back to article Court drama: Did Oracle bully its customers into the cloud? Nine insiders to blow the whistle

The ongoing lawsuit between Oracle and a major pension fund over claims Big Red artificially inflated its cloud revenues has just stepped up a notch. In April, database giant Oracle denied legal claims that it had artificially inflated its cloud revenue by coercing on-premises customers to pay for cloud subscriptions under …

  1. hittitezombie

    Sharks

    Oracle auditers are sharks out for blood, and some junior DBAs are so clueless, they are dangerous.

    One idiot DBA I worked with insisted that they had licenses Diagnostic and Tuning packs just because when you query the db, they are already enabled. I couldn't get into his thick head that unless they had the licenses, it can cost them approx half a million in fees across a couple of servers we were using for the project.

    Run an AWR report on your EE edition? Report to your licence team ASAP, you just owe Oracle over 10 grand per CPU licence, usually amounts to 60k+ for a single 24 core DB server...

    1. EricM

      That's because Oracle licensing IS meant as a trap ...

      To be fair to your DBAs: The licensing traps like D&T, AWS, hot/cold standbys, SAN replcation, etc. are carefully avoided in technical DBA trainings and even experienced DBAs I work with are often fully ignorant of the licensing status of their installations, if they work in a puerly technical capacity.

      Even Oracle sales staff will not allways produce correct answers when calculating the number of licenses for a given, even slightly complex, setup...

      Especially if it involves Cloud components other than Oracle's legacy stuff ...

      This, let's call it 'situation', opens up a nice huge attack surface for the other Oracle sales staff (auditors) to ram new products and services into existing victims/customers.

      So this licensing complexity problem with Oracle products does not seem to have happened purely by accident.

      It seems to be a carfully designed strategic sales tool of the worse kind.

  2. RegGuy1

    Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

    I'm no DBA but I have to ask with so many good alternatives out there do you have to use Oracle?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

      As far as I can tell, most of their customers have been using them for a while, and it would be too much trouble to migrate to something else.

      Oracle licensing are doing their best to make a long, complicated, difficult, migration look as good as possible.

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        "and it would be too much trouble to migrate to something else."

        SQL Server AAG can replace even Oracle RAC server. And its often relatively easy to migrate compared to most other options.

        Everywhere I have worked in the last decade I have set Oracle to disinvest if it wasn't already. Horrible company, with horribly complex and insecure products.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

          "SQL Server AAG can replace even Oracle RAC server."

          This is a joke, right?

          SQL server could replace MySQL but I can't understand why anyone would jump Microsoft licencing hell.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

            "This is a joke, right?"

            No this is a fact. Active Availability Groups can provide a near instant failover.

            "SQL server could replace MySQL"

            MS SQL Server is an enterprise grade product though - MySQL really isn't.

            "I can't understand why anyone would jump Microsoft licencing hell."

            SQL Server is pretty simple to license. Cores or CALs. Way simpler than Oracle.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

              "SQL Server is pretty simple to license."

              No, it's not. You need CALs for every user of every client app (insane!) or every physical CPU core regardless of what might be presented through virtualisation. It's a bit simpler than Oracle, yes, but that's not really much of a comparison point as we both know.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

      with so many good alternatives out there do you have to use Oracle?

      For truly huge databases with extreme performance requirements as used by the Fortune 100 companies there are very, very few alternatives. Many of the people who say "just use MySQL/PostgreSQL/etc/etc" simply have no idea how big a 'big DB' can actually be in the real world.

      1. DaLo

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        For huge databases there are also alternatives. however Oracle is legacy - legacy with DBA experience, legacy with applications, legacy in the mindset.

        There really aren't that many companies where Oracle is the only fit for their needs, however - if it ain't broke and the fees are still smaller than the GDP of a distant nation then carry on.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

          So lets say we have a multi-terrabyte database used for a transactional database application with connections topping out at around a thousand a second, servicing exabytes of data. Said database leverages RAC and Dataguard to the fullest. The support staff, DBAs, developers and managers are all Oracle trained. The application must be up 24x7 or there are expensive legal ramifications.

