Oracle Recasts Per-Core Licensing Policy

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The news gives Sun, one of Oracle's erstwhile best partners, a leg up with its new chips, observers said and Sun was quick to proclaim that.

"Sun has a multi-year advantage over the competition and was first to market with multi-core, multi-threaded Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 systems. Now that we have pricing parity on Oracle, customers don't have to settle for second best," said Larry Singer a senior vice president of Sun in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

The licensing changes were telegraphed two weeks ago when Oracle and Sun announced a "promotion" for new Sun Microsystems servers in which Oracle would count each core as a quarter of a CPU.

Last summer, Oracle went to its core-as-75-percent of a CPU-rule in the face of competitive pressure from database rivals Microsoft and IBM. But many partners and customers predicted that the Redwood Shores, Calif. giant would have to make further accommodations, probably by early 2006 at the latest.

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By last summer, when Oracle made its first change, Microsoft had already said that it would charge per processor, not per core, for SQL Server and its other server applications. That, despite the opinion of pundits that a dual-core processor nearly doubled processor performance.

IBM followed suit on Wintel and low-end PowerOpen RISC chips but the Armonk, N.Y. giant continues to charge a premium for high-end multicore PowerOpen chips. IBM and Microsoft thus could parlay a big price advantage over Oracle.

Per-core licensing is but one option for most companies. "As technology evolves, we have adapted our licensing models to accommodate those changes," said Jacqueline Woods, Oracle's vice president, of global pricing and licensing strategy in a statement. The new option should enable users to " leverage the advancements in multicore chip technology."

Oracle software can also be licensed per named user or per employee and on one-, two-, three-, four-, and five-year terms or on a perpetual basis.

Under the new Oracle math, an Oracle database running on eight cores would require a six processor license if running on an IBM multicore server. If it were running on an Intel or AMD server, it would require a four processor license, and on a Sun UltraSparc T1 server it would require a two-processor license.

Oracle's policy can be seen at this Oracle site.

This story was updated Monday night with Sun comment.