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7/25/2014
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Report: Oracle Patch Turns On $23,000 Upgrade

Oracle is shipping its Database In-Memory feature with its latest patch, but the expensive option is reportedly turned on by default.

Oracle on Monday started shipping the 12.1.0.2 release of Oracle Database in what it billed as "the most comprehensive patch set we've ever built." Oracle announced that the release includes the "marquee" Oracle Database In-Memory, but what it doesn't state prominently is that the $23,000-per-CPU option is enabled by default.

Oracle's announcement does make it clear that the In-Memory feature is included in the patch. And if you read the detailed, 130-page release document, it's quite clear that the Oracle Database In-Memory is an extra-cost option. But as The Register reported late Thursday, database expert Kevin Closson has discovered that "the separately licensed In-Memory Option/In-Memory Column Store Feature is enabled by default," as he detailed in a blog post.

[Want more on Oracle's In-Memory feature? Read Oracle In-Memory Option:  6 Key Points.]

The In-Memory feature is hugely desirable in certain use cases because it promises 100-times-faster analytical performance and two-to-four-times faster transactional performance. When the feature was announced in June, Oracle cited dozens of examples of query speeds going from hours or minutes to seconds. And customers including Yahoo, Land O Lakes, Thales Raytheon Systems, Mitsubishi, NetSuite, and others backed up the performance claims. Those gains come at a cost, however, as the option is $23,000 per CPU, according to Oracle's price list.

Oracle's Database In-Memory feature certainly has its appeal, but a database expert says the $23,000-per-CPU option is turned on by default in a new software patch.
Oracle's Database In-Memory feature certainly has its appeal, but a database expert says the $23,000-per-CPU option is turned on by default in a new software patch.

"Given the crushing cost of this option/feature I expect that its use will be very selective," writes Closson, a current EMC employee and Oracle engineering veteran. "It's for this reason I wanted to draw to people's attention the fact that -- in my assessment -- this option/feature is very easy to use 'accidentally.'  It really should have a default initialization setting that renders the option/feature nascent -- but the reality is quite the opposite."

Oracle has made a habit of adding installing features that are installed by default in patches and management packs without making it clear that they're being installed or that they come with a price, according to Mark Flynn, CEO of the Campaign for Clear Licensing, a new UK-based organization that's championing improvements in software licensing and auditing practices.

"This is an example of Oracle shooting themselves in the foot because they have a fantastic new piece of software, but it's lost in the mire of this shoddy practice, and they come across as a nasty vendor," Flynn told InformationWeek in a phone interview. "They should be communicating with and educating their customers on the change and its implications."

InformationWeek emailed two press contacts at Oracle at 9:30 AM ET (and followed up by phone) with questions about the In-Memory feature and the default installation settings, but the company did not respond in time for its response to be included in this article. We'll post any statements or updates in the comments area below.

IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP are fighting to become your in-memory technology provider. Do you really need the speed? Get the digital In-Memory Databases issue of InformationWeek today.

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
7/29/2014 | 10:36:49 PM
Oracle's Response
On 7/28, Oracle's Master Product Manager for Oracle Database In-Memory published a detailed, technical blog post that insists that this optional feature is NOT automatically enabled. The optional feature is installed along with the 12.1.0.2 release because it's an intrinsic part of the database, according to Oracle's Maria Colgan, but she wrote that enabling the feature requires a deliberate, two-step process whereby memory is allocated to the feature. Read the details here.
License Consulting
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License Consulting,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2014 | 4:36:43 AM
same old same old
This has never been any different. By default Oracle will install and enable most of the options. What's a lot worse, that an innocent Standard Edition One user is able to use Enterprise Edition Options which shouldn't be available in the first place.

For example, an Oracle SE One user can run with 1 Processor license on a single CPU 8-Core Server, at a cost of $5.800 for the Oracle license. But if a dba would run Medium compression instead of Basic compression - even when the V$Option table the Advanced Compression is set on FALSE this will actually work - Oracle will tell the client to buy Database Enterprise Edition and Advanced Security for $236.000.- instead. We've seen Oracle trying to get away with such compliance claims even in situations where the client was able to demonstrate that the DBA only ran compression for testing the feature. So while this article seems alarming, it is one of the more "innocent" traps for Oracle clients. In our experience, the majority of Oracle's claims with regard to Database options are based on false-positives.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2014 | 1:54:47 PM
Re: Honor System Vs. Trust-But-Verify
"relies on honor system". Yeah, for one of two reasons, neither which reflect well on Oracle. Either they are too incompetent to build a licensing control system or, most probable, they want you to turn that stuff on accidently so they can charge you for it.

If you are silly enough to deal with Oracle in first place, that stuff comes with territory. The maintenance fee troll of the IT world. I feel very sorry for the JD Edwards customers (and many other vendors Oracle snatched up) who are stuck with these guys when they certainly never intended to be.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/25/2014 | 7:04:51 PM
Re: Oracle Acknowledges Optional Feature Ships Turned On
But it this new feature worth $23,000-per-CPU? At that price, I'd be tempted to process the data with pencil and paper.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
7/25/2014 | 2:45:21 PM
Honor System Vs. Trust-But-Verify
I'm working on a feature on software licensing currently and in a recent interview, IDC analyst Amy Mizoras Konary told me Oracle is one of the few vendors that relies on the honor system, whereby it ships all sorts of software and lets you use it whether you have licensed it or not. It has no mechanisms, other than software audits, to alert you whether you are actually entited to use these features. The danger, or course, is that DBAs and app administrators will install, turn on, and start using all sorts of features only discover in an audit that they owe a lot more than they realized. Negotiated discounts could go out the window, too.

Most vendors take what she called a "trust but verify" approach whereby notifications are triggered when you try to use or install features that you're not currently entitled to use -- or at least the notification will warn you that it's an extra-cost feature that you have to be licensed to use. This helps avoid those audit surprises.
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