In my column, I take the position that Oracle is going against a strong prevailing current by sticking with its policy of charging license fees per core rather than simply per processors. Sun, IBM, Microsoft and others are among the companies that have shifted to per-processor licensing terms for most of their software product lines.
It shouldnt be surprising that Oracles recent announcement that it will provide a 25 percent discount by counting each core as 0.75 of a processor wont placate customers who are looking for more transparent and less complex licensing terms.
One reader who decided to talk back about this issue was Thomas J. Theobald, application development manager with MidwayUSA, a sporting goods and firearms distributor based in Columbia, Mo. He says Oracle shouldnt be charging for system performance that it doesnt deliver.
"Were I an Oracle customer (and thankfully I am not), I would be positively furious with them [about this] licensing scheme.
"First to come to mind is the foolish claim that I, the customer, am somehow paying for performance.
"Of course I am paying for performance. I am doing so by purchasing systems with multiple cores! Oracle has absolutely nothing to do with the performance gain I am receiving and it is a fabrication to claim otherwise.
"If I choose to add additional CPUs, then my licensing comes into play and Ill be passive [about] additional licensing fees—although even that is stretching the bounds of credibility.
"I wouldnt need multiple cores if Oracle actually performed to suit my business. While not intolerable, Oracles bloated client libraries, enormous overhead at the server, and severely behind-the-curve development tools are indicative of a company that has severely fallen behind the technology curve.
"My recommendation: stop upgrading. Investigate other platforms [such as] DB/2, MS SQL, PostGreSQL [or] MySQL. There are dozens of possible changes to be made. Re-justify platform choices regularly (every three years or so). Remind them that they arent the only kids on the block."
Thomas J. Theobald, Application Development Manager MidwayUSA
My response: As you also noted in your letter, switching to an alternative SQL database isnt a viable option for most large corporations that already have a huge investment in the Oracle database and applications. But it is a potential option for small to midsized companies just starting to expand their data management installation or getting ready to make their first major purchase of an enterprise-scale database system.
Oracle will likely continue to hear about this issue from customers and feel growing market pressure as the debate continues.
Another reader, Richard Smith, software management administrator with Temple-Inland Inc., a packaging and forest product company in Austin, Texas, said working with Oracle to keep track of licenses was a frustrating experience.
"At my former company I wasted so much time on phone calls trying to determine if we were properly licensed for certain Oracle applications and it usually came down to the number of processors and how the databases were being used and by whom.
"The Oracle reps would push me to cut a deal and that made me feel uncomfortable. I tried to use our VAR whenever I could to avoid dealing with the used car salesman approach that came up [during] pretty much every conversation.
"I do believe that software vendors need to make licensing easier to understand. Of course, this might cut back on their easy revenues in the form of licensing fees and complicated purchasing processes."
Richard Smith, Software Management Administrator Temple-Inland Inc.
My response: Oracle per-core license terms fly in the face of growing customer demands for simpler license terms, such as per-employee, site licenses or per-seat subscription fees that make it clearer what they are paying for. You wouldnt be the first corporate software administrator who felt pressured by sales representatives to strike a deal on terms that were entirely clear.
John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.