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May 01, 2009



Unless things have changed in the past year or so(I lead a project for my last company to migrate from Oracle EE to Oracle SE), Oracle SE includes RAC as part of the licensing whereas with EE you pay an extra $20k/proc(list).

Also Oracle SE is limited to 4 sockets(unlimited cores per socket) per cluster. So if you have 4x1 socket SE systems in a RAC, or 1x4 socket standalone Oracle box that's the limit, doesn't matter if your running in VMware or not. One Oracle SE schema cannot span more than 4 sockets.

Also Oracle counts the number of physical CPUs in the box regardless of how many vCPUs are actually running Oracle.

At my last company as well we had Oracle on two different systems running ESX on top of iSCSI(one was for production reporting + sandbox testing+backup), the other was for development + QA). Single socket HP DL385G5s with 16-32GB of ram. Oracle didn't support it since we were running on VMware, and VMware didn't support it because we were only using 1 CPU socket in each system, but it didn't matter, it worked well and it saved a lot in licensing costs both with VMware and Oracle. With the reporting/sandbox system(which shared the same storage as production), we had snapshots going to the reporting DB every night cutting our reporting time from ~9 hours to ~15 minutes(used to use data pump..ugh). Used full physical copies for sandbox testing as it was several weeks or months between requests to refresh the environment, took about 3 hours, down from ~2 days previously. Had a 3rd VM on the reporting+sandbox VM server that took snapshots nightly of the production system in hotbackup mode for RMAN. Since in Oracle SE you cannot run RMAN against the standby database(live at least, DB will spit out an error saying that functionality doesn't exist) like you can in Oracle EE. Our DB consultants wanted to just run RMAN against the primary DB, but I wanted something better.

I had everything related to Oracle installed on our mini SAN, the application itself, the logs and the DB. When I took snapshots I took a snapshot of all 3 at the same time, so I only really ever had to have Oracle installed on a couple systems even if I had DBs on many more than that.

When we migrated from Oracle EE to Oracle SE I used vmware there as well since you have to fully export and re-import the data(then I would swing the mount points back to the original host and fire it up). The first time it took much longer than I expected and we had to roll back at the last minute. The second time it took just as long(one fulltext index alone took something like 10 hours?!), got close to rolling back again, but decided not to, I kept the schemas I had migrated to Oracle SE running on VMware for that day(it was a Sunday, low traffic), and kept the remaining schemas on the original hardware running Oracle EE. Later that night I took the systems down again and migrated the remaining schemas, then switched out the mount points and fired up Oracle SE on the original hardware, worked great.

If my boss at the time would of listened to me we could of saved an extra $150k in licensing and penalties by migrating to Oracle SE earlier (they originally bought Oracle SE One but their consultants installed Oracle EE out of habit and that was of course caught during an audit, then they paid a bunch of $ to "true up" but they didn't read the fine print and was faced with another $80k+ in fines the following year, at which point we decided to go to SE.

I went to a vmware event a few weeks ago and happened to meet up with that same DB consulting company(they have some really good folks there), and asked them what they were using, vmware or Oracle VM? They said VMware, they tried Oracle VM but didn't get very far before encountering some pretty nasty bugs. They did say that they don't(yet) run Oracle inside VMWare though.

A rumor I heard from someone who I trust also mentioned a rumor he heard that Oracle+Vmware were in discussions for a while about releasing a white paper on optimizing Oracle within VMware, and towards the end they discovered that VMware could make Oracle run faster inside the VM than on native hardware on the same system, Oracle got upset and pulled the plug on the whole thing.

My current company mostly uses MySQL, and a bunch of legacy stuff on MSSQL 2000. When I first got exposure to Oracle in 2003 I really didn't like it but the more I used it the more I liked it, and I do miss it. Oracle EE isn't worth the $$ for most people I think, Oracle SE provides an awesome value though IMO. A couple companies ago that I was at we had the world's largest OLTP database in the world(at the time about 15x larger than the next largest which was Amazon I think), I think they still have it too, running on Oracle. Oh the outages on that thing.. they had a really poorly designed application that stored 100x more data than they needed, one of the few places who's data warehouse is a small fraction of the size of production I imagine. I remember Oracle flying out one time to help us fix a bug that took our production DB down for more than a day, their jaws dropped when they found out what we were using it for.. YOUR DOING WHAT?! Even EMC sales guys were telling us they had no customers that were doing what we were doing. Kind of makes you think..

Chuck Hollis


Your comment rocks. You rock. Thanks!

-- Chuck

Tarry Singh


I hate to put rhetorical questions upfront as I've worked closer with VMW on this initiative (internally) for the past years than no one else. You don't want to know the details as both parties (VMW and Oracle) were not meeting up at the proverbial bridge to chat up, cuddle and make love.

I am however confused about your "comparison" on RAC vs VMware's HA using Oracle SE versions. There are fundamental differences (and greatly architectural differences) between Oracle RAC and SE with other HA kind of tools. Same applies for the decision that is made when choosing RAC.

