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How to tame Oracle licensing fees

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Don't let your Oracle infrastructure be any more expensive than it needs to be. Here's how you can cut costs and improve performance at the same time.

HPE mission critical_Oracle license fees savings-blog.jpgOracle has spent more than 40 years building a wide-reaching software empire that encompasses everything from e-commerce to enterprise resource planning. However, the linchpin of Oracle infrastructure is still its core product: the Oracle database. It offers superlative performance and functionality, and it powers a large proportion of the Fortune 500.

Unfortunately, it's also expensive. How can companies enjoy that performance while keeping licensing costs at a minimum?

The challenges of Oracle licensing

Oracle moved away from licensing at the processor model after processor manufacturers abandoned increasing clock speed to concentrate on putting more processing cores onto their CPUs. Oracle now sets its licensing fees based on the number of processor cores being used.

That's bad for enterprise customers, as adding cores to servers is the primary way to improve performance. Oracle now charges handsomely for the privilege: an Enterprise Edition license on IBM's Power architecture will cost you $47,500 per core.

Oracle's per-core licensing is complex, and there are consulting firms devoted solely to helping customers manage it. Pricing your own model is even more byzantine. Are you running a multitenant environment? Are you using an airline data model or a utilities data model? Do you want advanced security? Are you clustering? These all incur different fees—and that's before you factor in software updates and support.

Keeping your Oracle infrastructure costs low involves two sides of the same coin: cost reduction and performance improvement.

Reducing cost

One common slip-up in Oracle environments is making seemingly innocuous changes to your environment that affect your licensing. Without realizing it, you might run Oracle on equipment that you're not licensed for or that serves more users than you're licensed to serve. Oracle's licenses allow for regular audits of your computing environment. You might not catch the implications of a change in your usage, but Oracle's audit team will, Computerworld says.

Software asset management can help, as can ensuring that you select only the options you need during installation. Scrutinize any hardware changes you want to make. If you swap a server processor and inadvertently increase the number of cores, you might find yourself in for a shock. Ensure that your facilities, IT, and licensing teams communicate with each other, and keep your hardware asset and configuration management databases well tuned.

Managing virtualization

Pay particular attention to virtualized environments. Oracle's approach to virtualization is strict. If you're running 10 virtual machines on a 28-core server but only one virtual machine is running Oracle on four cores, it will charge you a license fee for all the cores on that server because, technically, you could easily expand Oracle to all of them.

You can mitigate this problem by pinning the virtual machine that uses Oracle to a specific number of cores in a process known as hard partitioning. The HPE Superdome Flex server supports hard partitioning using its nPar partitioning feature.

Be mindful of your processor architecture, too. Oracle does not view all processors as equal. It adjusts its charge per core based on the processor architecture. Using an x86 processor core halves the $47,500 licensing fee incurred when using an IBM Power core, and the performance gap between modern x86 cores and Power cores has narrowed. Consider moving to an architecture that offers a more favorable price-performance delta compared to high-end processors.

Improving performance

Oracle's per-processor licensing model means that customers running dozens of cores on a single server-side chip will see their costs skyrocket. Squeezing extra performance out of your infrastructure without adding more cores is imperative.

One way to do this is to speed up storage. Moving to all-flash or even hybrid-flash arrays can help boost performance by substantially increasing the input/output operations per second of a server. Avoid Oracle's Exadata hardware, which can skyrocket your storage costs.

Putting your storage as close as possible to the server can also improve performance by reducing networking latency. You can extend this idea to its ultimate logical conclusion by moving large portions of your database into system memory. An in-memory database will hold your running database code, active data structures, and persistent database in memory, meaning you don't have to leave the motherboard when performing transactions.

Honing your server operating system and applications for efficiency also makes a difference in transactional throughput. This includes checking applications for memory leaks and removing seldom-used utilities or operating system services that can chew up processing power and increase your attack surface. Regularly patch applications—not just for cybersecurity hygiene, but also to take advantage of the latest performance advantages.

Reducing clusters

Reducing the number of clusters you use can at once reduce cost and improve performance. Clustered machines that operate as a single virtual host must connect over a network, and reducing the number of clusters you use reduces network latency. Even clusters with high-speed links don't perform as well as internal communications in a single physical server.

Eliminating your clustered machines in favor of a scaled-up solution also avoids the Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) license, which the company charges for if you want to use its cluster management software. Whereas Oracle Standard Edition comes with a free RAC license, Enterprise Edition customers must pay for one. That license alone can eat up as much as 50 percent of your entire enterprise licensing costs.

You can cut back expenditure on your Oracle infrastructure using these tactics, but doing so properly requires some insight. You must understand your workload so you can right-size your database requirements.

Knowing your infrastructure needs and investments will help you accurately assess your Oracle licensing portfolio—and hopefully uncover some welcome savings.

Find out more about how HPE can help you with your Oracle database needs.

Meet Infrastructure Insights Blogger, Jeremy Aitkin. Jeremy has been a technology journalist since 1989. He has written for clients including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the National Post, the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Independent. He writes regularly on technology issues ranging from cybersecurity to enterprise IT, and is also a documentary filmmaker.

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