          How much kit, time, retraining and migration cost do you think this environment can stand?

          Oh yes. It's a government installation so budget for staffing, training and new kit is tight as a fish's arse.

          In the real world, swapping a technology is often a process measured in years, during which costs escalate often to the point the proposed change is abandoned even before the new platform starts to show the "interesting to Chinese philosophers" problems that will require rethinks, restests and, inevitably, more bugs and more cost.

          The change in locking philosophy alone would require massive redesign for most models I know of.

          If you are starting from scratch, yes I'm with you 100%. If you are dealing with a small manufacturer, yes. But when you start talking the sorts of applications Oracle was built into - the proposed functions people wanted driving the design of the Database suite - nope. Not remotely an easy choice, or a cost saver in the near term.

          1. Nate Amsden

            Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

            Multi TB database for transactions.. brings back memories.. Was at a company about 15 years ago whom at the time had the largest OLTP database in the world as far as Oracle knew at least. I believe it was in the ~60TB range at the time(in a single instance of Oracle). I believe we were told Amazon at the time had one of the largest OLTP databases which was in the ~7TB range for perspective(though I know they had tons of OLTP I am referring to a single DB server not aggregate distributed environment). DB server when I left (I wasn't responsible for them I was more on the app and networking side) were running on Itanium HPUX systems with Hitachi storage. I think it was about 1 and a half racks of storage per DB server for the biggest DBs. They later wanted to migrate to Oracle on NFS on NetApp and the NetApps imploded immediately. But block storage on NetApp ended up being ok for them. They later tried to move to Red Hat with Oracle but had enough outages I guess that their biggest customer required them to move back to big iron.

            More than 1TB of indexes alone. Very poorly designed app I suppose. The bulk of the problem I believe was the result of storing raw XML in blobs in the DB I suppose as a way to get around making a real schema. We had the biggest storage vendors in the world admitting to us they had no customers in the world doing what we were doing at the time. One time Oracle flew on site for a big outage we had and they too said no other customers were doing what we were doing and we were doing very bad things with the DB (the outage I believe was related to the XML blobs and high water marks in the DB, I think it was more of a "performance is so bad the system can't run" rather than "the system is crashed").

            Had a lot of interesting experiences at that company.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

              The putative site is following all the "best practices" they can get out of Oracle concerning their kit.

              Going all cloudy is not an option unfortunately.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

            @Stevie that was my point. The reasons for keeping it are the legacy of it. It is too difficult to switch it when your applications, staff and mindset are all aligned to it. Hence while the fees are not crippling there is no point changing it as there are probably going to be other priorities.

            I wouldn't want to take on a task of swapping out a live large db which needed to retain all the historical data and reporting unless it was completely necessary.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        "For truly huge databases with extreme performance requirements"

        There are certainly niche requirements that Oracle or SQL server cant cope with.

        SQL Server generally wins hands down for performance and cost per transaction below that though:

        http://www.tpc.org/tpch/results/tpch_advanced_sort.asp

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

      For a lot of companies, there really is no alternative to Oracle. Oracle is a horrible company, and their software tends to be a nightmare, but if you a need seriously heavy-duty enterprise DBMS, there isn't really anyplace else to go.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        Even if you want the expense and overheads of buying from a large American IT company you can go to IBM and get DB2.

        These days MS SQL Server is very capable too and there's a whole raft of Open Source databases, NoSQL databases and cloud based corporate risks.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

          DB2 can work, depending on your use case, but it isn't a given. One of our larger customers runs both Oracle and DB2. They'd love to go DB2-only, but it lacks things they need.

          MSSQL really is a nonstarter at the scales I'm talking about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

            "MSSQL really is a nonstarter at the scales I'm talking about."

