Licensing looms as core problem

Gartner says companies need to negotiate multi-core licences now or face mayhem later.

IT professionals need to begin negotiations sooner rather than later to get their multi-core licensing contracts in order or face serious problems in the future.

That’s the advice of Martin Reynolds, vice president and research fellow at analyst firm Gartner.

Reynolds predicts serious licensing problems as a result of new multi-core systems.

“Negotiate now before reaching crunch point. You don’t want to be replacing your servers in 2010 only to find you are caught in an ugly trap,” he cautions. “Check out alternatives and have weapons in hand before the fight starts.”

Vendors have taken a different approach to multi-core licensing. For example, Oracle considers each core on a multi-core chip to be half of a processor for licensing purposes.

However, each core on Sun’s new UltraSparc T1 chip (which can contain as many as eight cores) will be considered one-quarter of a processor when it comes to licensing. The cores in all other multi-core servers will continue to be considered three-quarters of a processor when it coems to calculating software costs.

Previously, another Gartner vice president, Andrew Butler, warned that dual-core processors could increase software licensing costs by up to 50%.

“All four ... happening at the same time is a recipe for software pricing mayhem,” Butler says. He urges user organisations to protect themselves by initiating contract negotiations immediately.

Gartner also predicts software licensing “by core” could double price relative to performance.

“If a new, dual-core design offers only a 50% improvement, a doubling in the licence fee becomes a tax on technology innovation with little return,” Butler says. Vendors say they will remain flexible on per-processor pricing.

Microsoft Australia’s server business group director, Tony Ward, says users must ask if the performance of dual-core processors is equivalent to two physical processors. “If you do get the same performance, it doesn’t matter,” he says.

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