Forum OpenACS Q&A: Oracle licensing and support??

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
I am having a hard time finding any solid information at all on just what the different Oracle licensing and/or support options involve exactly. If all else fails, I'll call up an Oracle sales rep., but I'd really rather just find this info written down somewhere.

Everybody, particularly Janine, Don, Ben, and other folks who've done consulting work, you must have had some clients that decided to use Oracle, but hadn't bought the appropriate Oracle licenses yet, right? So I'm hoping you know something about this.

Here are the questions I want to answer:

  1. Where can I read the exact license text for the different versions of Oracle? I definitely want to actually read them before making a decision.

  2. How do "named user" licenses work exactly, both from a license and a technical point of view?

    The Oracle Store is down right now, but I seem to remember that the break-even price point between processor and named user licenses is somewhere around 50 named users. I have a company internal-only application that has a very small number of end users, well under 50, but for which (do to past project history, potentially vast amounts of data, our desire to have the option of using materialized views, etc.), we will probably want to use Oracle EE rather than Postgres or Oracle SE. So the "named user" licensing starts sounding very attractive. But how does it work?

    E.g., is it basically on the honor system (good)? Or does Oracle make you install some kind of license tracking software that adds complexity and might muck things up? If "Bob" is a named user and then leaves the company, do we have to buy a brand-new named user licesnse for "Mahesh", the new hire that replaces hhim? I know these are really basic questions, but I've had no luck finding info online...

  3. How does Oracle support work? A certain amount of support is included in the license, or what??

    I don't anticipate needing supprt from Oracle a lot, but I know when I was at aD, once or twice I got some cryptic "internal Oracle error" that our lone company-wide DBA at the time (Xuequn) sent in to some Oracle support organization, and a while later, we actually got some sort of useful response back from the Oracle folks. So I'd like to at least understand what the different support options are.

  4. Oracle seems to be selling licenses for 9i, not the 8.1.7 that we'd actually be using, at least for now. If we buy a 9i license, can we still use 8i? And still get support? Or vice versa, or what?
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Posted by C. R. Oldham on

If anyone has new or updated information, please correct what I've said below. I know Oracle's product and support offerings have changed since we installed our last contract with them.

1. Where can I read the exact license text for the different versions of Oracle? I definitely want to actually read them before making a decision.

Hmm. That's a good one. I don't know if it is available online, but you could get it by calling an Oracle sales rep.

2. How do "named user" licenses work exactly, both from a license and a technical point of view?

It is on the honor system mostly. There is a parameter in the Oracle startup file that restricts the maximum number of users that can be connected to the database. It is a hard limit. If you hit it, more users cannot connect until some disconnect. Now, you can bump it up if you want, but internally Oracle keeps a "high-water mark" in one of the system tables (it's not a secret, I just can't remember where it is), and if you call support they may end up seeing either the entry in your parameter file, or the high-water mark entry, and then bad things can happen.

3. How does Oracle support work? A certain amount of support is included in the license, or what??

Last I looked, support contracts have two parts--tech support and upgrade support (they have a name for it but I can't remember what it is). I think tech support is 22% of list price, and upgrade support is 17% of list. You would pay that every year. We pay for both, and upgrade support entitles you to upgrade to future versions for free.

The tech support end is divided in to two levels now, Silver and Gold (I don't think Bronze exists anymore). Gold is 4 hour response time, Silver is 24 hour response time. I can't seem to find my Oracle paper file right now to confirm that.

4. Oracle seems to be selling licenses for 9i, not the 8.1.7 that we'd actually be using, at least for now. If we buy a 9i license...

The impression I have is that if you buy the upgrade part of a support contract you end up with a license for "Oracle Server", no matter what version. You just need to open a TAR (for Technical Assistance Request) with Oracle Support via the MetaLink web site (metalink.oracle.com) and they can send you the media for the version that you want.

BTW, sort of off-topic, we went from 7.1.3 to 8.1.5 to 8.1.6 and when we installed the patchset for 8.1.7 release 2 our installation went from Oracle Standard Edition to Oracle Extended Edition. Surprise! Support's response when I called them? "It's OK, just don't use any of the EE features and you won't be in violation of the license."

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Note that unless things have changed in the last 12 months or so you can't use the "named users" style license for a deployed web site.

You can develop all you want without paying a penny, though, just pay when you deploy.

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Posted by Talli Somekh on
Don Baccus said: "You can develop all you want without paying a penny, though, just pay when you deploy."

That's true. But sometimes they'll send the Oracle Gestapo after you to perform an audit. That happened to me one time after I spent $100 on the demo CDs.

The Oracle rep I was assigned to remembers me for the voice mail I left her which, IIRC, included some references to "corporate fascism" and "proletariat revolution."

I guess if I had downloaded it for free and then deployed without telling them I would have been cool...

talli

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
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Posted by Patrick Giagnocavo on
My understanding is that for web usage you buy power units.  You multiply total Mhz of your CPUs by a per-unit price and end up with a number that you use.  Note that buying a 200Mhz 1MB PentiumPro and loading it with 2GB of RAM and a 1-4GB solid state disk might be the cheapest way to go.
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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
[Oops, I forgot to the close tag on my HTML list before - sorry.
Should look a bit better now.]

Don, this would be an ACS website, with all access restricted to
registered users.  So if we have X "named user" Oracle licenses, and Y
ACS users, as long as Y is less than X, why would Oracle have a
problem with that?  We're talking an intranet type application here
after all, not a public site.  Well, to answer my own question, I
guess I need to read the "named user" license.

