Friday, 9 January 2015

Response to Campaign for Clear Licensing Open Letter to Oracle

I, on behalf of UKOUG have read the Open Letter to Oracle from The Campaign for Clear Licensing (CCL) and actually applaud the 7 steps as best practice, although do not necessarily see them as direct indictments against Oracle.

When CCL published their survey quoted in the open letter, UKOUG responded through the press pointing out that Martin Thompson of CCL had attended, and in fact addressed the audience at our Licensing event last year, and based on that and our wider experience the picture was not as black as he painted. The open letter does pick up on lots of more positive things from Oracle and I feel is better balanced.

UKOUG know that licensing is an important consideration to our members and something we are committed to constantly monitoring, so lets look at those 7 points more closely:

1. Strategic FocusCustomer satisfaction, relationship strength and strategic value should replace audit revenue as a key performance indicator.

Users are very passionate when they feel wronged and immediately after an audit there can be a lot of shouting, and we hear of audits that happen in the last quarter and are then seen as revenue generating. The discussions need to be outside actual audits, with less emotion.

Oracle License Management Services (LMS) are trying to engage more with customers. Mark Hurd recently talked about employing 10x more staff whose only role was to improve relationships with customers, this is something user groups have asked for repeatedly; so let's give them the chance to demonstrate the payback to customers.

2. Audit Clarity Oracle needs to be crystal clear with audit activity and adopt the Campaign for Clear Licensing code of conduct

I smiled at this, the CCL want Oracle, and all software vendors to sign up to their Campaign for Clear Licensing code of conduct, of course they do, its not a bad thing but it isn’t a indictment of Oracle specifically either.

3. One voice pleaseOrganisations want clarity over Oracle license management from one voice. They don’t want to be passed around between departments who don’t communicate with each other.

Yes as I said above, it is a very common request from our members to have a single account manager at Oracle, but not just for licensing, and let's see if Mark Hurd’s investment addresses this.

4. KnowledgebaseOracle needs to invest in a well-organized knowledgebase to educate its customers

LMS are reaching out to customers to help educate them and most of what they are saying is available online, but this is a longterm exercise and UKOUG will continue to work at speeding this up for our members.

5. Re-engineer riskAs more organisations mature in their governance processes, more will shy away from Oracle as an unnecessary burden to manage. Oracle needs to engineer its products and license programs to reduce unnecessary risk. The focus of control needs to be placed in the hands of the business not developers.

I agree licence asset management is a business not a developer role, but a mature customer is less likely to leave Oracle, they will determine their vendor on the overall value to their business.

6. Software Asset Management EvangelismOracle needs to help educate its customers to assign appropriate resource for managing software and proactively assist with licensing training and management practices around Oracle software.

This is where UKOUG can continue our work with Oracle to ensure that their customers understand more about the audit process. Oracle have the right to audit a customer to ensure they are licensed correctly but the metrics are often returned wrong because of bad housekeeping by a customer, e.g. Not ending certain records correctly so count is higher than reality or the customer does not understand the actual metric, such as records they feel shouldn’t be counted but are legitimate. Education is needed to ensure asset management and audits are understood and a good representation of what is being used / paid for by customers.

We can encourage this education not just from Oracle but also by our members being open and sharing their experiences. In the past year we have had presentations from members and another blogged through their audit process; these stories help to dilute the myths.

7. CommunicateOracle is not being invited to participate in key business conversations because of mistrust. Oracle needs to step up conversations and provide clarity to regain trust.

There is cautiousness rather than exclusion but again this is about account management and not specifically licensing. UKOUG facilitate sessions with our members and Oracle on all sorts of topics, which help in this area.

Licensing has risen over the last few years as a concern throughout the industry, and the existence of CCL is a direct result of that. In 2012 our members had questions, and by 2013 they asked at a roundtable discussion at our main conference for a specific initiative. This in turn led to the dedicated event last year, which we plan to follow up with a C level event this year.

We also know that customers who are user group members are happier customers, because they learn how to get more from their investment by sharing experiences with others. At UKOUG we are committed to this education and will continue to work really closely with LMS.

I have also read other commentaries today on the Open letter, CloudTech talk about Oracle being first in the firing line of OCL, and the other big boys needing to brace themselves, but they also talk about Oracle's positives mentioned in the letter.

The move to Cloud is great opportunity to ensure the clarity CCL promote and UKOUG have recently launched an independent forum, but with the full support of Oracle, for members adopting Cloud, to ensure their whole experience is understood. This includes forging links with Oracle Cloud Services.

