Three steps to determining Oracle compliance

Need a how-to on Oracle licensing? This three-step guide, complete with useful links and tips, is a must read for all new SAM managers who need to gain an understanding of how to determine compliance for your Oracle estate.

The one-license-fits-all has long since been a feasible metric for licensing software. As organizations rely ever more on software to do business, licensing options have diversified, providing enterprises with flexibility, but adding layers of complexity into ensuring software is used in a compliant manner. Oracle, with its massive portfolio of business-critical solutions, is no exception to licensing complexity. The consequences are time and effort to get a grip on what, where, and how Oracle products are deployed. This post provides a three-step approach to gaining an understanding of Oracle in your company and avoid overspend.             

To prepare for an internal self-assessment, audit response, or an annual renewal, my three-step approach will help you determine your compliance position to:

Oracle in your organization 

While this may sound like Licensing 101, understanding how your Oracle software estate is licensed is a crucial element of your compliance situation. Unfortunately, this task is neither quick nor simple to complete. First, you need to determine who within your company understands how your Oracle software is licensed. In large organizations that span multiple divisions and business units, finding these people could take weeks. And, even when you have found them, it’s likely that providing you with the insight you need is low on their list of priorities. Yet as a SAM licensing specialist, understanding how your Oracle products are licensed is critical, especially if Oracle spend accounts for a large part of your company’s software budget.

So, how do you go about gaining the insight into Oracle licensing? Oracle provides classroom learning and certification seminars, but given the extent of the Oracle portfolio, this face-to-face method is only feasible if your estate includes a few select products. A cursory look at the Oracle Applications Product List (which does not include database or middleware products), reveals several hundred products.

Oracle’s various web sites provide extensive learning material that will help you get to grips with their variations on licensing metrics. Oracle Database, for example, is published in more than five editions with multiple license metrics, including Processor and Named User Plus.

To help you on your way, here are my guideline questions, the answers to which will help you to complete Step 1:

Deployment in your organization 

The second step in determining compliance is to understand how your organization deploys Oracle software. For this step, I suggest you find answers to questions like who installs it, how often, and what versions are installed? Versions are significant because additional limited-use products may not be bundled with all versions of a product.

Oracle products are available through cloud offerings that may require different licensing metrics from the Processor and Named User Plus metrics.

Oracle is stringent in terms of the virtualization technologies they allow. More information about what partitioning technologies Oracle supports is available in the list of Supported Virtualization and Partitioning Technologies for Oracle Database and RAC Product Releases. As its name suggests, this list shows you partitioning technologies that enable you to run Oracle software.

For licensing purposes, Oracle refers to the Oracle Partitioning Policy, which sets out the rules for hard partitioning your environment to limit the number of processor licenses required for a given server. Reducing the number of processor licenses is desirable as it can provide substantial savings.

However, I would advise use of a SAM solution or additional expertise here, because even if Oracle support your choice of partitioning technology, and enable you to license the partition and not the full server, if your environment is not configured according to the small print, or you lack processes to control change in your environment, you run the risk of being non-compliant. 

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Can you call Oracle to ask questions? Of course, and they will be more than happy to provide you with Oracle License Management Services (LMS). But beware, my advice here is to be careful and gain a good understanding of your position before you make that call, because software vendors tend to use such requests as an opportunity to generate new revenue. 

Entitlements in your organization 

The last step in the process of determining compliance is gathering entitlements, such as order documents and Oracle Unlimited License Agreements (ULAs). To do this, you will need to determine:

If you have read this far, I hope my point is clear: Oracle compliance is a difficult and time-consuming process. To help you along the way, my advice is use a SAM solution, make use of expertise within your own company, or hire an independent licensing expert who is interested in helping you identify your gaps: where deployments exceed entitlements and where licenses exceed usage.

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If you want to know more about Oracle products, take look at Snow’s e-book: 5 Ways to Cut Spending on Oracle Databases, which describes five cost-saving initiatives for Oracle products. By applying all of these initiatives, you can save up to 30% on your Oracle database licensing costs. 

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