Oracle licensing is a significant percentage of your Total cost of ownership (TCO) and can affect your choice of server platform and overall architecture design. This article is based on my interpretations of the licence text available on the oracle website, and the opinions of contacts I have made in the Oracle license industry. Whilst I am confident that the information is accurate enough to produce a total cost of ownership (TCO) document to assist with infrastructure choice I recommend verifying your final hardware choice with Oracle for licence costs prior to purchase. List prices have been taken from the Oracle online store. If you have an existing relationship with an Oracle licence vendor you may receive a substantial discount on these prices.

Different Oracle Licence Editions

 Key Feature Summary Express Edition (10g only) Standard Edition One Standard Edition Enterprise Edition
 Named User plus Free £110
p/ user
p/ user
p/ user
p/ core
 Processor license Free £3,535
p/ socket
p/ core
 Maximum CPU 1 CPU 2 Sockets 4 Sockets No Limit
 RAM 1GB OS Max OS Max OS Max
 Database Size 4GB No Limit No Limit No Limit
 Windows x x x x
 Linux x x x x
 Unix (AIX/HP-UX/Solaris) x x x
 64 Bit Support x x x
 RAC (Real Application  Cluster) x Option
 RAC Node one Option
 Integrated clusterware x x x
 Automatic workload  management x x
 Enterprise Manager x x x
 ASM (Automatic storage  management) x x x
 Data Guard (DR server  transaction replication) Option

The Oracle Database has four different licence options in an attempt to appeal to all sizes of Market.

  • Oracle Express Edition
  • Oracle Standard Edition One
  • Oracle Standard Edition
  • Oracle Enterprise Edition

Express Edition (EE) can only be run on a single core. Can only be run on a multi-core processor through use of a virtualisation technology that Oracle recognises for licensing. It is really just aimed at developers, small software vendors that need a free database to distribute with their application and for educational purposes.

Standard Edition (SE) and Standard Edition One(SEO) licenses were introduced to compete with Microsoft-SQL and offer great value compared to the Enterprise Edition (EE) license. Unit price itself is a fraction of EE and unlike EE is based on a per Socket basis, not per core. So for a quad core Intel chip you will only pay for a single SE licence. The SEO licence is limited to a single node of 2 sockets.

Enterprise Edition (EE) by contrast is priced on a per core basis with a core factor per chip type to compensate for differing core performances. Unlike SE, RAC has to be bought as an additional product. There are many additional features available to EE not available to SE but the majority of them are a licensed separately for an additional cost. One popular option available for EE is Data Guard.

So why buy EE when the SE feature set will do? Well unfortunately SE is limited to 4 available sockets per cluster. Example maximum physical server capacities for SE

  • A single server physically capable of containing no more than 4 sockets
  • A pair of servers that are physically capable of containing no more than 2 sockets each running in a RAC active-active cluster
  • Four single socket machines running in a RAC active-active cluster.

In each case a socket could contain multiple cores. (See note on MCM’s below). So if the systems were based on the popular 4 core x86 processors each example will have a maximum core count of 16.

Standard Edition price per socket = £10,665 No. of Sockets   Extended cost   Cores per socket   # of cores   £/core 
Itanium dual core 4 £42,660 2 8 £5,333
POWER6 dual core 4 £42,660 2 8 £5,333
POWER7 eight core 4 £42,660 8 32 £1,333
x86 quad core 4 £42,660 4 16 £2,666
x86 six core 4 £42,660 6 24 £1,778

The next table shows you the comparative pricing for EE licence on the same size systems. Note that it is priced on a per core basis and uses the core factor supplied by Oracle to weight the pricing according to chipset.

Enterprise Edition price per core = £28,947 No. Cores Core factor Units to licence Total cost
Itanium dual core 8 0.5 4 £115,788
POWER6 dual core 8 1.0 8 £231,576
POWER7 eight core 32 1.0 32 £926,304
x86 quad core 16 0.5 8 £231,576

So it is clearly a big step between the two licensing models. If it will fit under SE, then you will make some significant savings.

If the architecture contains Multi-Chip Modules (MCM) you need to count each chip on the MCM as a socket. There has been some debate on the internet over what constitutes an MCM in the eyes of Oracle. When the rule was introduced it was referring to the IBM POWER4/IBM POWER5 MCM’s but since then some INTEL chips have been described as being in an MCM. In my investigation I spoke with a distributor who reassured me that this rule does not apply to the INTEL chipset, but please check with your Oracle representative before making your purchase.

If you choose to licence Oracle per user, the infrastructure choice will not make a difference to the Oracle license cost. So if you are building a TCO model for infrastructure comparison you will be able to exclude the Oracle cost. You may however need to do a separate TCO comparison to ensure that licensing by user and not CPU is the most cost effective route. Remember you need to multiply the number of users and cores by the Enterprise “named user plus” price.

Reference documents

Oracle marketing pdf on Standard Edition 11g

Updated for POWER7: 29/04/2010

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