The latest Solaris licensing and support rumbles

April 22, 2010

You know, I would really like it if my crazy pessimistic predictions for Solaris would stop coming true (cf). The latest news in the Solaris community is Oracle has apparently started telling people about the new Solaris licensing model (note that I haven't seen confirmation of this yet). Boiled down, it appears to be:

  • you can only run Solaris on Sun hardware (either directly on the hardware or virtualized through your choice of virtualization system); Solaris licenses are attached to the hardware and are not available otherwise.

    (Licenses are unlikely to transfer with used hardware, too.)

  • software support (which is effectively mandatory) costs some moderate percentage of the hardware price per year; the figure I've seen is 8%.

    (This is apparently your net cost, not the hardware's list price, so discounted hardware means discounted support.)

Anyone running Solaris on third-party hardware is now up the creek; existing support contracts will presumably be honored, but I doubt that you will be able to renew them or get coverage for new systems. Oracle has apparently canceled some large third-party hardware support agreements.

The last time around I said that this doesn't directly affect us because the university has a site-wide support contract with Sun. I now expect that contract to change dramatically when it is renewed in the fall, if it is renewed at all. While locally we are lucky enough to be running Solaris on real Sun hardware, I suspect that this is not the case across the university as a whole and there are a bunch of people who are likely to be in serious hurt (and on short notice to boot).

This is also likely to cost us (collectively) a significant amount of money, unless Oracle either changes the support pricing model or gives us significant discounts. For example, we have one group here running Solaris on a Thumper; even at half the rumored price, that is suddenly a quite expensive machine. Our own Solaris fileservers are luckily on inexpensive Sun hardware, but there are consequences even there; now, for example, deploying an additional hot spare or a long-term test machine has a real monetary cost beyond the (already bought) server hardware and rack space, since we have to buy support for it.

(Even if hardware comes with a right to run Solaris 10 update 8, we can't deploy a hot spare or a test machine without patching it to match our other machines, and we can't legally do that without a support contract for the machine.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2010-04-22 10:55:14:

Our account manager has been giving us pricing information for Solaris on non-Sun gear (Silicon Mechanics, VMware), so I'm really hoping your first item isn't true.

If so, our cheap ZFS box solution would be pretty much out the window.

Surely Oracle wouldn't be that stupid....

Ray Van Dolson

From at 2010-04-22 11:31:28:

If you are not Oracle's core business, you should prepare to be marginalized, and then shed.

From at 2010-04-22 14:13:20:

I need to start finding an alternative to my ZFS fileservers. What other options have you looked at? Are FreeNAS or Openfiler any good? (I'm in a position to change filesystems/os if I need to.)

By cks at 2010-04-22 15:52:42:

The only information source on this that I've found so far is the one blog entry, but I've seen it quoted and republished without anyone saying that it's wrong. I'd like it to not be true, but at this point it's hard to believe that. If anyone has definitive information from Oracle, especially something like just-purchased support for Solaris on non-Sun/Oracle hardware or a statement from an Oracle account manager, I'd love to hear it.

At the moment we haven't looked at alternatives to our ZFS fileservers. We are probably stuck with Solaris ZFS for the near future unless Oracle's support prices are completely unaffordable, and we won't really find that out until the fall.

From at 2010-04-22 16:36:09:

I should have phrased my comment as we have been trying to get pricing information from our sales rep for Sol10 on non-Sun hardware. They were responsive a few weeks back, but things have stalled. Of course, now, this makes me suspicious. :)

Have started looking at Linux options again (with RHEL6 Beta out) and ways to replicate the speedy synchronous write capabilities of ZFS+SSD-ZIL. Sounds like it's not as easy to achieve in the world of Linux without a disk controller with a lot of memory on it for write cache though the delayed allocation features of ext4 and xfs might help some.

I emailed my Sun sales rep and directly referenced the blog entry that talks about all this and asked him to confirm or deny...

Ray Van Dolson

From at 2010-04-22 18:15:17:

My instinct is that Linux will not lean towards disk controllers with vendor lock-in features, although the vendor's rep will tell you exactly the opposite. The work on UBIFS is mostly for host-accessible flash, as I understand... which may be false, but that's what I heard.

I am quite happy with the performance of ext4 so far (OK, it's REALLY AMAZING - on my laptop), although ext4 always was thought of as a stop-gap solution, kinda like all the extensions to ufs on Solaris. You guys admin big sites, you sould (in theory) by looking for solutions like maturing btrfs.

From at 2010-04-25 11:24:56:

I work at a place that had some license agreements with Sun. 8% is the figure we were told too, although I'm getting the information second-hand - there was a conference call I wasn't on.

Thankfully, this sort of thing isn't my problem any more, except insofar as it affects patching and storage of data that needs to be secure. But sysadmins in my current and former departments are deeply annoyed. What can you do though?

From at 2010-04-29 13:39:13:

Got a response back from our Sun/Oracle rep on some of these rumors.

  • Preexisting support contracts for Solaris on non-Oracle hardware will be honored and can be renewed.
    • Caveat: Issues reported on non-Oracle hardware must be able to be reproduced on Oracle hardware.
  • No new Solaris contracts will be issued for non-Oracle hardware.
  • Support for Solaris on VMware and other VM environments will be provided as long as the underlying hardware is Oracle.

The internal FAQ's quote to me all stressed that The overriding business goal however is to get customers to purchase Oracle Sun hardware.

Basically, this shoots the legs out of our newly minted Solaris 10 + ZFS on Silicon Mechanics boxes (as well as a few Solaris 10 VM's on VMware). We'll either need to move to OpenSolaris, Nexenta or Linux.

Drop me a line if you're interested in seeing the FAQ items verbatim.

Ray Van Dolson

Written on 22 April 2010.
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