Oracle's Woods on licensing, multicore servers

The recent introduction of multicore servers -- where two or more processors are embedded on a single chip -- has raised concerns among some enterprise customers that they will have to pay more for the software they license. With that in mind, Computerworld's Thomas Hoffman spoke with Jacqueline Woods, vice president of Oracle's global licensing and pricing strategy, about the introduction of multicore servers and how that might affect Oracle customers.

What is Oracle's position on software licensing with respect to dual-core processor systems?

We don't have a position with respect to dual-core processors. A core is equal to a CPU, and all cores are required to be licensed. Therefore, if you have a dual-core processor, you are required to have two processor licenses.

Does this represent a change in Oracle's software licensing strategy, or is this consistent with its historical licensing approach?

We have not changed this. We have not increased our prices. At the end of the day, the consumption of the Oracle software is unchanged.

Is this a contentious issue with Oracle customers?

Not at all. IBM does not sell any single-core/CPU machines. All of their machines are dual-core and have been for some time. It's particularly interesting that a hardware vendor that I won't necessarily mention who came out with an UltraSparc III chip on a single wafer should try to change the way the software is licensed. The licensing policies associated with it should not change as well. We have always charged this way.

When it was called into question, we clearly made sure that everyone understands that a core equals a processor. We clearly have reaffirmed that position, but the impetus of reaffirming that position is in response to a vendor who is saying that has not always been the case, when it has always been the case.

How does this affect customers with universal power unit or other software licenses that were signed a few years ago?

It doesn't affect them in any particular way. The universal power unit was predicated on whether you had a Unix box or an Intel box. You multiplied the megahertz on a (Unix) box by the number of processors on that box. If you had Intel, you had to multiply that by another 50 percent. If you have four processors, you have four processors. Nothing changes.

So if a customer transitioned from a single-processor server to a two-way server, would they essentially have to pay twice as much for the software they run on the newer machine?

If I have more processors, do I pay more money? The answer is yes. You have to pay for the one incremental processor that you have not licensed.

If you had a four-way node and you want to go to an eight-way, you need more incremental processors. The question is, do you pay for eight processors? And the answer is yes.

Some analysts and enterprise customers believe that software vendors such as Oracle and IBM are leveraging the advent of multicore systems to drive higher revenues following a weak tech spending environment. How would you respond?

That's not an accurate statement. The reason it's not accurate is that either a customer needs the hardware and software or they don't. There are many, many choices out there, and what companies do is look at what the business needs are and what is the infrastructure and architecture they need from a hardware, software and really a telecommunications (standpoint).

We have had this policy for years. We had it during the downturn, and we have it now. It hasn't changed. If someone licensed software on a dual-core machine during the downturn, they paid for two processors.

It's important to understand that if you look at the installed base of computers out there, the majority of them are single-core, and when people add processors to those boxes -- and they have an on-demand or capacity program with HP where they turn on the next processor -- they will pay both HP and Oracle based on a single processor. I don't see the recovery of the economy as an opportunity to leverage the advent of multicore, considering this has been the same policy when the economy was worse off than it is now.

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