IBM Software PVU’s Made Easy

Simplifying PVU’s from IBM Software. What they are, how to find out the PVU count for your server and how to calculate the cost of your software, including the impact of hyperthreading and virtual machines.

PVU Definition

PVU’s, or Processor Value Units, from IBM, are seen by most to be a complicated way to buy software.  IBM say:

A Processor Value Unit (PVU) is a unit of measure used to differentiate licensing of software on distributed processor technologies (defined by Processor Vendor, Brand, Type and Model Number).  IBM continues to define a processor, for purposes of PVU-based licensing, to be each processor core on a chip (socket).  Each software Program has a unique price per PVU.

In other words, the more power in your server, the higher the PVU count will be.  As IBM then charge a defined amount per PVU, you can then calculate what the total cost of your IBM software will be.  This is for most IBM software brands, including Cognos, TM1, SPSS, Rational, Websphere and Lotus.

Also note that this means that the impact of hyper threading is ignored.  Therefore if you have a quad core server with hyperthreading enabled, then this will be assessed as a quad core machine.

Further note, that you must also be running IBM’s Licence Metric Tool to record how many cores are assigned to each VM in to avoid large fines from IBM for over use.

PVU Calculator

You can go to the IBM website here to see a table for PVU’s for different processors and on this page as well is a link to a tool where you can calculate PVU’s for a server.  Note that IBM updates the PVU values regularly so please check back as often as required.

Calculation Example

As an example, let’s say you look up the specs on a server and find that it is a 4 core server at 70 PVU per core.  You then learn that the price per PVU is $345.  This would mean that the server would cost you 4 x 70 x $345, or $96,600.

Virtual Servers

It is really important to understand the licensing implications of running virtual servers and the requirements on you as part of your IBM Passport Advantage licence agreement. Please see this post for a detailed explanation of this that could literally save you millions!

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John Vaughan

John Vaughan is a highly experienced Accountant and Consultant. He has experience in the pharmaceutical, FMCG, distribution, professional services, manufacturing and financial service industries. With over 25 years of commercial experience and 20 years working with the Cognos products, he...


  1. Tony September 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Hi John,

    Where is this approach documented by IBM? “To continue the example from above, on a quad core physical server with hyper threading enabled, a 2 CPU virtual machine should be assessed as a single core box for PVU calculation.”

    IBM PVU Intel documents make no comment on hyperthreading – they say you have to count the vCPU assigned to the VmWare, which in your example would be 2 vCPU.

    • John Vaughan September 14, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Hello Tony, thanks for the heads up. This post was written some time ago (like 5 or 6 years ago) and it needed to be updated. Cheers, John

  2. John Hawkins May 30, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    Still confused about hyperthreading. If a chip is hyperthreaded – I don’t believe IBM take that into account when working out the PVU count i.e. 2 physical cores with hyperthreading is still counted as 2 physical cores.
    However, in a virtual machine, giving the VM 2 physical cores would give the VM 4 cores (2 being hyperthreaded). Therefore the count is 4x pvu per core. (up to a maximum of the physical cores etc etc.)

    Is that right ???
    I have asked this question:
    because an IBMer seems to be saying that the base pvu count changes based on hyperthreading – but I can find no IBM documentation to substantiate that.

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