Could Oracle do better? Yes, but they have made a great start. The need for clarity is not unique to Oracle, it is an industry concern but one Oracle has recognised. Oracle, as CCL tell us, were the first software vendor to meet with CCL, locally they introduced CCL to UKOUG; they did not hide.

UKOUG will continue to facilitate dialogue between Oracle and our members and continue to share our learnings with the wider Oracle User group Community until it is no longer a concern.

If you want to join in the discussion, work with UKOUG or your local user groupyour voice.


JAYT said...

IMHO Oracle in order to regain trust they need to go further than I have so far heard a plan for.

In a recent release it was established it was possible to enable In-Memory database without intending to, costing US$23,000 per core at list price. A bug was acknowledged and scheduled for fix.

I've seen a similar issue on Windows only in 11g. Because Oracle on Windows services offers no granularity on startup between open and shutdown, it is possible in a Data Guard configuration to flag Active Data Guard as in use when it was only enabled because the Windows service started the standby database. US$11,500 per CPU.

Oracle have spent a little time providing the Software Investment Guide. That's nowhere near enough. IMHO they need to invest in mandatory license control software allowing customers to specify which licenses they want to use in any given installation. I know turkeys do not vote for Christmas, but if this is not done, and if the licence audit people continue to generate such fear, uncertainty and frankly waste of time bureaucratic admin for busy people who have real jobs to do; if some features/bugs continue to entrap customers who had not intended to use them and present them with large retrospective bills they have no budget for; if that continues, sooner now rather than later, the erosion of Oracle databases lead in the enterprise market will start accelerating.

pwl said...

My Take on that is that we get told about all the new features in the next release of Software - eg Oracle 12 extra features - but not warned that its an licenced only feature.
Most businesses need a database - the additional functionality is nice but we can live without them or work around them.
What we really need is for a reason to upgrade our basic system and clarity as to how we will avoid incuring penalties for implementing items that are chargable but totoed as the new features of the software

Ciprian said...

As a matter of fact, licensing is something very dynamic. And the problem is driven by the size of the company that acquires software and then resells it under its name or in a very competitive software market where new products, features and version can be launch in a accelerated mode.
Working in a Oracle partner company, I have access to more tools that an usual customer can have.
So a way for a client to minimize the risk on using in a wrong way Oracle products is to go to some one specialized, like a partner. Another way is employing ex-Oracle workers(LMS, sales, etc), and I heard about this kind of situations.
There are many ways to work in a professional way and there is a simple way to ignore installation manuals and go with a full installation of a product for example.
Ignorance is something that I think can be fought, but it can't be put as a thing to be addressed by Oracle outside the company.

On the other hand, Oracle should fight against ignorance and apathy inside the organisation. It happened to me to meet sales man on technology that didn't know the difference in licensing database on standard edition versus enterprise edition, and examples can be multiple.
2 problems I want to raise:
1. The licensing model can be so complex, that even most experienced professional can commit errors in not licensing enough or over licensing products(i.e. prerequisites or included software).
2.The Oracle Global Price List can change several times in a quarter without any announcements.

So to conclude, I think Oracle can address some problems like the 7 points from the open letter, there are others points that can be identified and improved, but there is no cure for ignorance.

pwl said...

"So a way for a client to minimize the risk on using in a wrong way Oracle products is to go to some one specialized, like a partner."

So on top of the cost of software we have to add the cost of using a partner. Ok but that sure hits the price comparisons when you are pushing Oracle as opposed to another company's product.

JAYT said...

Following up pwl's post with an example, snapshot copy cloning is made to look easy in 12c when storage is on ASM, NetApp or Sun ZFS appliance.

But this feature's only available if you have taken out a Multitenant licence at US$17,500 per core.

Who would know?

Debra Lilley said...

I think the comments that say you are not warned is a little unfair. The marketing organisation and the evangelists are talking about the features, you need to check with account managers the costs, as people say ignorance isn't an excuse.

I agree, it would be better if there was an easier way to know that the new features are chargeable, and my advice would be to assume they are until you have checked.

Or better still ask the question outright in a marketing event or forum or your local user group, in the same way you investigate the features investigate the cost.

Where it is switched on accidentally as in JAYT comment, you can argue if it came to an audit. I know many customers you run scripts themselves to ensure they are compliant.

JAYT said...

To my knowledge I have personally never switched on use of a feature accidentally. (Came close, but that was due to a deficiency in Oracle Windows services opening standby databases and potentially bringing up the standby in Read-Only mode. This required a non-Oracle Windows startup trigger to prevent it happening, something not even described in any Oracle Support Note. This is essentially, in my view, nothing short of license "entrapment".)

But Deborah's response seems to me to be from the mind-set of an Oracle licensing employee - though she's clearly not.

