Users planning to purchase servers next year should start negotiating with suppliers now or risk paying increased software licensing fees, according to Gartner.
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."