Oracle Licensing : It’s Your Responsibility to Comply


This little moan was inspired by some posts by Kevin Closson.

Kevin is awesome (I love you Kevin!), but I don’t happen to agree with him in this specific case*. Having said that, I do understand where he is coming from.

Earlier in the year my current employer had an Oracle license audit, which I wrote about here. I must admit I was quite nervous going into it. Oracle licensing is a tricky business and Oracle tend to ship a lot of functionality out-of-the-box, so it is easy for people to use things “by accident”. Having said that, Oracle do provide tools (DBMS_FEATURE_USAGE_STATISTICS) and documentation (Feature Availability by Edition) to help you keep track of things. You can also speak to Oracle License Management Services.

So now to the point of this moan and the title of this post. In my opinion, a DBA should have a basic awareness of licensing. I’m not talking about a profound knowledge of the licensing manual. I just mean a rough idea about database editions and options and how to find out what options you are using.

I think there are two distinct issues here:

  1. Some database options have an on/off switch and are turned off by default (like the In-Memory Column Store). If your DBA turns one of these on “by accident”, they should be fired. They are an idiot. Simple as that!
  2. Other database options are turned on by default, or even mandatory, but you are not breaking your licensing unless you use them. It’s very easy for a DBA or developer to copy something from a website or a MOS note and accidentally breach the license agreement. I have a lot of sympathy for people who fall into this trap. Anyone who was around in the early 10g days, when AWR, ADDM and ASH were first introduced, will remember the massive stink that caused. Click on the wrong page in EM or query the wrong DBA view and you’re in trouble. This was just plain wrong!

Anyway, enough of this moaning. I would be interested to know other people’s opinions though!



* So it turns out Kevin was correct in so far as the feature does get tracked as being used, but this is down to a bug. Presumably when that bug gets patched it will flush this usage and everything will be back to normal.

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

7 thoughts on “Oracle Licensing : It’s Your Responsibility to Comply”

  1. I fully agree about the AWR boondoggle. About seven years ago I was one of a team of six DBA/Developers. I was (and am) much more developer than DBA, but I was tasked to diagnose problems with long-running queries so I used AWR reports. I had no idea at the time that a license was required. I did not find out in fact until after I’d left to company. To this day I have no idea if they had a license or not.

    I understand (barely) making AWR a feature that requires a license. However, when that decision was made by Oracle, they should also have added something that required an informed decision/consent by the DBA before performing an action that violates their licensing agreement… “Cross THIS line, you pay!”

  2. Disagreement is what makes us user our thinkerer, TIm. No worries. So while I’m thinking about it all I think I should say that the thing people are missing in Part II of my series is that I enabled the feature but I **didn’t use it**. I think that puts it in it’s own space compared to unlinkable features and on-by-default features because I think in both cases those classes of features are either a) able to be globally disables and/or 2) require that to think about both enabling and actually using the feature. I think, or at least hope, you’ll agree. If not I know you’ll think about it. 🙂

  3. I’ve started working for a company that only works with PostgreSQL. And I’m starting to find it very difficult not to be very negative when it comes to all of this cr*p that Oracle foists (or in my case, used to foist) on us: these sorts of licensing issues being just one part of it. I now count myself lucky not having to use Oracle anymore.

  4. Kevin: I do understand that point, but you still have to actively turn the feature on, which is a concious decision. 🙂

    Colin: I know what you mean. I’ve been doing a lot with MySQL recently. Although it is still an Oracle product, not having to worry about licensing cost is nice. 🙂



  5. The Oracle licensing system really is sometimes a pain in the ass IMHO.

    Sales and Oracle tech people praise all these cool new features, only to get to know a minute later: its another licensable option, so forget about it…

    In addition, as a hoster DBA, I find it sometimes tiresome to ask the customer to pay extra cash for administration packs, where the customer gets no benefit from.

  6. Stefan : “extra cash for administration packs, where the customer gets no benefit”

    Without wanting to sounds like a salesperson, I think the point of these is they do give extra benefit. I don’t think I’ve come across a person who has used AWR,ADDM,ASH and the performance pages in cloud control that has said they are worthless. If you can diagnose a customer issue faster, that is some worth to the customer.

    I understand what you mean (they don’t get something they can use directly), but it is up to you in this case to explain the pros and cons of the packs. If they care about the speed with which you can diagnose their problems, then they will pay. If not, they won’t, but they will pay for more of your time. 🙂



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