I have worked at customer sites where members of the DBA team have been involved for weeks, or even months per year collaborating with Oracle audit teams to produce the results. Why does Deborah think it's OK to expect customers to write scripts to check they're only using software they're licensed for? Why is it OK for Oracle to expect customers right down to the size of a corner-shop to employ full-time licensing experts - because increasingly that's what the requirements of the ever-increasing number of options implies.

One clear example being Flashback Data Archiving - extra cost option in but from terminal release onwards included in Enterprise Edition.

Most hidden extras go the other way - an unexpected cost, not a "free from this edition on". But if a site were to use this option in development but backport use to an UAT database, Oracle licensing would have them.

I don't get why Deborah - a customer advocate - appears to think this is OK.

If the number of options continues to increase, Oracle needs to provide software tools to provide mandatory license management - so DBA's and Developers can no longer accidentally use features that have not been licensed, incurring large unexpected bills down the road for software use that was never intended and possibly never actually productively used by the business.

Can't think of too much software out there that uses Oracle's approach to licensing. Stuff is either entirely proprietary, usually requiring entry of a license key, or open-source - free to use, only chargeable if you want support. Oracle's always tried to have its cake and eat it on this. Customers increasingly walking away to open-source platforms will force a change in the end I guess.

Ciprian said...

well, I don't think a partner adds costs. If anyone considers a case or another it is just an opinion as mine
The facts is that a partner offers a service, it can be bad or worse. In the optimistic case, the reason to go to a partner is that it knows better the ecosystem and can optimize the way of buying the license for the particular case of a customer. in the pessimistic case it can try to fool the customer and to add an unfair margin.
in both cases it is the responsibility of the person with the money, how it spends it. and there is responsibility of the service provider to have a happy client.
regarding bugs, I won't question the existence, but I won't take the exception as a rule of business.
regarding installation process of the products, the responsibility is of the person who makes the installation. if the person is an employee of a partner, than the contract should contain how responsibility is shared between the parts in case of misconduct. If the person is employee of the customer it is the responsibility of the customer/employer.
The process can be improved of course and tools are always coming, but on the other hand as I told before, there is a lot of ignorance and "blame it on the others" attitude that even when tools are available will exist and damage the business.
Regarding price... this is just a stupid quarrel... and it throws the discussion on another theme that I won't follow. I will just say, there are prices, there are discounts and these are things that should not be mixed LMS as I see it.
I've gave several options, hire a partner, hire trained people. Both are more expensive than hiring average people that do average job and cause big pain or loses.

Ciprian said...

regarding the example Jayt gave with DB options here are some good resources:

11g - R1

11g -R2

interestingly though I couldn't find the information on 12C :)

Debra Lilley said...

First, my name is Debra, secondly and more importantly I am a user advocate and I do not work for or stand for LMS.

What I do believe is that if you have issues with your supplier you should work with them and not just shout.

User groups should bring to the vendors attention where there is issues and I know that over the years we have raised licensing issues. I personally work on the applications side so am not as close to database issues, but have many times spoken to Oracle about specific issues our members have had.

I DO appreciate they don't advertise where new features have added costs, and YES it would be better if they were clearer, but it is also important that customers check, ignorance is not a defence.

What I advocate is listening to your user group, speaking to your account manager, and researching on the web.

Also I am a partner and would think it very unprofessional to implement something new for a customer without raising with them the additional costs that apply.

JAYT said...

Debra, first of all apologies for the misspelling.

"Work with your supplier". Ideally yes. But Oracle is a very large organisation. When you raise issues like this with Oracle people - even in person at conferences - you tend to get the "corporate line" and a promise of a response which never comes.

Found an explicit example of confusion in an Oracle Support Note which could lead the unwary to incur US$100,000s in unintended license cost, all IMHO in order to try and work around an issue that is a deficiency in the way Data Guard handles temporary files. (Active Data Guard is listed at US$11,500 per core.)

The header line below states "OPEN READ ONLY" which is fine for Enterprise Edition. Further down we have the mention "As this is an 11.2 environment Active Data Guard...". It is not possible to add the tempfile in READ ONLY mode. If the customer follows the note without understanding the implications they will face a demand for #CPUs*US$11,500 the next time LMS visit. That's unfortunate if they had no business justification to enable Active Data Guard. Why is that not "entrapment" guided by the very organisation set up to assist customers?

Data Guard Physical Standby - Managing temporary tablespace tempfiles (Doc ID 1514588.1)

5. If a tempfile is added to the Primary and the standby site is OPEN READ ONLY you can add the new temp file manually to the Standby even if no switchover has been performed.

