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How Oracle licensing on AWS affects portability

AWS works with software vendors to make cloud workloads more portable, but some vendors have licensing restrictions that could complicate BYOL.

Public cloud providers have rules, regulations and technical requirements for moving to their platforms. And software vendors have various licensing terms and conditions. Bring your own license enables enterprise IT teams to use current software licenses in the public cloud, such as Oracle licensing on AWS, and could offer other benefits.

Bring your own license (BYOL) has several benefits over renting software from the cloud provider, said Duncan Jones, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Many companies already own licenses for their applications or middleware, so they don't want to pay for more. Some want to use the cloud for development and bring the workload on premises when it moves into production; others want portability so they can shift workloads to a different cloud option if AWS becomes too expensive.

"Smaller vendors are certainly taking notice and those that are focusing heavily on moving their customers to the cloud are beginning to use BYOL as a way to assist their customers' migrations and respect past investments," Narayan said.

But BYOL terms and conditions can be fairly restrictive, said Nakul Narayan, research analyst of SaaS and Cloud Software at IDC. A license might only cover certain versions of applications, or an IT team may only be able to migrate to a specific infrastructure as a service provider.

Looking inside AWS

AWS customers can license Microsoft Windows products by purchasing new Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances with a license bundled into the price or by simply bringing existing licenses to AWS.

AWS customers can also procure new licenses for Windows Server and SQL Server -- just as they would procure a Linux instance. Microsoft and Amazon jointly developed a set of Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) that are documented, optimized and configured based on best practices. AWS offers 30 AMIs for Windows workloads across all AWS regions, and it lists more than 300 Windows software vendors in its marketplace.

For customers that want to bring existing licenses to AWS, Microsoft's License Mobility policy is supported along with Microsoft's Software Assurance, a volume licensing program that helps Microsoft customers deploy, manage and use products more efficiently. Customers that don't want to pay for Microsoft's Software Assurance can use Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts and Dedicated Instances, which allows them to bring their own licenses for Windows server and Microsoft applications without requiring ongoing payments to Microsoft. AWS is the only major cloud provider to offer Dedicated Hosts and/or Instances for Windows Server and Microsoft applications.

IT teams can use Oracle licensing on AWS with Oracle Database 9i or higher, including Oracle 12c, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Enterprise Manager. Oracle customers can also use existing Oracle licensing on AWS with no additional license fees. Furthermore, AWS offers a fully managed Oracle Database tool through Amazon Relational Database Service for Oracle that permits customers to use existing Oracle licensing on AWS or pay for the license on an hourly basis. AWS has six Oracle Competency-certified partners to help customers run their workloads on AWS.

Lock-in is a long-term concern, and it can be difficult to shed restrictive licenses. Before you choose a provider, decide whether you can trust the vendor to remain competitive and not take advantage of your dependence on it.

"Owning the software licenses could be part of that, along with minimizing use of a cloud providers' proprietary IP," Jones said. A disadvantage of BYOL is that you undermine cloud's flexibility. "Companies have to balance many factors in deciding which approach to take," Jones added.

While not all licenses are portable, the trend is still clear. A recent Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board ruling made portability more feasible by recognizing that an equivalent capability in both on-premises and on-cloud versions should be the relevant determinant, according to Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Dan Conde. And that, in turn, gives vendors and customers more freedom, he explained.

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