your IT and licensing teams have a thorough understanding of Oracle’s licensing policies, especially in virtualised environments.
  2. Regularly Monitor and Audit: Continuously monitor your virtualised environment for compliance and conduct regular internal audits to identify and address potential issues proactively.
  3. Consult Experts: Seek advice from trusted Oracle database experts who can provide guidance on licensing best practices. We can help you here – call us if you have questions.

Running a virtualised Oracle database environment can offer numerous benefits, but it also comes with risks related to licensing compliance. The consequences of incorrect licensing can be financially devastating, and harmful for your organisation’s reputation. To avoid additional costs and legal repercussions, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of Oracle’s licensing rules, regularly monitor your environment, and seek expert guidance when necessary. By taking proactive steps to manage your licences properly, you can enjoy the advantages of virtualisation while staying on the right side of Oracle’s licensing policies.

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