Oracle posted a blogpost titled “Impressions from VMworld – Clearing up misconceptions” which inclued a short reaction on the licensing discussion that flared up during VMworld 2012:
“In the world of multi-vendor IT stacks, understanding license boundaries and terms and conditions for each product in the stack can be challenging. Oracle’s licensing, though, is straightforward. Oracle software is licensed per physical processor in the server or cluster where the Oracle software is installed and/or running. The use of third party virtualization technologies such as VMware is not allowed as a means to change the way Oracle software is licensed. Exceptions are spelled out in the licensing document labeled Hard Partitioning“. (full article here)
This confirms what was said earlier (link 1, link 2): Oracle software is licensed per physical processor in the server or cluster where the Oracle software is installed and/or running. Unfortunately there’s nothing about the DRS thing in the article…but, as long as you limit the number of ESXi servers on which the Oracle application can run (and you can proove this by the means of an audit trail/log files) you seem to be okay. Again, Oracle is not really interested on how you achieve this: a seperate Oracle cluster, DRS groups or something else.
About the (hard) partitioning thing which is mentioned in the article: “Partitioning” occurs when the CPUs (a.k.a. processors) on a server are separated into individual sections where each section acts as a separate system. Sometimes this is also called “segmenting.” (from this whitepaper, note this offical Oracle whitepaper has no legal value as mentioned in the footnote).
Partitioning is something you can do within one server and has nothing to do with clusters. The case is: you cannot use vSphere CPU pinning/CPU affinity to decrease license costs for a VM running an Oracle application. You always have to license all physical CPU’s of an ESXi host if an Oracle application is running on it.
That’s it, always check with your license vendor if you’ve got things correctly licensed. The purpose of this article is just to inform you about the subject and of course I take no liability.