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How to handle Oracle's licensing policy for Oracle SE2

Oracle's new licensing policy for Oracle SE2 has the potential to trip up pre-existing customers or restrict their hardware choices when they upgrade.

This is the second part of a two-part article. To read part one, click here.

The changes Oracle made to its Standard Edition (SE) licensing policy for Standard Edition 2 (SE2) -- limiting sockets and threads on machines running SE -- have the potential to leave a lasting effect on some of Oracle's customers. But from a technical perspective, little has changed. Oracle isn't advertising any spectacular, new features as incentive to upgrade to Oracle SE2. Of course, if you keep running on SE1, you experience no changes. However, according to Oracle licensing expert Keith Dobbs, director at U.K.-based Madora Consulting, "Staying where you are isn't a viable long-term solution."

What changes when the licensing changes?

Dobbs gives an example of how an upgrade from SE or SE1 to SE2 might happen. If you want to get new functions, he said, you can migrate to SE2 at a one-to-one license exchange rate, with the possible necessity of making hardware changes to the server, or switch to using Enterprise Edition (EE). He thinks that there may be an uplift fee for SE1 customers to move to Oracle SE2, and customers will also pay for the migration.

Craig Guarante, CEO of Palisade Compliance LLC in Mendham, N.J., and Oracle's former vice president for contracts, business practices and migrations, said, "From a technical standpoint, [SE2] is the same code [as SE1]."

However, once a company upgrades to a new version, it is using a new product that must be licensed. "Existing SE customers are at risk for being out of compliance [if they upgrade]," Guarante said, adding that it is possible to put Oracle SE2 on a bigger machine with, for instance, more than two sockets per core. In that situation, there is nothing in the software to keep it from running. But from a contract perspective, you can't run Oracle SE2 on a bigger machine without a proper license.

"Most hardware that you could use in your database is too big for [SE2 licensing]," Guarante said. As servers and processors get bigger, there are fewer options for new products that are small enough to be in compliance for Oracle SE2 licensing, he added.

Changes to the hardware, such as pulling chips out of sockets and hard partitioning devices, can bring servers into compliance with Oracle SE2, Dobbs said.

User advice and experiences

Dobbs stressed that the best way to handle the new licensing situation is to educate yourself. "There's very little you can do other than understand the new rules," he said. 

Current SE and SE1 customers should pay particular attention. "I think it's a bigger deal for current customers," Guarante said.

New customers are going into Oracle SE2 with "eyes open," he said. However, for SE and SE1 customers, it's easy to buy an Oracle SE2 license, and then to forget to keep further technical upgrades in compliance. His advice is to know the rules before you implement Oracle SE2 and to verify your own compliance ahead of time instead of waiting for an audit. "If you know you have a problem, you can fix it in a way that's best for you," Guarante said.

Learning the licensing rules to begin with causes some users to run into problems. Dobbs speculated that Oracle Virtual Machine (OVM) might allow a workaround for some of the restrictions for Oracle SE2. However, Ann Sjokvist, a SE user based in Finland who runs the website "Oracle Standard Edition -- Just Love It," has been having trouble getting a straight answer out of Oracle for what she can do with SE2 and OVM.

"Depending on what country you are living in," Sjokvist said, "you get different information on how to integrate OVM" with Oracle SE2. Finland doesn't have a dedicated Oracle spokesperson for SE, which has left Sjokvist and other SE users in Finland without enough information. Sjokvist has been trying to get information on whether she can implement Oracle SE2 in a Real Application Cluster (RAC) environment with two-socket servers if she uses OVM. Her query to Dominic Giles, Oracle's U.K.-based database product manager, originally netted her a reply in the affirmative. But shortly afterward, she got another reply saying that he'd been wrong and only one-socket servers are allowed.

Sjokvist also queried Oracle's Finnish office on Twitter and got the response that it was OK to run Oracle SE2 on virtual servers with more than one socket. Sjokvist felt that Oracle representatives in Finland are more in touch with what Oracle allows in Finland, and so she is going to follow their directions. "When you are there and you intend to implement this, you need to have your development team talk to Oracle in your own country," Sjokvist said.

Some of the problems with the transition from SE or SE1 to SE2 could be alleviated with greater communication. "The license document needs to be updated," she said. "Requests for good documentation are popping up so often."

At the end of the day, Sjokvist is happy to see that SE is continuing as a product at all. "At least we have SE2," she said. Sjokvist is worried that small companies will be deeply affected by the licensing change. Finland is populated by a lot of small technology companies that depend on SE. She said that if the price goes up for SE due to the migration to Oracle SE2, a small company with lower revenue might need to find a new product entirely.

She added that some of the small companies she has spoken with are seeing moving to the cloud as a better option, even without the licensing changes in SE2.

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