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Oracle Licensing – Know the Lingo to Avoid Confusion

Thought-Leadership by Brian Lowinger
on November 8, 2016

oracle-licensing-know-the-lingo-to-avoid-confusion-blog.pngAs is clear to anyone that works with Oracle and their products, the myriad of licensing policies and terms is vast, complex, and confusing. For those new to Oracle or more familiar with other publishers, this variety of terms can create a challenge. As with other enterprises, Oracle’s universe includes its own lexicon that often strays from what might be considered the industry standard. Understanding these terms is an important step in anyone’s Oracle licensing education.

“Audit,”  “License Review,” “True Up,” etc.

Over the years, Oracle has used a number of colorful names for what are effectively software audits.  While Oracle now seems more comfortable with plainly using the term “audit” when interacting with customers, historically they have performed audits under the banner of less threatening sounding “License Reviews” or “Advisory Services.” Customers should be aware that if Oracle finds compliance issues based on data that a customer shares, regardless of whether or not the term “audit” is ever used, Oracle will undoubtedly force the customer to resolve the issues with some kind of license fee.  Customers should not be fooled by the more benign “audit” synonyms that Oracle may use and should seek the help of a trusted advisor before providing any data to Oracle.

“Partitioning”

The term “partitioning” is frequently used during Oracle-related discussions of all kinds.  What can be confusing for those that are less familiar with Oracle licensing in general is that partitioning, in the context of Oracle, usually means one of two distinctly different things. 

1) Partitioning is the name of a licensable, extra-cost option to Oracle Database Enterprise Edition that allows customers to segment a large database into smaller pieces. In this context, Partitioning refers to a specific product. 

2) Partitioning is also often used as a term that refers to the act of segmenting a physical server into multiple sections where each section acts as a separate system.  Oracle has (in)famously qualified some technologies that allow for this segmentation as what they refer to as “hard partitioning,” while others have been categorized as “soft partitioning.” In any case, in this context “partitioning” refers to the way a physical server has been segmented.

Partitioning can refer to an actual Oracle product or a method of server segmentation, and conversations about partitioning can often become confusing without knowing how the term is intended. 

“Capped” and “Uncapped”

As touched on above, Oracle recognizes certain technologies as a valid means by which to “hard partition” a server. When a server is hard partitioned, only the segment of the physical host that runs Oracle requires licensing. Technologies that Oracle has not certified as hard partitioning, such as VMware, fall into the category of “soft partitioning.” These soft partitioning technologies don’t limit Oracle license requirements. 

The terms “capped” and “uncapped” are sometimes informally used to refer to hard and soft partitioning, respectively. These terms, however, can get confusing when discussing IBM LPAR technology, which is one of the methods that Oracle has qualified as hard partitioning. Like Oracle, IBM has its own set of terminology. In IBM speak, LPARs may be created with a mode of “capped” or “uncapped.”  In the IBM world, the terms “capped” or “uncapped” refer to two different options for how the LPAR consumes processing power. When it comes to Oracle licensing, however, an LPAR is a valid hard partition, regardless of whether the LPARs mode is “capped” or “uncapped.”  So an “uncapped” LPAR is still a hard partition.

In general, regarding server partitioning, “capped” means hard partitioned while “uncapped” means soft partitioned. But in the specific context of IBM LPARs, capped and uncapped are well-defined technical terms that don’t refer directly to Oracle licensing policy.

“Multiplexing”

While “multiplexing” is widely used by Oracle, most notably within the Named User Plus license metric definition, the term is not standard throughout the industry and, consequently, some customers are confused about what it means. Oracle uses multiplexing to mean any scenario where some layer of technology resides between the database and the front-end that masks some or all of the users that contribute data to the database. TP monitors or web servers are common examples that Oracle gives.   In a multiplexing scenario, front-end users keying in data may not be “seen” by the database, and Oracle wishes to make clear that all users require licensing, regardless of what user accounts are captured within the database.

“Batching”

“Batching” is another term found within the Named User Plus definition, and is commonly employed elsewhere by Oracle as well. Batching refers to the one-time transfer of large amounts of data from one computer to another. While the “computer to computer” language that Oracle uses leaves some room for ambiguity, in our experience Oracle views a batch as a transfer specifically from one relational database to another. 

Know the Lingo

As we’ve seen, there is much opportunity for confusion, based on the Oracle terminology that is frequently used. Knowing the Oracle lingo can help anyone navigate the complex world of Oracle licensing. For more expertise on Oracle licensing, contact an Oracle SAM Specialist by clicking the banner below.

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