Oracle’s multicore licensing model takes a new twist

Oracle Corp. will edge closer to a licensing model for multicore processors that has been adopted by other software vendors, but doesn’t plan to go all the way, according to information posted on the company’s Web site.

The company plans to announce Friday that its software licenses will consider each individual processor core on multicore chips to be 0.75 of a processor, a change from its earlier pronouncement that it would require customers to purchase an individual license for each core.

In the past, enterprise software companies have generally licensed their products based on the number of processors that customers use to run that software. This practice has fallen under scrutiny with the dawn of the dual-core era for low-end server processors. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has already released a version of its Opteron chip with two processing cores on a single chip, while Intel Corp. plans to release a similar chip in the first quarter of next year.

Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. have announced that they will charge users per individual chip, not per processor core, for software that runs on current and future dual-core x86 processors from Intel and AMD. Therefore, a copy of Windows Server that would be used on a server with two dual-core processors will cost the equivalent of two licenses, not four.

Oracle had planned to charge customers for four licenses in that situation.

However, analysts predicted that users would be less than thrilled about the prospect of watching their software licensing costs double as they upgraded to dual-core servers.

Now Oracle is modifying its licensing policy, and Jacqueline Woods, vice president for Oracle pricing and licensing, plans to provide additional details about the change during a press conference Friday, an Oracle spokeswoman confirmed.

Details of the changes were posted on the Oracle Store Web page on Thursday.

“For the purpose of counting the number of processors which require licensing, a multicore chip with “n” cores shall be determined by multiplying “n” cores by a factor of .75. All fractions of a number are to be rounded up to the next whole number. For example, a multicore chip with 11 cores would require a 9 processor license (11 multiplied by a factor of .75 equals 8.25 which is then rounded up to the next whole number which is 9),” one section of the licensing agreement read.

(Robert McMillan in San Francisco contributed to this report.)

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