Oracle Soft Partitioning Policy: A License to Steal

Oracle Soft Partitioning Policy: Key Points

  • Definition: Refers to virtualization technologies not considered “hard partitioning” by Oracle.
  • Licensing Requirement: Requires all physical hosts to be licensed.
  • Examples: Includes VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V.
  • Non-Compliance: Using soft partitioning without proper licensing can lead to significant financial risks.
  • Policy Nature: Non-contractual guideline, not legally binding.

Understanding the Oracle Partitioning Policy is crucial for organizations using Oracle software in virtual environments.

This policy outlines how Oracle licenses its software, including databases and middleware when used with virtualization technologies such as Solaris, IBM LPAR, Oracle VM, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the Oracle partitioning policy and its implications for your organization.

What is Oracle Partitioning Policy?

The Oracle Partitioning Policy document is a guideline for how Oracle licenses its software in virtualization environments. It is not a legally binding contract but serves to enforce Oracle’s licensing policies.

Key Components of the Oracle Partitioning Policy Document

The Oracle partitioning policy document includes:

  • Virtualization Technologies: Eligible for sub-capacity licensing, allowing licensing only a portion of a server or group of servers rather than the full capacity.
  • Hard and Soft Partitioning: This distinction distinguishes between approved technologies (hard partitioning) and those that are not (soft partitioning).

Hard Partitioning vs. Soft Partitioning

What is Hard Partitioning?

Hard partitioning refers to approved technologies that can limit the number of software licenses required for a server or cluster. Examples include:

  • Oracle OVM

To use hard partitioning, it’s crucial to follow Oracle’s setup instructions. Otherwise, you may need to license the entire server or cluster.

From the Oracle Partitioning Policy Document: Oracle-approved hard partitioning technologies include Physical Domains, Solaris Zones, IBM’s LPAR, Micro-Partitions, vPar, nPar, Integrity Virtual Machine, Secure Resource Partitions, and Fujitsu’s PPAR. These technologies must have a capped or maximum number of cores/processors for the given partition.

What is Soft Partitioning?

Soft partitioning refers to virtualization technologies not considered hard partitioning by Oracle. In these cases, Oracle requires licensing for all physical hosts. Examples of soft partitioning technologies include:

  • VMware
  • Microsoft Hyper-V

From the Oracle Partitioning Policy Document: “Soft partitioning is not permitted to determine or limit the number of software licenses required for any given server or cluster of servers.”

Considerations and Legalities

Non-Contractual Nature of the Policy Document

  • Not Legally Binding: The Oracle partitioning policy is for educational purposes and is not part of any contract.
  • Contract Terms: There is no connection between this policy document and any contracts signed with Oracle.

Potential for Conflicting Interpretations

Oracle’s processor licensing definitions in contracts do not mention the partitioning policy document. However, Oracle sales and audit teams may refer to it for licensing in virtual environments. It’s crucial to document that you have not used unlicensed hosts for Oracle environments as part of an “audit defense” strategy.

Managing Oracle Licenses in Virtual Environments

VMware Recommended Approach

  • Dedicated vSphere Cluster: Use a vSphere cluster dedicated to Oracle software.
  • VM-Host Affinity Rule: Bind Oracle hosts to specific ESXi servers.
  • VM vCPU Affinity: Bind Oracle VMs to specific physical cores.

Note: Oracle may not accept these options, but they can help mitigate risk.

Documentation and Audit Defense

  • Document Usage: Document Oracle licenses in VMware through vMotion events.
  • Present Documentation: Present documentation to Oracle during an audit to prove compliance.

Additional Notes and Best Practices

Oracle’s Stance on Licensing

  • VMware Deployments: Oracle has softened its stance on VMware deployments but still requires licensing for hosts in vCenters unless Oracle software is not running.
  • IBM LPAR Configurations: Oracle requires licenses for the entire server if IBM LPARs are not configured correctly.
  • Nutanix AHV: Oracle views Nutanix AHV as soft partitioning and requires licensing accordingly.

Oracle Unlimited License Agreements (ULAs)

  • Complexity of ULAs: ULAs can be complex and may not always be the best choice.
  • Certification Processes: ULAs only count licenses that are “installed and running,” which may not align with Oracle’s policies.

Expert Advisory

Organizations may choose not to follow Oracle’s partitioning policy for several reasons:

  • Lack of Legal Binding: The policy is non-contractual and may not be enforceable.
  • Conflicting Definitions: The policy may conflict with licensing terms in contracts.
  • Limited Virtualization Options: The policy only recognizes a few technologies for hard partitioning.
  • Changing Stance: Oracle’s stance on licensing in virtual environments has evolved.

How Reveal Compliance Experts Can Help

Our company specializes in Oracle licensing, including issues related to the Oracle soft partitioning policy. We offer a range of services to help organizations navigate these challenges:

  • License Review and Assessment: Review your current Oracle licenses and assess compliance.
  • License Optimization: Identify opportunities to consolidate licenses and negotiate better terms.
  • Audit Support: Provide guidance and support during Oracle audits.
  • Contract Negotiation: Assist with negotiating Oracle contracts, including terms related to the partitioning policy.
  • Training and Education: Offer resources to help your team understand Oracle licensing complexities.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization with Oracle licensing and the soft partitioning policy.

By following these guidelines and working with licensing consultants like Reveal Compliance, organizations can more effectively navigate Oracle’s complex licensing landscape, ensure compliance, and optimize costs.


  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson is an Oracle licensing expert with over 20 years of experience in Oracle license management. He spent 10 years working for Oracle corporation and then 10 years at a consultant leading engagements on Oracle license assessments, audits, ULAs. He is a public speaker and author

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