It appears those guys in Redwood City, California are up to their old tricks of trying to grab money from customers where no money is owed according to the contract. By now I thought we’d heard just about every strategy that Oracle has for expanding their pocket books at customers expense. But Oracle is a very innovative company, and not just with their software and other technology. This reminds me very much of the now infamous Oracle Parking Garage from my good friends at House of Brick, only on a much larger scale.
Firstly let me start by saying that customers must pay every dime that they owe Oracle in licensing for the software they use under the terms and conditions of the contract they have signed and agreed to. But not a penny more. This is time and again where the problem begins. Because a lot of people who deal with Oracle don’t know their contract.
Before we get into the new FUD, let us review some of the wording directly from the Oracle OLSA. This is the contract that you sign with Oracle that sets out all the various obligations and agreements, and it’s legally binding on you and Oracle. There are various versions that have changed over the years, and you may have some custom wording. Some called OLSA, some called TOMA. There is this public one from a customer you can read. There is also this one on the Oracle web site. You can find more on House of Bricks blog article MANAGING ORACLE LICENSING IN A SHARED STORAGE ENVIRONMENT. By and large they are similar (you should always check your actual version) and we will discuss two very important provisions that trip a lot of people up.
Firstly I’d like to draw your attention to Section L. Entire Agreement. The section reads as follows: “You agree that this agreement and the information which is incorporated into this agreement by written reference (including reference to information contained in a URL or referenced policy), together with the applicable order, are the complete agreement for the programs and/or services ordered by you, and that this agreement supersedes all prior or contemporaneous agreements or representations, written or oral, regarding such programs and/or services. If any term of this agreement is found to be invalid or unenforceable, the remaining provisions will remain effective. It is expressly agreed that the terms of this agreement and any Oracle ordering document shall supersede the terms in any purchase order or other non-Oracle ordering document and no terms included in any such purchase order or other non-Oracle ordering document shall apply to the programs and/or services ordered. This agreement and ordering documents may not be modified and the rights and restrictions may not be altered or waived except in a writing signed or accepted online through the Oracle Store by authorized representatives of you and of Oracle. Any notice required under this agreement shall be provided to the other party in writing.”
This is fairly straight forward. You are agreeing that this document is the only document that matters. Well this document and only those other documents that are explicitly referenced or referred to. It supersedes any prior agreement both verbal and written. Furthermore nothing else can vary the terms or conditions except another document agreed to and signed by both you and Oracle. These are all very important points. If something isn’t in this contract or the documents it refers to, it has not force or consequence at all. Somebody from Oracle simply telling you something is a certain way holds no weight whatsoever, unless it is contained in your contract. So whenever you are informed of an Oracle Policy, you should simply ask where is that included in your contract.
Next lets look at the definition of Processor from the OLSA. This is usually how most environments are licensed, or at least the ones that matter when it comes to the FUD I will get to in a moment. A Processor, as set out in the OLSA is defined as “all processors where the Oracle programs are installed and/or running. Programs licensed on a Processor basis may be accessed by your internal users (including agents and contractors) and by third party users…” It does go on a bit more, but this is the main point. There is a core factor table that you need to refer to in order to calculate the number of processors on multi-core chips. So you must license all processors where Oracle software IS installed and/or running. Not where it might be at some point in the future. Only where it is installed and/or running. So this covers any system in the past where it may have already been running, because at that point it was installed and/or running there. But this does not include any processor where Oracle software does not or will not be installed and/or running.
So what is the new FUD? Well it’s kind of similar to the Oracle Parking Garage referred to in my introduction. This is where the driver of the car in this case, is asked to pay for every parking space in the building, because they could have parked anywhere. However now Oracle would want that same driver to pay for every parking space in the city, in the state, in the country, in the world, or even in the galaxy. Because the driver could have parked their car anywhere, or migrated their car anywhere.
Now you probably think this sounds completely preposterous and absurd, which it is. Oracle is using this tactic to say to customers that they must license every processor of every server, in every datacenter, that is connected to a network, and running VMware vSphere 6 software. Because Oracle software could be running on it, or that Oracle software could be live migrated to it. This is because with VMware vSphere 6 you can now live migrate with vMotion across different vCenters. This is an expansion of the old FUD they used to try, which is customers should license every host in a vCenter. This is of course nonsense as the contract quite clearly says that a processor is defined as where the Oracle software is installed and/or running, not where it might be or could be.
But wait, there’s more, like all good late night infomercials. Because this new functionality opens the door so wide, you can technically live migrate a workload with vMotion to a cloud provider, across states, or across continents with the right network configuration. So this now means Oracle might try and tell you to license every processor of every host in every datacenter connected to the Internet. At least every cloud provider that runs vSphere 6.0. If you’re a cloud provider all your customers might have to license all processors in your cloud and you would have to license all of them as well. This is completely ridiculous and I am at a loss to understand how any Oracle customer could believe this to be the case. But that doesn’t stop them trying it on.
So what do you do? You fight back. Maybe with some Jedi mind control tricks, in this case, questions, answered by Oracle in writing preferably.
“Is the contract that we have signed for Oracle Software Legally Binding on both of us?”
“Does the contract supersede all prior agreements both verbal and written?”
“Can the contract be modified or altered in any way, other than in writing, and being agreed to and signed by both of our authorized representatives?”
“Does the contract form the complete agreement?”
“Where in the contract does it state we must license processors that are not running Oracle software?”
“Where in the contract does it state anything with regards to Hypervisor, VMware, vCenter, Cluster, Live Migration or vMotion?”
After you get your answers to these questions in writing and Oracle admits that you don’t owe them a dime more in licensing for any servers that do not and have not run Oracle software, go on about your daily business. You are now assured that there is no way Oracle can charge you for anything more than what you’re actually using. They can’t charge you a penny more for licenses other than where Oracle software is installed and/or running. There is no mention of Hypervisor, VMware, vCenter, Cluster (except referring to Oracle RAC), Live Migration or vMotion anywhere in your OLSA contract. So that simply can’t be applicable to you, as clearly, the contract and it’s explicitly referred to documents, are all that matter.
I’ve been helping customers now for more than a decade ensure they pay for what they use and aren’t over charged. The amount of money involved (between customers and their software vendors) if we added up all the deals over this time, goes well into the billions with a B. The amount of savings achieved by doing simple things, like asking the right questions, having proper procedures (configuration, management, auditing) documented, designing with licensing requirements in mind etc, has saved in the billions in total as well. So if this article, or any of the other ones has helped you, please post a comment and let me know. I’d like it if everyone just paid for what they owed and didn’t get extorted in the process of licensing and using their software.
The fight is between you and your software vendor, in this case, you and Oracle. Nobody else is a party to the contract or legally bound by it. But by doing some simple things, like reading your contract from cover to cover, and applying some common sense, you can avoid license compliance issues, and avoid paying more than you need. Get your own legal advice, get it early. Check out my Oracle Page for many more entertaining stories about Oracle FUD, Design Tips, Performance Best Practices and more.
This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com. By Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2012 – 2015 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.