1. Decision on price in this current screwed up climate

Oracle EE is just about as much its worth in dollars as VMware is in its pricing policy. When a company comes to cut dollars one of the two goes. When Oracle loses to MSSQL because VMW thought that HA = RAC, then we have pissed folks at Oracle.

When Oracle VM wins over VMware at a SMB client because it is free and gets all of Oracle sweet loving support when you open a TAR, its VMware that loses another customer.

Customers too end up choosing solutions that are totally not good for them. I've seen customers move away from Oracle to MSSQL without doing a CBA. Yes, a Cost Benefit Analysis.

2. Swarm dumbness, group polarization and Cass Sunstein's case

Cass is on Obama's board and has written a great book on "Going to Extremes". A great read. We should push each other to the good extremes and not the bad extremes. And I truly believe that this time around we must not abuse the crowds (un)wisdom to do yet another sale where the customer couldn't see/realize the benefit.

Wrondheadedness is more worrisome than choosing the right party. Choosing Oracle RAC is probably the best thing that can happen to the dataset and in another occasion doing a test on VMware is a perfectly viable option. I also know many customers who have been running Oracle SE on VMware and really not measuring anything and let any discussion go in any direction.

3. Enlightened experts and aggressive sales: We need both in a "truly" working economy

Oracle has a great sales staff and it works excellently. They have great developers who can dish out a great technology and know the internals really well. VMware has good engineers as well who work hard to make their hypervisor work and help apps scale.

Customers must really really really learn (I just have to emphasize it so often, have been doing it for decades) to have their own functiona;/tech requirements and benchmark scenarios ready. They simply don't have one and eventually lose out to a migration to MSSQL or other DB vendor while the case was totally different. Having an expert at the customer end always helps, they do their homework and choose the party without biases.

THAT is CBA. Not abusing the pernicious power of the group(s) that has its own sets of proclivities and doing some tests with what you got. I know one technologist at Oracle (there are many great ones out there) who does that relentless to evangelize Oracle's great technology and funny enough Oracle does have a CBO that tells the DBA to optimize his/her's database. And then after having done the optimization, you can choose or not choose to scale your app on a hypervisor OR go to RAC or do both (there ARE some technical timer glitches there so I hear] and see which of the two/three/more is better, that is doing the CBA on the tech front [after having done the CBA also on the people-side -- very crucial]

Technology has never been the problem.

Disclaimer: I have been an ex-Oracle RAC/DBA admin from version 7.3 thru 10g.

Gary Watson

I think they will ultimately support VMware, but they will change their pricing model for VM's such that you don't save any money over the RAC implementation.

By the way, I looked around for you at the Orlando VMware event -- couldn't find you. Are you coming to VMworld?

Chuck Hollis

Hi Gary -- thought I dropped you a note, wasn't going to the VMware event in Orlando. Next outing for me is EMC World week after next, also in Orlando.

Don't know about the VMworld event yet -- thanks!

-- Chuck


Funny, buy I can't even get an EMC Sales person to call me back, seems they can't be bothered to sell their products. What is the point of the link on the EMC webpage to Contact Us? Why does the local office say they will have somone call you back and then not do it?

I work at one of the largest consumer goods producers in the world, but EMC cant be bothered.

Maybe they let the sales staff go.........

So much for customer service...............

Chuck Hollis

I'm not making any excuses for anyone -- but I can help!

I'll drop you an email!

Update -- Micky, you mistakenly left a bogus email address, so it's going to be hard to get back to you.

-- Chuck

Chuck Hollis

Jeff Browing gets into it even more here:


Great reading!!

Chuck Hollis

Hi, this is Chuck

I seem to have raised the ire of many people that thought I might be suggesting somehow Oracle SE + VMware is a direct replacement for Oracle RAC.

As we all know, that's not the case -- Oracle RAC has a whole slew of features above and beyond this.

However, not everyone may need all those features. Lower-end Oracle versions running under VMware may offer unique attractiveness for customers looking to consolidate multiple database instances, provide high performance, load balancing, high availability, etc. --

-- Chuck

Sean Finnegan


How does today's news of Oracle buying Virtual Iron change your #5 above? Does this acquisition shed new light on the Oracle-VMware support issue?

Chuck Hollis

Hi Sean -- timely question, no?

With the news of the acquisition, it's pretty clear to me that Oracle will now try and make a play directly against VMware -- maybe even outside their traditional database world.

The Virtual Iron stuff isn't shabby. I mean, it isn't VMware, but it's not entirely lame either.

Should be interesting!

-- Chuck

Radim Fiala

sorry for a little bit off topic question (thus vmware related).
If its possible, please enlighten me how you could possibly use vmware´s fault tolerance feature (you mentioned in your article) with Oracle in production environment?
Fault tolerance seemed like killer feature to me - I planned to use it for MS SQL to avoid MS clustering.
I encountered one major obstacle - fault tolerance is only single CPU VM option at the moment...


Chuck Hollis

Hi -- sorry for the delay.

Chad -- over at virtualgeek.typepad.com -- is the maestro at these questions.

I hear that initial support is limited to 1 or 2 CPUs -- same as most newer features in VMware -- and then usually expands as the technology and confidence improves.

Could you drop a comment over there?



