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Oracle users open can of whup-ass on licensing policies

'Relations are hostile and filled with deep-rooted mistrust'

Fight sticker

Businesses view relations with Oracle as “hostile” and are “filled with deep-rooted mistrust”, according to a six month end-user survey on software compliance conducted by the Campaign for Clear Licensing (CCL).

The not-for-profit organ probed (PDF) 100 hard-pressed IT and software asset managers, licensing specialists and tech procurement heads to ascertain the sentiment toward Larry Ellison’s lot – and the feedback was bad.

The majority (92 per cent) complained Oracle does not clearly communicate licensing changes, and in some cases the firm’s licence management service (LMS) team were themselves found to be working with out-of-date info.

Some 88 per cent disagreed or disagreed strongly that audit requests are clear and easy to manage or respond to. Only slightly above a fifth claimed Oracle was helpful during audit, contract renewal or the negotiation process.

“We have found that customers’ relationships with Oracle are hostile and filled with deep-rooted mistrust,” said Martin Thompson, founder of CCL.

“So entrenched is this feeling of mistrust that some organisations were fearful of speaking to us in case of any audit repercussions,” he added.

Oracle’s licensing policies fell under the spotlight some months back when it released a patch for database software containing an in-memory tech feature that could potentially cost customers $23k per CPU when installed.

The dark art of remaining compliant is not specific to Oracle, but means customers have to employ licensing specialists internally or outsource the work to asset management firms making a living off such things.

The CCL survey further highlighted prevailing concerns: customers are heavily dependent on Oracle for decision making, they cannot measure compliance or complete self-assessment, and measurement techniques are not detailed in the contract.

“It appears than rather than a highly scalable set of autonomous customers - Oracle does not want to lose control for fear of losing sight of the next sales opportunity,” the survey stated.

In response, Oracle said licensing terms were defined in its contracts, and suggested “customers check the terms and conditions of contracts”.

A second major issue related to what users felt was inconsistent messaging from Oracle that makes it harder to remain compliant, and puts customers on the back foot when renegotiating future agreements. Comms were weak with regard to sales staff not being up to speed on contracts they are selling, and licence changes not well conveyed, said respondents.

Oracle LMS admitted customer documents are “not updated regularly”, as this is the remit of the sales team. “Oracle LMS stated that they don’t always receive updates on new products either. Oracle LMS don’t own Oracle licensing documents so can’t change communications or content”.

The last major complaint centred on the database giant moving the goal posts on licensing to match revenue requirements: changing policies but putting the onus on customers to decipher; installs and upgrades triggering licensable changes; different departments passing the buck on licensing.

Oracle said renewals belong to the sales team, not LMS, and that customers should advise Oracle database staff not to use certain features if they are not required.

CCL's Thompson said: “On the whole, the customers we surveyed appear to have an arm's-length, impoverished relationship with Oracle.”

Oracle did not comment further. ®

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