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Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU

On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it

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Oracle has released "the most comprehensive patch set" ever for its database software – but its users should be aware of potentially wallet-busting features in the batch.

Version 12.1.0.2 of the database came out on Tuesday and brought with it a range of new features, including Oracle's hotly anticipated "in memory" tech.

The "in memory" feature, as the name suggests, ensures crucial data – such as frequently accessed records – is kept present in as much RAM as possible, thus accelerating operations. It's been in development for several years and Oracle had to rewrite "the brain" of its database to make the feature available.

But you don't just rewrite a brain for free – the in-memory feature costs money, setting you back at least $23,000 per Oracle SPARC processor it's installed on, we've heard.

Where it gets concerning is that in the 12.1.0.2 patch release of the database, the INMEMORY_QUERY switch is enabled by default, according to an analysis of the install by database platform expert Kevin Closson.

This means that once the release – which has a naming scheme that is typically associated with straightforward patch and performance distributions – has been downloaded by IT and the internal database systems have been updated, a less careful database administrator could create an in-memory database table with a single command, thereby sticking their organization with a hefty bill next time Oracle chooses to carry out a license fee audit.

Oracle did not respond to multiple requests for comment over the past two days, but we can imagine it arguing that the onus for knowing which features require extra payment is on the IT dept. We reckon that when a feature is as pricey as this, it's the duty of the vendor to make it absolutely clear to the administrator that a feature costs money.

"It really should have a default initialization setting that renders the option/feature nascent – but the reality is quite the opposite," Closson writes.

Another source agreed. "It's a very easy option to use, like a lot of Oracle extra cost options; requiring only very minor changes to syntax and parameters... sadly it is very easy to use many options without much thought," a database licensing consultant in the UK, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Register.

In Oracle's most recent financial report, new software licenses remained flat while software license updates – the money Oracle makes from businesses using new pay-for-play technologies like the in-memory option – and product support revenues climbed seven per cent year on year.

Though the in-memory feature has received a lot of media attention, it may not be used incredibly widely. "I think a lot of people will be interested in it," our consultant said.

"Having said that, I think the feature requires specific business circumstances to justify implementing in production systems and so I don't think it'll easily spread into a large proportion of databases, unlike Diagnostics or Tuning Packs." ®

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