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Oracle Databases: Which editions are right for you?

By James Gabriel | June 27, 2014

Oracle has been a market leader in database technologies for a long time and they would be the first to argue that all databases are not created the same.  

For a large part they are correct and many companies rely on an Oracle database back end to keep their company running all of the time. That being said there are a couple of editions of Oracle DB and choosing the right one is vital for your infrastructure and your budget.

Understanding your choices Oracle has four main choices for their flagship technology product and choosing the right one for your scenario is important for two key reasons:

  1. To avoid over-spend by using a more expensive database edition than you really need
  2. To avoid compliance issues by using a ‘lesser’ edition than the situation demands


There are two ways that you can license most editions

  1. either per user, which Oracle calls Named User License (NUP) or
  2. per processor license (Processor). 


These four choices have a multitude of aspects that need to be factored-in when deciding which is appropriate for any given scenario. This is especially important given the potential price variance when looking at different editions on the same platform. 

For example: a 2 processor 4 core Intel chip server licensed per processor for an SE1 (explained below) instance cost would be $11,600* list price, whereas an EE instance on the same configuration would be $190,000 without including any extra database management options.

Adding options could easily take the total licensing cost past $300,000 for just one server. Clearly, making the right decision in terms of what edition is right for the particular application can make a significant financial difference. 

The same meticulous approach to intelligent licensing is also vital in an NUP metric scenario as well.  Say the application only ever has five people accessing it.  An SE 1 license with the same processor configuration above will cost around $900 list price, while an EE instance would be $95,000 list price. 

The bottom line is that selecting the right edition matters. A lot! It should be noted that many applications will certify their product on a specific edition or multiple editions of Oracle database and it’s always advisable to account for any planned growth that the application and database will go through. It’s also worth knowing that, in almost all scenarios, you can go back to Oracle and upgrade from a lower database edition to the next (but that you cannot downgrade).

Oracle Personal Edition

This option is the least-used Oracle database option and is only available for a one person (1 NUP) license at a cost of $460.  It is generally used for someone in development that wants to have their own test instance that they can connect to other database instances.

Oracle SE1

This is the introductory edition of the Oracle database and comes with some restrictions but also a number of advantages.  First, it is licensed by NUP (five minimum or total amount of users) or processors (just total processors, cores do not matter).  Second, you can only have this on a server that has a maximum of two processor sockets.  It’s important to note that even if you have a server that has capacity for four processors but only has two installed you cannot license the SE1 database on that machine.  This might seem complex, but when you look at the cost difference it’s worth the effort in understanding. For instance, if the company standardizes on Oracle DB EE but you have five new Tier 3 application deployments this year that only have small computing requirements, you can deploy with a significantly more cost-effective database license that could be easily upgraded in the future as usage demands.

Oracle SE

The middle tier of the three multi-user options, Oracle SE, can be an amazing value for any enterprise.  First, it is licensed by NUP (five minimum or total amount of users) or processors (just total processors, again cores do not matter) with a maximum of four total processors, regardless of cores.  These four total processors can be on one server or spread across two servers because Oracle SE comes with Oracle Real Application Clusters included in the price ($23,000 per processor cost in EE).  This means you can have a two server database environment with failover and high availability at a significantly reduced cost for all of your Tier 2 and some Tier 1 applications that meet those requirements and if later on you need to expand the environment, just upgrade the licenses and migrate the database.

Oracle EE

Oracle EE, or Enterprise Edition, is the flagship database and a very popular option due to its reputation and options.  For many customers this is the only platform they have ever looked into, which is largely why folks think of Oracle databases as “expensive”. While there is a cost associated with the EE database itself there are also additional costs for a wide range of assorted management packs and options that are available to each customer. 

Keeping track on the usage and availability of these options is vitally important when understanding licensing costs.  An Oracle DB EE instance on a server with two processors with four cores each would start at $190,000 list price in the USA. If you added up all the options that are commonly used, that price goes to over $400,000 for that one server.  Undoubtedly, the EE edition is the right choice for many Oracle customers.  But as you can see in the above examples, both considering the actual and predicted use of the database as well as tracking the active management packs and options are incredibly important if you want to manage both licensing costs and compliance.

Making informed choices and the importance of tracking actual usage

Overall, information is power and taking into consideration all factors of your deployment and the associated technological and financial impact needs to be an important of your decision-making process when it comes to selecting and deploying Oracle database licenses.

The great news is that help is at hand. Snow and its Oracle licensing partners can equip you with the information, technology and skills to optimize your spend on database technologies.

Just ask us how..! 


* All prices quoted in this blog post are in US Dollars (US$) and best endeavors were taken to ensure the pricing was accurate at time of publication (June 2014).  Snow Software accepts no responsibility for any pricing inaccuracies, changes in licensing terms or costs subsequent to publication.  Helpful links: Oracle Database Licensing Guidelines Oracle Application Licensing Table

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