Hi Chuck,

I have a question which is more ethical then technical. Is what Oracle are doing to potential VMware customers not considered a coercive monopoly in some way?

Oracle are attempting to prevent customers who want to use their database products on certified platforms from using other virtualization products which in turn is preventing vendors like VMware and Microsoft from being able to compete for sales on virtualization products.


Chuck Hollis

Hi Greg

Personally, I wouldn't frame the issue in terms of "ethics" per se, more in terms of corporate culture and strategy.

Oracle believes that it has enough clout to force its own virtualization agenda on its customers. Since Oracle hardly has a monopoly on database technology, or virtualization technology (or anything else for that matter), this does not get into antitrust and monopolistic behavior territory in my book.

Customers are free to use non-Oracle database technology (e.g. SQLserver et. al.) if they don't like Oracle's stance. Or they can choose to work with a 3rd party for Oracle support, as many have. Or simply lie to Oracle about what they're actually doing.

Sure, it's a bad-for-customers stance they've chosen, but customers -- as always -- have the final say.

Thanks for writing.

J Philip

I am an Oracle Pro but let me call this a Digtal Pride and I am sure this will come down because VMware is that strong in technology.


Moving my companies server to Virtual Iron rather than VMWare was the WORST move I have ever made in my career. I went with Virtual Iron due to their personal service which was extraordinary, now I have to deal with the worst support in the industry!!! Oracle could care less if they lose a customer due to poor support. The expect us all to just take what they try to shove down our throat. I originally was told I would get perpetual support on Virtual Iron until we moved to Oracle VM at which time I would have to purchase support for Oracle VM. Now I have received a bill for Virtual Iron support which took over two weeks to respond to a system critical error! They are the worst, its well worth your time to move to VMWare rather than to upgrade to OracleVM. Stay FAR FAR AWAY!!!!

Chuck Hollis

Hi Matt

Sorry to hear about your experiences, and I'm glad you're becoming a VMware fan, although that's not the way it should happen :-(

For me, I think it's an object lesson as to what can happen during periods of rapid industry consolidation. You fall in love with company X, they get bought by company Y, and all of the sudden, you're not so happy.

And I think we're going to be hearing more of these stories in the future.

Thanks for sharing ...

-- Chuck

Phil Florent

I am interested. I am a DBA and I don't know much about x86 virtualization. I have a 4 nodes RAC for a consolidated database with the data of 21 healthcare applications : 2 locations, 2 Clariion SANs (a third SAN in a 3rd location is used for a voting disk mounted via NFS), 2 HP-UX nodes per location and 21 applications (we still have a few applications with Tru64/Oracle 9i).
Each node is active and a bit specialized when the 4 nodes are OK (interfaces, batches, oltp etc.). Each service can migrate if a node becomes unavailable with a resource plan to make things go well in this case (priority to the critical applications). It works well but the services can take 30 seconds to migrate if a fault occurs and it would be a bit stupid to have application servers that can migrate very quickly (guy from vmware said the time of a ping !) if the data are unavailable (and the integrator put the data for Vcenter in the Oracle database). Maybe I could do better and save money with Oracle 11g + VMWARE ? The migration of our application servers has started (Vmware, Vmotion etc.) but we have not made a choice for the database. What is your opinion ?

Porus Homi Havewala

Chuck, you must be joking when you compare Oracle SE on VMWARE to Oracle EE with RAC. SE as compared to EE does not allow advanced options like partitioning etc, so your Oracle SE pool on VMWARE will definitely not function as efficiently as an Oracle EE pool on RAC which may or may not use Oracle VM. I wonder why you have not highlighted the technical deficiencies of your Vmware-SE solution to the customers reading your blog. There is no doubt, technically, that Oracle EE on RAC is superior to any VMWARE solution for Oracle.

CRistiano Fumagalli

I think that if the Oracle/Strategy is monopoly-centric...Oracle lose more CUSTOMER.
Oracle... think about VMWARE customer.
We want work with our system not joke with oracleVM


It makes me chuckle to read people complaining about Oracle's pricing strategy when VmWare's isn't much better. And now that EMC owns are large portion of the storage and virtualization market, who are we to turn to for alternatives? I'm not a fan of Oracle, but I'm glad there's at least one corporate alternative fighting the likes of EMC. Unfortunately I don't think the fight will last that long.

Have any of you looked at using KVM and iSCSI? Works great and doesn't require proprietary kernel drivers. In fact, I find it funny to think it uses the same in kernel "driver" approach as VmWare. The big difference is when I upgrade KVM, all I do is upgrade the kernel (and maybe a few libraries). I don't have to worry about rebuilding VmWare drivers (vmware server) or having to upgrade the entire system (esx/vsphere).

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck Hollis

  • Chuck Hollis
    SVP, Oracle Converged Infrastructure Systems

    Chuck now works for Oracle, and is now deeply embroiled in IT infrastructure.

    Previously, he was with VMware for 2 years, and EMC for 18 years before that, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Vero Beach, FL with his wife and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not ever buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.

    Note: these are my personal views, and aren't reviewed or approved by my employer.
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