Oracle Caves on Multicore Licensing

Oracle has given in-a little-to industry outrage over its refusal to get in line with competitors IBM and Microsoft and update its licensing policy to accommodate multicore chips.

Oracle has finally caved—a little—to industry outrage over its refusal to get in line with competitors IBM and Microsoft and update its licensing policy to accommodate multicore chips.

Licensing terms for the Oracle Store Web site now state that, for the purposes of counting how many processors need to be licensed, a multicore chip with "n" cores will be multiplied by 0.75. Oracle will then round up fractions to the next whole number.

For example, if you have a multicore chip with 11 cores, multiply 11 by 0.75, which equals 8.25. Round that up to nine processors, and thats what youll be paying for.

Notwithstanding the three-quarters rule, Oracle will count only one processor when licensing Oracle Standard Edition One or Standard Edition programs on servers with a maximum of one processor with one or two cores.

Oracle plans to host a conference call Friday to discuss what a spokesperson referred to as the companys multicore pricing policy "update," although one software pricing expert contacted for this story was unsure whether this was a licensing change or merely a clarification of existing policy.

"Theyre not changing their stance that a core is a core, but what theyre saying is that We recognize it may not be a one-to-one relationship," said Amy Konary, program director of software pricing, licensing and delivery for IDC.

"As far as I know, their policy has always been that way. With multicore on Unix, you dont pay 100 percent on the first core and 100 percent on subsequent cores. Their policy has always been to discount the successive cores."

It could be that Oracle is merely clarifying its stance, or it could be that the company is extending this subsequent-core Unix discount policy.

/zimages/3/28571.gifGrid is another area where licensing is still muddy, writes Database Editor Lisa Vaas. Click here to read more.

At any rate, the industry agrees that its high time Oracle did something. In October, Microsoft Corp. announced that it wouldnt consider multiple cores as individual processors, but rather that such technology will be treated, from a licensing perspective, as one processor, no matter how many cores are carved into a chip.

IBM followed suit in April when it announced that it would charge the same price for single-core and dual-core AMD systems.

Oracle has faced stiff criticism because charging per core is considered unfair, given actual performance gains.

According to AMD, actual performance gain is between 30 percent and 55 percent in a dual-core processor.

Dual-core isnt seen as a way to get twice the bang for the buck; its the next path for chip vendors to take, given that chips running at these speeds run tremendously hot and are power-greedy.

Hot chips require a lot of cooling. AMDs solution to that problem was to switch to a dual-core chip that runs at slower clock speed.

The real point of the technology is to allow a performance increase without a heat increase.

In other words, it doesnt scale perfectly, and experts say its unrealistic to expect to get double the performance of a comparable single-core processor.

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