Users planning to purchase servers next year should start negotiating with suppliers now or risk paying increased software licensing fees, according to Gartner.
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The analyst group has warned that licensing costs could double by 2006 as new developments including multi-core chip technology and server virtualisation become mainstream.
Gartner urged users to ask suppliers for their utility/virtualisation pricing strategies to ascertain how software fees will be affected.
Multi-core is a technique used by chip makers for boosting server performance by embedding two or four microprocessors (cores) on a single chip. PA-Risc, Power and Sparc processors already incorporate dual-core technology. Next year, Itanium (Montecito), Opteron and Xeon (Ptomac) will be available as dual-core processors. Gartner predicted that users would be unable to buy single core servers beyond 2006.
Some software suppliers treat a multi-core system as a multi-processor system and require additional per-processor fees for each core.
Others will charge a premium for software running on multi-core systems. Some suppliers have stated they will not be charging additional fees.
Oracle has no plans to change its licensing policy and would not differentiate between a processor and a core, said Jacqueline Woods, vice-president of global pricing and licensing strategy.
In October Microsoft said its server software will not be licensed on a per-core model.
IT directors will need to budget for multi-core systems. David Roberts, managing director of the Corporate IT Forum, said, "Companies will need to make an assessment of the implications."