Oracle licensing is complicated enough as it is. Extending Oracle’s metric definitions to the world of partitioning takes the complexity to another level. Unlike other vendors, Oracle does not have separate licensing or metrics for partitioned or virtualized environments. The only guidance we have from Oracle on this topic is the Oracle Partitioning Policy ( 
In this post, we will take a tour of this document and touch on the key points. Firstly, we strongly encourage any customer considering deploying Oracle software in a partitioned virtualized environment to carefully read this document.
The key takeaways are as follows:
  • Oracle distinguishes between what it calls “soft partitioning” and “hard partitioning”.
  • Per Oracle, “soft partitioning” is where the technology “segments the operating system using OS resource managers.”. Examples of soft partitioning include VMware, Oracle VM, Solaris Containers, among others. For all intents and purposes, soft partitioning technologies are not recognized as a means of reducing the license requirement. In other words, just because a customer uses a soft partitioning technology to segment the hardware allocation where Oracle software can run, Oracle does not recognize this and will require the full underlying hardware to be licensed. The only exceptions to this are Oracle’s own technologies, Oracle VM and Solaris Zones, if used with specific configurations (details are in the links in the document).
  • Per Oracle, “hard partitioning” physically segments a server. Examples of hard partitioning include IBM LPARs, nPars, and others. Most common hard partitioning technologies are accepted by Oracle as a means of reducing the number of processors that need to be licensed.
  • Oracle VM on Oracle Engineered Systems hardware can be used to virtualize and reduce the number of cores requiring licensing, provided certain configurations and requirements are met.
The key point of this document is as follows: all forms of partitioning are by default not accepted/recognized by Oracle, other than on an exceptional basis. By and large, hard partitioning technologies are recognized and accepted by Oracle whereas soft partitioning technologies are not. There are a few soft-partitioning exceptions that are documented.
If you read carefully, you will notice two soft partitioning technologies that are recognized: Oracle VM and Solaris Zones/Containers (both requiring certain configurations in place). That’s not surprising of course – it’s Oracle’s way of promoting its own virtualization technologies over others.
Finally, and most importantly, remember that this document is a “policy”, and not a contract – as a customer, you have not actually agreed to all this, though this is how Oracle and its legal team sees it. Furthermore, and very strangely, the bottom of the document states that “This document is for educational purposes only…”. All of this creates confusion, especially when planning a future deployment or performing a compliance self-assessment. Things can get very expensive if an Oracle auditor disagrees with your assumptions.
Oracle licensing with partitioning/virtualization is complicated, and sometimes more art than science due to Oracle’s unusual and complicated stance on the topic. It’s best to be well versed in your contractual details, industry trends, and if needed, get expert assistance from Redwood Compliance’s team of ex-Oracle LMS auditors that have seen and dealt with just about every type of issue and challenge relating to Oracle licensing on partitioned/virtualized platforms.