Alternate Licensing Schemes
How license management software works is by the use of keys. If a company such as Wal-Mart, for example, wanted 50 licenses of Oracle 10g, then every time they were to start one instance, one token would be handed over. Vendors such as Oracle and IBM have been reluctant to go for alternate routes, however. Its understandable.As Songnian Zhou, founder and CEO of Platform, observed in a recent conversation, charging by CPU or by host or by whatever other metric forces reduced use of vendors wares, thus ensuring stifled revenue growth."On the vendor side, theyre trying to sell more to customers," Zhou said. "You dont do that by letting users use 10 percent of your asset." Nonetheless, times are changing, and vendors must change with the technology. Oracle, for one, has apparently been loath to do so. Its 10g grid technology has been out over a year now. Larry Ellison originally said, at the OracleWorld conference in October 2003, that the company "might" move to an annual subscription model, although Oracles vice president of global pricing and licensing strategy, Jacqueline Woods, later told eWEEK that there would be no change to Oracles licensing feeswith the advent of grid computing. Why havent Oracle customers been raising hell on this point? Probably because most 10g deployments are kept on all the time. Not many Meta clients are looking to dynamically expand and contract the number of processors, Gall told me, even with a database. What theyre looking for instead is cheaper hardware than an eight-node SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) box. Buying four two-ways is very much cheaper than one eight-way. "I havent talked to any users who want to take a database instance and, at any time of day, take it from two nodes up to 20," Gall said. If and when that happens, the pricing issue will become complicated for Oracle, because the company hasnt worked out a more dynamic pricing model. For its part, Microsoft did score points when executives announced in October that Microsoft had no plans to change its per-processor software licensing modelfor dual-core and multicore processors on the Windows platform. But, as Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot said to me at the time, a Microsoft application such as SQL Server isnt easily capable of distinguishing between a processors cores anyway. Until its possible to virtualize a single core, customers are basically helpless. The technology isnt intended, at this point, to give customers the ability to run multiple instances of a database on separate cores. The day that multiple cores can achieve either that or virtualization, in which a dual-core processor is segmented so that an application only sees a single core, will be the time when its perhaps fair to regard dual-core as multiple-processor. Besides, Microsoft doesnt play in the high-performance computing arena to any significant degree. Not to denigrate the announcement, but it was a pretty easy score for good publicity. So this is where we stand, heading into GlobusWorld next week: Grid licensing is a mess. There are answers out there, but vendors are recalcitrant when it comes to adopting them. Ill keep my ears open next week to find out if the vendors have anything promising to tell us, and if they do, youll be the first to know. In the meantime, if youve got questions youd like me to pose to the grid players, write to me at email@example.com. eWEEK.com News Editor Lisa Vaas has written about enterprise applications since 1997. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.