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Everything IBM Customers Need to Know about PVU

In 2006, IBM introduced a new license metrics called Processor Value Unit (PVU). PVU is a unit of measure which streamlines IBM licensing policies and contracts. I’ve found that these changes in IBM licensing jargon and calculations can be very confusing to IBM customers, IBM business partners, and IBM software sellers.

Before we deep dive into how PVU  is calculated and affects you as IBM customers, let’s start with some key terminology.Woman on computer and laptop

  • Core: Core is a logical execution unit on which programs or software runs. It is also referred to as processor core.
  • Chip: Chip refers to a physical Integrated Circuit (IC) on a computer. Multi-core chips (dual-core, quad-core) have more than one processor core on the chip.
  • Sockets:  Socket refers to a physical connector on the motherboard that accepts a single physical chip. Many motherboards can have multiple sockets that in turn can accept multi-core chips.
  • Processor: IBM defines processor as the processor core on a chip, while many middleware vendors and some hardware vendors (such as Intel, AMD, etc) define processor as a chip.

In a nutshell, socket is actually what the CPU chip is connected into via pins and leads. A core is full-blown CPU sitting on the chip. Basically, a single socket chip can have one, two, or four cores on it.

  • Processor Value Unit (PVU) is a unit measure used to differentiate licensing of software on distributed processor technologies (defined by Processor Vendor, Brand, Type, and Model number).

PVU License Types

Entitlements can be Full Capacity or Sub (Virtualization) Capacity. Before we jump into Full Capacity or Sub Capacity, it is very important to define “Activated Processor core.”

An Activated Processor core is a processor core that is available for use on a physical or virtual server, and regardless of capacity of the processor, can be or limited through virtualization technologies, operating system command, BIOS settings, or similar restrictions.

For Full Capacity licensing, the licensee must obtain PVU entitlements sufficient to all activated processor core in a physical hardware environment made available to or managed by program.

For Sub Capacity licensing, the licensee must obtain entitlements sufficient to cover all activated processor cores made available to or managed by the program, as defined according to the Virtualization Capacity Licensing Rules.

By default, IBM customers are subjected to full capacity licensing, which means they need to license all the activated physical processor cores, regardless of whether the IBM software actually uses all of the cores.

In a virtualized environment, IBM customers only need to procure PVU entitlements for those processor cores that are available to IBM software.

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Calculating Processor Value Unit

The number of PVUs required is based on the processor technology and the number of the processor cores available for the IBM software. The number of PVUs assigned to a processor is defined in the PVU per core table.
The following information must be available in order to determine the corresponding PVU value:

  • Server vendor and manufacture, type, and model of the processor
  • Quantity of processor Core Available

Assume that you’re an IBM customer trying to procure IBM MQ Series and IBM WebSphere Application Server for Dell Power Edge server with 2 Intel Xeon 3400 processor sockets, each with eight cores.

Processor Architecture Server Vendor & Brand Processor Vendor & Brand Processor Model No. No. of Processor Socket No. of Cores per processor sockets
X86 Dell Power Edge Intel Xeon 3400 2 8


The formula to calculate PVU is very simple:
No. of Processor Sockets X No. of Cores/Processor Socket X PVUs/core PVU table = Total No. of PVU

Examples 1:  Full Capacity on a physical server

PVU Diagram 1

As shown in the above example, the environment is not virtualized. This will result in a Full Capacity license, which is counted as highest number of PVUs on the server where software is installed. As per the PVU table for above processor configuration, 70 PVU per core is assigned. The below table shows how Full Capacity licenses are calculated for MQSeries and WAS. An assumption is made for Price per PVU.

IBM Software IBM MQ Series IBM WebSphere Application Server
Cores To License 16 16
PVU Per Core 70 70
Price Per PVU $50 $75
Total License Cost 16 X 70 X 50 = 56,000 16 X 70 X 75 = 84,000


Example 2: Sub Capacity on two virtual machine

PVU Diagram 2

As shown above two virtual machines VM1 and VM2 are deployed on a physical server that has two Intel Xeon 3400 processors, each with eight cores. VM1 has MQ and WAS installed, VM2 just has MQ. Since MQ is installed on the both VMs it has access to 16 cores. The below table shows Sub Capacity license for MQSeries and WAS.

IBM Software Sub Capacity for IBM MQ Series Sub Capacity for IBM WebSphere Application Server
Cores To License 16 8
PVU Per Core 70 70
Price Per PVU $50 $75
Total License Cost 16 X 70 X 50 = 56,000 16     X 70 X 75 = 42,000


As you can see from above two examples, sub-capacity licensing can significantly reduce licensing costs for IBM customers.

Note : Some of the above definitions are taken from IBM.

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Narendra Singh

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