Oracle Database – Compliance help around edition, version and options


Organizations spend large amounts of money on the purchase and support of Oracle Database software – among many more core business programs. Different, complex and changing licensing rules and definitions need to be taken into account and periodically reviewed in order to avoid unnecessary compliance issues and financial risk.

By downloading Oracle Database software, you will obtain a bundle or suite of products and components. During installation, you can choose from a number of options with regard to which specific products and components are installed and configured, resulting in different licensing scenarios. Here we will address three main parameters, out of many others: Database Edition, Database Version, and Database Enterprise Edition Options.

Database Edition             
By default you will install Oracle’s Database Enterprise Edition. In case end users would want to install Oracle’s Database Standard Edition or Database Standard Edition One, they are required to deselect the default and select Database Standard Edition (One).

Oracle Database Standard Edition One can only be installed on servers with a maximum capacity of 2 sockets. End users wishing to install Oracle Database Standard Edition should be aware that this software can only be installed on servers with a maximum capacity of 4 sockets.

It’s not uncommon to have a physical server with a capacity of 10 sockets or more in which you create a dedicated LPAR with 2 sockets to install the Oracle Database Standard Edition (One) assuming that this is allowed. However, because the physical server has more then 4 sockets, the only Database Version allowed is the Enterprise Edition.

Database Version            
In case an end user installs the Oracle Database he is entitled to choose the database version (e.g. 10g R1, 10gR2, 11gR1, 11gR2, 12cR1) available as of the date on which the corresponding license has been purchased or up to the date for which the end user has purchased technical support (as this includes the right to make use of program updates). End users who have decided to not pay this support don’t have the right to make use of the latest version of the database software programs, patches and updates. This requires them to keep track of which database version is installed on what machine and to allocate the appropriate licenses to these servers.

Database Enterprise Edition Options    
During the Oracle Database download process, many different Oracle Database Enterprise Edition Options (e.g. Multitenant, Partitioning, Spatial, Advanced Analytics, Advanced Compression, Real Application Clusters, Real Application Testing, Label Security, Advanced Security, Database Vault, Active Dataguard, Database In-Memory and more) automatically land on the computer. All these options are separately licensable features. In almost all the database versions, an end user does not have the option to NOT install these options with the database, and therefore they will be ready to be used.

Although the license metric definitions state that Oracle software is required to be licensed once it is “installed and/or running,” Oracle will not require you to license these database options in case they are only installed.

The presence of an installed database option however is a risk in itself; many database administrators think that, either (i) since the database option is installed it is probably a feature of the licensed database software itself (and therefore allowed to be used and not required to be licensed separately), or (ii) since the database option is installed it is probably a feature for which the company is licensed – otherwise why would it have been installed – and therefore may be legitimately be used.

In Use or Not – How Do You Know?        
Apart from the fact that an installed database option poses a risk, Oracle will only formally (during the course of an audit) require you to license a database option when the option is found to be in use. But how do you know? Since the functionality of the various database options is different, the usage of all the different database options needs to be determined in different ways.

To complicate matters, end users should distinguish between (i) database options usage “out of the box” or “system usage,” which can be divided into two categories:

a)            default usage automatically generated during the database (e.g. all database installations have partitioned segments created at installation by the schemas “SYS” and “SYSTEM”)


b)            usage generated by other Oracle Applications that have been optimized to use certain Oracle Database Options. (e.g. Oracle Applications generated usage would be the partitioned segments created by the “APPS” schema belonging to Oracle E-Business Suite; this type of usage does not require an Oracle Partitioning license).

Well . . . Oftentimes You Simply Don’t!                
Due to the level of detailed knowledge required to differentiate between “out of the box” system usage and “real usage”, almost no end user organization is able to keep track of what database options are actually used and therefore required to be licensed.

Did you know that when you make use of the database feature data-pump – which is part of the Oracle Database license itself – that its standard configuration (“Compress All”) triggers the use of data-pump compression, a feature of Advanced Compression, which is a separately licensable option? Or is your database administrator aware of the fact that in case he imports data which was previously compressed with OLTP table compression, that this feature (OLTP table compression) is a feature of Advanced Compression, which is a separately licensable option?

Be aware of Over-licensing         
Not monitoring the database configuration on a regular basis will result in large compliance issues and financial risks. In addition, software scanning and inventory tools (including the third-party tools verified by Oracle) do not differentiate system usage from actual usage, resulting in the fact that many end user organizations relying upon these software inventory tools (which is typically based on system usage) think they require to license more database options than they actually need to!

The lack of proper management of the specific management packs being used for specific database instances on which specific servers and by whom (including your external database management suppliers) typically results in large unexpected non-compliance situations and related financial risk.

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All common Oracle Database license compliance issues we experienced at clients over the last years are presented in our new white paper.

Not understanding the terms and conditions increases the risks of non-compliance and financial exposure tremendously. Performing a regular internal license review of your Oracle (Database) software enables you to stay in control, optimize your IT costs and reduce your financial, operational and legal risks.

This article was published on 22-10-2015