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Vendor grid lock on multi-core pricing

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Don't hold your breath waiting for the big software companies to simplify prices or to make it fairer for those of you running software on multi-core processors.

That was the message last week from an IT roundtable at Oracle's OpenWorld in San Francisco, where it became clear that vendors are engaged in talks about talks rather than taking solid steps to make multi-core pricing affordable or easy-to-implement in grid-based, virtualized server and storage environments.

Joining the AMD-hosted roundtable at OpenWorld were representatives from Oracle and IBM, two of the worst offenders on multi-core pricing, along with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

Sun is one of a handful of influential enterprise IT vendors that have publicly come out in favor of charging for their software per chip instead of per core on multi-core systems. Sun is joined by Microsoft and Red Hat, among others.

For all its talk of grid computing, Oracle has decided to charge customers using a head-splitting multiplier that owes more to a calculator and slide rule than to any high-tech executive dashboard. IBM, meanwhile, will charge according to the "power" of the processor.

Questions from the OpenWorld audience soon revealed discontent over pricing and the way customers must man manage computing loads to avoid hefty licensing charges during peak processing loads. As far as the vendors are concerned, the answer is to throw more technology at the problem from the management console and instrumentation level rather than implement fair or accessible pricing.

"Something we are working on is enterprise management," Willie Hardie, Oracle veep of technology marketing, said. "We are doing more work with partners like the HPs, Suns and IBMs to bring our systems management tools closer together." He declined to go into specifics.

According to IBM, of course, all you need is consulting and services to architect the perfect hardware/software grid combo. After that, it's up to you. Elias Kourpas, IBM program director, said: "From a software vendor stand point we have the innovation centers... from the customer stand point we have design centers to help customers build proof of concept."

In conversation with The Register afterwards, Kourpas said pricing is a matter of balancing the economic interests of vendors and users, adding vendors need to see a market demand before they change policy. "It's a matter of having a win/win situation for the customer and the software vendor," he said.

"If grid as the licensing model gives all the money to the vendor it's not a win/win. But if you design a model that gives the customer all the benefits, and there's no money for the vendor, it's not a good situation."

Margaret Lewis, AMD's director of commercial solutions, told us her company is talking to software vendors on pricing. But she said that we shouldn't expect any dramatic change of course on their part. AMD is encouraging vendors to change their polices, but as Lewis notes AMD can only lobby; it is not in a position to tell others how they should run their businesses.

Seems you might need to start waterboarding IBM and Oracle sales staff to extract concessions, such as favorable site-based licensing deals that beat the offical price list.®

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