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$23K Licensing booby-trap for Oracle upgrade

Research with Campaign for Clear Licensing members earlier in the year suggested that chargeable features such as options and packs being switched on during upgrades was a real issue.

It appears that upgrading Oracle database 12c includes this auto-enrollment risk:

  1. Firstly it is discovered that upgrading 12c switches on a chargeable feature
  2. Oracle deny this via a blog post
  3. And then admit that it’s a bug that will be resolved in October

As Mark Flynn, CEO of the Campaign for Clear Licensing suggests in his recent blog post on Computer Weekly:

“Many Oracle customers will be looking forward to this in-memory feature that greatly increase database query time but it may expose many companies to unnecessary risk and unplanned costs. An Oracle DBA performing routine upgrade work may unwittingly expose their organization to $23,000 per processor licensing costs.”

This form of auto-enrolment to chargeable features is not exactly customer friendly. It’s rather like selling a chain saw without a safety guard. Yes, strictly speaking it is the responsibility of the chain saw operator for their safety – but the manufacturer can put steps in place to protect the customer from unnecessary risk.

Feedback from an Oracle specialist:

“Oracle customers cannot cite blog posts when being audited. It appears that Oracle may be suggesting you only need to pay for it if you activate it – yet typical Oracle contracts state it will be based on installed and running.

I am also surprised they are trying to charge for an enhancement.

Even the above blog states “Oracle Database In-Memory is not a bolt on technology to the Oracle Database. It has been seamlessly integrated into the core of the database”.

Oracle is free to charge what it wants to new customers, but existing customers should not pay a 2nd time for this.”

Feedback from a large bank:

“Reading through the documentation, it shows you how to actually make use of the feature. You need to set the INMEMORY_SIZE to something other than the default which is 0. The INMEMORY_QUERY parameter just says that you are allowed to query from the In –memory column store if objects have been included.

The blog post and documentation has initially appeased our Oracle DBA’s somewhat but I am still understanding how auditable the Oracle features are. If for instance the initial pass of our audits shows the feature is on will this mean we need to look at deeper settings to determine if the feature is actually in use? It looks that way for now. Also, the Oracle DBA’s will need to understand the cost implications of all features otherwise they may inadvertently place the company outside of compliance to the tune of a major budgeting surprise.

Oracle features have never been ideal from an auditing and compliance control perspective with the management packs also hitting our servers in a potentially non-compliant situation. This has definitely put us on alert while we bolster our auditing scripts and I am looking forward to learning more over the coming months as we try to lock it down.”

Campaign for Clear Licensing Guidance

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From a license compliance and risk perspective; Oracle is a loaded gun. Organizations should take steps to ensure they minimize their exposure to unplanned spend and audit penalties by taking a number of best practice steps:

  1. Most organizations today have some form of Change Management process in place in the datacentre. To reduce the risks of exposure ensure your Change Management process including licensing and the implications of licensing changes to large manufacturers such as Oracle.
  2. Take time to educate and inform Oracle DBA’s of the consequences of their actions.
  3. Invest in training staff or hiring expertise around Oracle Licensing and typical booby-traps such as this auto-enrolment feature. A low cost preventative internal audit is much less costly than a bill from Oracle.
  4. Vote with your feet. Find suppliers that put customer experience and customer satisfaction above shareholder value.
READ ALSO:  Oracle vs. Government of Chile: Oracle's sloppy licensing exposed

Learn more and support the Campaign for Clear Licensing here: www.clearlicensing.org

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About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource and community for worldwide ITAM professionals.

Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.

On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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