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Oracle changes the rules when licensing Oracle SE2

Oracle changed its licensing policy for Oracle Standard Edition 2, adding a maximum number of cores and threads allowed on a machine running SE2.

Oracle's new licensing policy for Oracle Database Standard Edition (SE2) caps the number of sockets, servers and threads that can be part of correctly licensed Standard Edition (SE) servers. A brief mention in the Oracle database licensing sheet is all the notice SE users have gotten for a policy change that could have significant consequences, as they start upgrading to the latest version of the software.

Oracle license expert Keith Dobbs, who is director at U.K.-based Madora Consulting, said that he sees these changes as "quite a bit more" than the brief mention would warrant. "They've reduced the power of Standard Edition," he said.

"On paper, it's quite a big change," Dobbs added. "But the question is how many people are going to be affected and if these people are going to impact Oracle's business." The number of SE users who will be significantly affected by the licensing changes is still unclear. Oracle's priorities, according to Dobbs, are likely to be the Enterprise Edition (EE) customers, whom he calls "Oracle's bread and butter."

Changes to Standard Edition licensing

While SE and Standard Edition 1 (SE1) could be used on two- or four-socket servers, SE2 limits users to two-socket servers. In Real Application Clusters (RAC), Oracle SE2 is only licensed to be used on one-socket servers and only with a maximum of two in a cluster. Furthermore, while previous editions of SE never set a thread limit, Oracle SE2 is usable with a maximum of 16 threads -- the equivalent of an eight-core Intel processor with multithreading. With RACs, Oracle SE2 can use a maximum of eight CPU threads per instance at a time. The minimum number of Named User Plus licenses is 10 per server.

Dobbs explained that the quarterly patch releases for SE and SE1 will continue until January 2016, with no patch release in April 2016. Craig Guarante, CEO and founder of Palisade Compliance LLC in Mendham, N.J., and Oracle's former vice president for contracts, business practices and migrations, added that SE and SE1 will cease to be sold in December 2015.

Guarante expects licensing trouble to start next year, when support for SE and SE1 ends. "My guess is its going to be a big problem for customers," he said.

"What's strange about this," Dobbs said, "is that there is no upgrade path … [You] can't upgrade what you've got to"

Oracle's reasons are all business

Dobbs explained that Oracle's original conception of SE and SE1 was a trial version of Oracle Database. The company wanted customers to upgrade to Oracle EE if they wanted to permanently use Oracle Database.

However, as processors got increasingly more powerful and virtual machines became available, users started building SE and SE1 for enterprise-level use. An entire subset of consultants and licensing firms grew up around building software to make SE work for the enterprise and big industry.

"What Oracle is trying to do [with SE2 licensing] is make SE a less-attractive solution," Dobbs said. "Oracle is simply blocking that enterprise-class use." This step dramatically widens the gap between SE and EE. According to Dobbs, in doing so, Oracle is getting its original vision of SE as a transitional product for users who would eventually move to EE.

"Is there anything in this release that is pro-customer?" Guarante asked. He answered himself in the negative. "What Oracle wants to do is to have [SE customers] give them more money," he added. Guarante said he thinks that these changes to the rules for Oracle SE2 are partially an excuse for more Oracle audits.

There is "lots of pressure for Oracle representatives to bring in revenue," he said. Right now, Oracle sales representatives receive extra compensation for cloud sales. Based on his experience as a licensing consultant, Guarante said that when a company is caught in violation of an Oracle contract -- such as having too many users on a license -- the sales representative may offer a less costly conclusion to the audit in exchange for the company buying cloud services it doesn't need. This raises Oracle's cloud revenue numbers, which is a big goal for the company.

This is the first part of a two-part article. To continue to part two, click here.

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