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October 16, 2018updated 21 Jul 2022 10:08am

Avoiding Getting Stung by the Oracle “Minibar”

"Just by accepting the default install, the organisation can be at risk of additional costs"

By CBR Staff Writer

At the end of a relaxing holiday, or successful business trip: all that’s left to do is check out of the hotel and head to the airport. But reception has a nasty surprise for you. It turns out those small packets of nuts from the minibar—and maybe even a late-night drink or two—were a little more expensive than you expected.

The unexpected bill you now need to pay means the planned budget for this trip wasn’t as realistic as you’d hoped.

oracle licences

Oracle’s enterprise software works in a similar fashion.

We’re used to software working in a more straightforward way. Whether it’s paying an upfront cost, or a SaaS subscription, we only get what we pay for. Access to additional features means an upfront cost.

Oracle databases, however, work on a different principle.

The licensing information in Oracle’s documentation warns the administrator of the potential issue, though it’s easily missed.

You may not use the options, packs, or products described below without separately purchased licenses. The fact that these options, packs, or products may be included in product CDs or downloads or described in documentation that you receive does not authorize you to use them without purchasing appropriate licenses.”

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Some software is included with a standard license, for example Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) Database Control or Enterprise Manager Cloud Control.

oracle licences, support revolution

Mark Smith, CEO, Support Revolution.

But these are not the only packages included in the default install. Just by accepting the default install, the organisation can be at risk of additional costs. If the administrator understands this, then everything should be fine.

If, however, the administrator hasn’t fully grasped the details of the licensing agreement, or more than one person has administrator privileges and can install additional packages , then the organisation could be left with a hefty bill when Oracle decides to audit.

The decision to install unlicensed packages doesn’t even have to come from within. If Oracle’s own consultants were involved in setup and installed software that the customer hasn’t paid for, the responsibility will still lie with the organisation, not Oracle.

Read this: IT Procurement: “Still the Wild West and It Favours the Vendors”

And this is where Oracle’s software is like a minibar. The organisation using the database thinks that it has paid for everything in advance, just like a hotel on check-in. And look, there’s even a small fridge full of drinks they’ve installed in the room for free!

The problem is exacerbated by the type of packages that cost extra. Testing, tuning and diagnostic add-ons are all not included with a standard installation, though they are often seen as vital to running the database without issue.

Getting this right means either removing the software from the database installation, licensing additional software, or locking down administrator rights—or more likely a combination of all three. Before Oracle decides to audit you, perform your own audit. Take out the software you don’t want, get licenses for those you are actually using, and review administrator privileges as a matter of course.

See also: Microsoft Hikes Prices 10%

If Oracle does notify that an audit is due before this can be done, all is not lost. The audit will usually be performed remotely, using scripts provided, and with 30-45 days’ notice. This can give you a chance to get your house in order and make sure that there is nothing running that shouldn’t be.

The vendor won’t be any more lenient on those that are accidentally using software without a license, than on those that are doing so knowingly. These audits are, after all, designed to maximise the vendor’s revenue—”sorry” won’t help. However, it’s important to remember what the audit is for. Oracle is a business, not a legal enforcement agency, and a bill presented at the end of the audit is not the end of the process.

The fine, calculated by the vendor, is often used as a starting point for negotiations, and agreeing to purchase certain licenses and additional software may bring this cost down.

Like anyone caught out by a minibar, it’s also important to learn from this lesson. Once the audit is done, all negotiations taken care of, and any additional fees paid, it’s easy to get complacent. Aren’t you, after all, now fully compliant with licensing requirements? Not so fast. The vendor does not actually guarantee full compliance upon paying a fine. If more issues are found in a subsequent audit, the organisation will still be liable.

Businesses and organisations with an Oracle installation need to ensure that not only do they get what they pay for, but they also pay for what they get. With potential fines running into the hundreds of thousands—or even millions—getting it wrong could end up costing more than even the priciest minibar.

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