Oh well, just buying the "processor" license sounds simpler anyway.

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Oracle has not offered "power unit" licensing for quite some time.  "Named user" or per-processor, that's it.
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Posted by Bruno Mattarollo on

IIRC the "named user" license is mesured at (what Oracle calls) the multiplexor, so in the case your database is powering a website, each named user would be each user at the webserver (I don't remember reading a distinction of anonymous -i.e. not authenticated- vs authenticated requests.

So for the web I would recommend that you go with the processor unit.

The "power unit" (i.e. per MHz) type of licensing stoped when Oracle introduced 9i IIRC.

So now you pay according to how many processors the machine that runs Oracle has or the "named user" type of license.

Just in case, the licensing tips from the Oracle store might help clarify things.

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Posted by Bruno Mattarollo on

Re-reading your comments ... here is the license for named user from the Oracle site:

For Named Users 

For Oracle Database Standard Edition, the required minimum is 5 named
users. For Oracle Database Enterprise Edition, the required minimum
is 10 named users per processor. If you are licensing by named user
for Enterprise Edition, follow the instructions below to calculate
the minimum number of named user licenses required for your intended
hardware configuration. 

Determine the number of processors on each server where the programs
are installed and/or running. 
Add together the processors on each server. 
Multiply the total number of processors by 10 for Enterprise Edition. 
The resultant number represents the minimum number of named user 
licenses required for this hardware configuration. 

Example: For Enterprise Edition on three computers each with two
 processors: 

Number of processors on each server = 2 
Total number of processors = 6 (3 computers x 2 processors = 6) 
Multiply the total number of processors by 10 - the required minimum
for Enterprise Edition is 10 named users per processor. (6*10 = 60
 named users) 
For this hardware configuration containing 6 processors the minimum
 number of named user licenses required for Enterprise Edition is 60. 
and this is also important:
Named User: is defined as an individual authorized by you to use the
 programs which are installed on a single server or multiple servers,
 regardless of whether the individual is actively using the programs
 at any given time. A non human operated device will be counted as a
 Named User in addition to all individuals authorized to use the
 programs, if such devices can access the programs. If multiplexing
 hardware or software (e.g., a TP monitor or a web server product) is
 used, this number must be measured at the multiplexing front end. 

Hope this helps.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
So it looks like you can now use the Named User method of licensing, since it does mention web servers in the paragraph above.  Things have changed in the last year or so, then.

Does this mean it's changed for the cheaper?  I don't know, what do five  seats cost (the minimum for SE on a single-processor system)?

Talli - the key to avoiding harassment is indeed downloading under the developer license (from otn.oracle.com), not under the demo license.  I first downloaded 8.0.5 under the demo license and got calls, too.  But I've never been bothered after I figured out where the developer downloads live.

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
According to oraclestore.oracle.com, SE "named user" licenses are $300 per seat, EE are $800.
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Posted by David Walker on
That's it.  All my users will be required to stand from now on.
Seated users are too expensive.
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Posted by Don Baccus on
This represents a considerable price savings (web licenses were costing "several" thousand dollars 18 months ago)

My clients have paid it, it's probably too late to recover costs, eh?

Meanwhile, PG rocks for most sites...

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Posted by Bruno Mattarollo on

Don, they mention Web servers in the definition of what a "named user" is and where you should mesure how many users are connecting. See the last paragraph from my previous post.

I think that the licensing is still a little bit confusing, but for a webserver, you should always go to the "processor based" license, I guess, since the named user "MINIMUM" that you have to buy is just that, the "MINIMUM" and then you have to add ALL the possible users (one per license) that would connect to your webserver (even non-human programs or devices).

I am not a license-freak, nor a lawyer, so please double-check every thing with Oracle sales rep and your legal dept ;-).

As Don correctly points out, PostgreSQL rocks for most of the sites.

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Posted by Janine Ohmer on
The main thing to keep in mind is that not even Oracle knows the answers!  If you called 5 different Oracle reps and asked your questions, you'd probably get 5 very different answers.

I always send our clients to buy their licenses from the Oracle Store;  it's the easiest way to do it and saves them from getting repeated followup calls from Oracle Sales trying to sell them more stuff, which is what happens to the one client we have who went through a sales rep.

My read on the named user thing is that in order to be legal you have to buy enough seats to cover the maximum number of users you exepct to have on your site at one time.  For your Intranet that's calculable;  for a public site it's kind of tough to predict.  Of course you can probably get away with just buying enough for the number of nsd threads you configure, since the internal "high water mark" table will be correct, but you were asking about doing it right so that doesn't count. :)  Doing it right it's easier and probably cheaper, unless your site's audiece is very small, to just buy a processor license and be done with it.

I have never called Oracle support;  everyone I know of who has has been underwhelmed.  The first line support people seem to be the new hires and many of them don't speak English very well, which is always difficult on the telephone.  What I hear is that you have to convince them to escalate your issue up several levels to get someone who really knows how to help you.

On the other hand, their Metalink site is quite good;  you can search the bug database, articles that their Tech Support folks use, and open help requests.  I've found lots of good answers there, and just for that reason I think it's worth paying extra for support.

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Posted by Marcello Ortiz on
Quick question....Has anyone ever had any luck in itemizing and removing the support percentage aprox. 7 percent, per seat fee? Thinking of outsourcing our support at a much cheaper rate to a qualified 3rd party support entity.