License compliance is not easy

Explorer UK Ltd Mar 28, 2017 11:38:26 AM

Certified Oracle Compliance

Over the last decade or so, countless Oracle customers have experienced license issues by falling foul of Oracle’s ‘trust model’, complex licensing metrics and how Oracle’s policies affect third party technologies. As a result of this, numerous companies have setup ‘license consultancy’ practices and developing SAM tools suggesting they can provide a compliancy ‘rubberstamp’ with regard to Oracle products. However, their tools and processes fall short of covering all aspects required and do not provide an outcome that Oracle LMS would view as complete enough to ensure compliance.

In this blog I will look to outline some of the common areas of non-compliancy, Oracle’s position in these areas and how Explorer can assist as an Oracle LMS certified partner and trusted license advisor.

Licensing Metrics and Rules

Oracle has produced and acquired a myriad of products in the areas of Database, Middleware and associated development tools, all of which come with their own nuanced licensing rules and definitions. Each of these product groups has its own metrics, minimum licensing and core factors and each group requires it’s support level to be consistent across the whole ‘set’; i.e. a product set must be under full support or be fully de-supported with no half measures. Database Standard Edition products are not core sensitive but require either Processor based or a Named User Plus (NUP) licensing metric. The current product – Database Standard Edition 2 – has a Named User Plus minimum of 10 per Server, which is an increase over the previous minimum of 5 per company with SE1 and SE. This slight change has caught a lot of our customers out when looking at upgrading to SE2. Database Enterprise Edition and Middleware products without “Standard Edition” in their name are core sensitive. Not only that, Oracle grade how these ‘Enterprise’ products are licensed based on the power of the hardware on which they are to be deployed referencing a core factor table. Intel typically being 0.5, legacy Sun 0.75, IBM p-Series 1.0. Therefore, varying the number of licenses required significantly.

Enterprise Options & Management Packs

As part of Oracle’s ‘trust’ model, Oracle allows companies to download and trial any of its software products for a grace 30-day period. After which, you must remove or license said product. This is an area where many a DBA has fallen foul by trialling options such as Partitioning, Advanced Compression or the Diagnostic and Tuning Packs and not removing them. Also, when provisioning the Database selecting a ‘custom’ option could, inadvertently, install unwanted options and packs. As these are commercial options, Oracle will look to recover the retrospective cost of these if they are identified in an audit.

Data Recovery

I have lost count of the times an Oracle customer has stated that their standby deployment doesn’t require licensing as it’s a “cold” standby – whatever that really means. Or, that the associated storage is “un-presented” when in fact they have Oracle software installed and/or running in standby and/or backup configurations. A data only backup to tape or disk is fine, however if you take a copy of the Oracle binaries – referenced in your contractual OLSA/TOMA as ‘programs’ – then that server hardware requires licensing irrespective of whether it’s switched off or the associated status of the storage. Again, Oracle will look to recover the retrospective cost of these if they are identified in an audit. Also, remember that Standby environments need to be licensed as per the Production instance matching the same products and metrics. Finally, it’s worth noting that Oracle don’t have a concept of “cold”, “hot” or any other temperature referenced data recovery terminology. The 3 data recovery options are Backup, Failover and Standby. Each one has its own rules and you can read them here;

Third party considerations

Oracle approves certain methods of hard partitioning (e.g. Solaris Zones / IBM LPAR etc.) together within their own hypervisor (Oracle OVM), however they do not recognise other third party methods of soft partitioning (e.g. VMware). This issue is compounded with the use of shared storage and being able to use the vMotion feature to execute VM’s anywhere within the cluster.

In these situations, Oracle references the ‘installed and/or running’ clause within your OLSA/TOMA and the capability of being able to move a VM at will to provide high availability. Oracle’s policy here is that not just the host but the whole corporate cluster(s) (due to shared storage) that requires licensing. Therefore, careful architectural planning is required to ring-fence Oracle deployments within VMware and its associated shared storage. The issue of licensing Oracle’s technology products in VM’s is well known and well documented across the web but customers still think that they can argue with, and prove, Oracle wrong. In 100% of cases we’ve been involved in, Oracle has recovered retrospective costs for non-compliant deployments. The only win for customers has been to what value have we been able to mitigate this down to.

Oracle has also recently announced new policies for using its products within third party cloud providers such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. In certain scenarios this can double the licenses required for a given deployment and the policy is grand-fathered meaning previous deployments are also affected. This license rule changed happened overnight without any warning or fanfare from Oracle, which also applies retrospectively to Cloud deployments so unless you’re working with a License Advisory partner to keep you in check of all these changes, the chances are you’re going to have compliance issues sooner or later. More on this here:

Oracle Technology Network Developer License

Oracle allows customers to use its products for free as part of this agreement, however there is one big caveat. Under the license rights section of the terms, it states: “if you use the application you develop under this license for any internal data processing or for any commercial or production purposes” …“you must obtain a production release version of the program”. This means that as soon as you (or your customer) put the application into production, both the production and development environments require licensing.

Explorer License Advisory Service

Explorer are one of a small number of UK Oracle Platinum Partner’s authorised by Oracle LMS to perform license reviews. Explorer performs license advisory services to organisations that want to identify shelf-ware and protect their business against non-compliance. These services are provided free of charge as we feel that by providing a free service proves that we have your best interests at heart and our value will be proven that you’ll want to work with us again at some point in the future.

Performing a thorough assessment of your Oracle assets will enable us to present you with options to reduce support costs, remove products from support if they are not used and optimise the deployment of in-use licenses across your infrastructure to give you the perfect mix of value, performance and availability. If you have any concerns about compliance or want a free license assessment, please contact a member of the license advisory services team.