Oracle Tweaks Low-End Database Licensing, Loses Licensing Exec

Jacqueline Woods

Her Oracle biography remained live as of Friday, but she no longer has an extension listed at headquarters. Industry sources later confirmed that she has left the Redwood Shores, Calif., company.

In addition, Oracle has tweaked the pricing/licensing model on its low-end Standard Edition and Standard Edition One databases in a way that could result in substantial savings, especially as new four- and eight-core processors hit the market. The changes are detailed under the section on Standard Edition and Standard Edition One in this FAQ on Oracle's Web site.

Until two weeks ago, Standard Edition was licensed for servers with up to four single-core processor cores. For multicore chips, users could only license it for up to eight cores total. Oracle's formula was to multiply the number of cores by 0.50 to get the CPU license number to determine price. So a four-core box counted as two CPUs.

Now Standard Edition can be licensed on servers with up to four sockets, or four processors running one-, two- or four-core chips (and possibly a higher number of cores).

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For most low-end database users, this won't initially represent a huge price change, but as more move to higher-core processors, they could recognize substantial savings, said Stuart Williams, senior software analyst at Technology Business Research.

"Under the old license, a user could license for up to four CPUs, but now you can license for the equivalent of 16 CPUs, a 4-times change," Williams said.

Oracle sources, who requested anonymity, said the change was made to ease software sales to small and midsize businesses. In those accounts, the company faces fierce competition with Microsoft SQL Server 2005. They said these SMB sales are largely "incremental" to Oracle and have mostly gone through Microsoft channels in the past.

But Oracle in the past year has inked distribution pacts with Tech Data, Ingram Micro and other partners to better penetrate SMBs via VARs and other partners.

Under pressure from Microsoft, Oracle changed from a pure per-processor licensing model in July 2005 and has tweaked that model a few times since.

The licensing news comes just after Microsoft released SQL Server Service Pack 2 and as it preps the launch of its own database update Oracle 11g. Partners expect that launch to happen this summer.

The licensing model for Oracle's Enterprise Database remains unchanged. In that arena, Oracle continues to multiply with the 0.50 multiplier for AMD or Intel cores. For Sun's UltraSPARC chip, the multiplier remains 0.25. And for other multicore processors, the multiplier remains 0.75.

Oracle's enterprise database was historically $40,000 per processor, and the Standard Edition was $15,000 per processor. So the addition of the core computation represented a significant price cut, although Oracle partners and rivals were quick to point out that discounting often made the list prices irrelevant in the old days.