New Primary Site

A new file is added to the new Primary in this case the Old Standby site that is currently running in the Primary role.

SQL> alter tablespace temp add tempfile '+DATA' size 20M;

Tablespace altered.

SQL> alter system switch logfile;

System altered.


New Standby Site

To demonstrate the Standby will be opened read only and the tempfile added manually to the sites configuration.

SQL> alter database open;

Database altered.

As this an 11.2 environment Active Data Guard can be running while this file is built into the standby sites structure. Managed recovery is started in this demonstration.

SQL> recover managed standby database disconnect using current logfile;
Media recovery complete.
The new 20M tempfile that was added to the Primary has not been replicated, is not a part of the standby sites structure and must be added manually if we want both sites tempfile configuration to be the same.

SQL> alter tablespace temp add tempfile '+DATA' size 20M;

Tablespace altered.

Debra Lilley said...

JAYT, that is a good example of a specific issue that should be raised. I believe, that this is where your user group can help.
You don't share your details so I don't know where you are based, but you should raise it with the Special Interest Group relevant to this. If you are not involved in user groups then come back to me and I will help you.

It is right that Oracle have specific instances highlighted and that they should then respond in trying to make the specific issues more transparent. My point is that they are not deliberately trying to entrap you as you suggest. They can always improve, and I know how much better they are today compared to when I started in this area 20 years ago.

JAYT said...

Debra, we'll have to agree to differ on the last point I think. 20 years ago, options barely existed. That was probably the era Larry Ellison was marketing the database as "with the others you get optional extras, with Oracle database you get everything for one price."

I'll look up how to raise such things with the DB SIG. Unfortunately, have never been able to attend in person.


Debra Lilley said...

JAYT, make the time!! User groups talk about and share ideas on new features and issues all the time, and i know costs of new features are always discussed in UKOUG. That education and networking is key to our value proposition.

When I first implemented Oracle applications 18 years ago, licensing was a nightmare, specifically over restricted use licensing of the database. If support said a process would run better if you added an index to a table, that invalidated the restricted use clause and you would get a hefty bill at licensing time. I had so so many rows with Oracle over that and other areas.

As I keep saying I am not technical, Oracle is not perfect, but from where I stand, based on lots of experience it is so much better. I want them to do more, to continuously strive for improvement in all areas of customer experience but believe the way to achieve that is to work with them

JAYT said...

Debra, unfortunately it's not me that has to make the time, it's management. Management at the moment that can't see the value. I never give up trying, not in 24 years of developing applications and administration of Oracle databases.

(I am technical, so have always done my damnedest to stay away from licensing. I think it's about time the nightmare stopped, but all I see is it getting worse unfortunately. Need I remind you of the Kevin Closson debacle over the In Memory feature enabling itself?)


Debra Lilley said...

Let me talk to your management!! Oracle survey customers every year and consistently those who are active in user groups have better satisfaction.

I know Kevin (long, funny story) and although it is not my area (Im not technical) - the issue is around how the database handles this. I do not believe that Oracle sat down and said 'lets put in a feature and we can even forecast it for new revenue'

Unknown said...

In relation to Active Dataguard accidentally being activated. We have case of this with 12c. In previous versions the srvctl parameter "-s mount" ensured that standby databases would be started in MOUNT mode and ADG would not be activated accidentally. However, in 12c, this parameter, although still accepted on the command-line and appears to work, does in fact NOT work and when switchover to the Standby and back to the Primary occurs, the Standby is in READ ONLY WITH APPLY mode - accidentally activating ADG. However, if you use the option "-startoption MOUNT" - this too is accepted and works correctly. We now have a database showing that ADG has been used ONCE on one day and only once, by accident (when doing DR/OAT testing of the dataguard setup). We noticed this 'feature' of a semi-replaced parameter and corrected it. SURELY, we should not be hit for licensing costs for this? However, my company is scared stiff, as if we are, it could cost upwards of £1m as we have so many VMs in use and one use of the feature means all cores have to be licensed and it is VERY expensive. The feature has not been used. How can the company be made to pay this by Oracle. The company are looking at potentially rebuilding these databases (which have now gone live, but the accidental one-off usage was prior to go-live) and so this has massive operational and cost implications in its own right?

Debra Lilley said...

I may be naive but if you can show it has only be used once then you should not be charged. I personally would actually talk to my account manager and tell them.

Many years ago I had a customer who was audited in apps, and received a bill for the number of users. They felt it was too high and we investigated, it turned out they were not deactivating users when they left. Oracle accepted this, demanding only that they were then disabled (which the customer should have done)

Oracle are very struct on licensing and do like a good audit but it is about misuse not accidental use