            It really isn't if Oracle can do it. SQL Server is very very capable for both scale out and scale up these days.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

              MS SQL has absolutely come a long way and is very capable. That's why it's one of the DBMSes we support. But, at least in my experience, there are many business cases where it isn't the best solution.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        "you a need seriously heavy-duty enterprise DBMS, there isn't really anyplace else to go"

        There is plenty of options. But they will all require a lot of upheaval, may be re-writing of the application, may be running better hardware, may be using better stored procedures, more efficient queries etc.

        MS SQL server can easily scale and provide performance equivalent to Oracle for almost any application if it is written with that particular DB in mind from the beginning. Many years ago the scalability of MS SQL could be questioned but now you can scale to about half an exabyte storage, unlimited memory (OS dependant), unlimited cores, unlimited nodes (OS dependant) etc.

        In reality any perceived advantage in speed in Oracle could be exceeded by using the premium paid for Oracle and spending it on compute resources.

        There is also a good case for many organisations to look at whether they really need to use RDBMS and not look to NOSQL or hybrid which can often be faster.

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

      I think most of the problem in migrating between DBMS is not that the other system cannot handle the work load. It is all the code and queries have been written to exploit the strengths of the legacy system. To get similar performance all the code and queries will need to be rewritten to exploit the features of the new system. A project that is in principle doable but in actuality potentially very risky. So caution says stay put unless absolutely forced to migrate to something else. The Minions know this and are trying to exploit this so Leisure Suit Larry can buy another yacht.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        "It is all the code and queries have been written to exploit the strengths of the legacy system"

        Yes, this is huge. And not just stuff written specifically to exploit specific features. In my day job, the main product I work on supports several different DBMSes, including Oracle. We try to avoid using any vendor-specific features (for obvious reasons), but we still have to use more unique code and queries for each DBMS than we'd like regardless.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

      "... with so many good alternatives out there"

      Oooh, *so many*?

      Name even one which scales like that and then we can argue: Slogan like this is meaningless.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

        "Name even one which scales like that and then we can argue:"

        MS SQL Server. Scale out is basically unlimited and scale up is limited only by available hardware. And MS SQL generally outperforms Oracle on any given hardware.

    6. Ilsa Loving

      Re: Do you HAVE to use Oracle?

      While I haven't used it (so I can't vouch for it's effectiveness), EnterpriseDB (the commercial version of postgres) has an Oracle compatibility kit that can run PLSQL, etc, as is.

      So theoretically you can move to postgres with minimal effort.

  3. TVU

    "Responding to a complaint filed last August 2018 by the City of Sunrise Firefighters' Pension Fund"

    The moral of this tale is that pension fund administrators ought to do their homework first before investing money in dying, predatory and litigious companies (some companies are actually all three!).

    1. Philip Storry

      It may have been a consultant - or consultancy - that left them with Oracle, rather than a decision they consciously made.

      I've seen consultants turn up and start recommending that their CRM or SAP system "is best on Oracle" despite there being no Oracle expertise in the organisation and developer/DBA experience being all Microsoft SQL Server.

      The product they're putting in will work on SQL Server, but there's suddenly a lot of political pressure to use Oracle because the expensive consultant says so.

      Get the consultant drunk enough, or provoke an unguarded moment, and you'll often find that there's a relationship between them and Oracle - they're probably getting a nice commission fee for each install.

      Whether this still goes on today, I don't know. But the fact that there's an ecosystem of consultants chasing Oracle's commission crumbs makes me think that this is what probably happened to the City of Sunrise Firefighter's Pension Fund...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The product they're putting in will work on SQL Server, but there's suddenly a lot of political pressure to use Oracle because the expensive consultant says so."

        That works both ways and MS is putting *a lot of money* to consultants pockets, at least as much as Oracle.

        But if SQL Server can handle it, then MySQL or MariaDB or Progres can handle it too. They only don't have marketing droids to push them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "That works both ways and MS is putting *a lot of money* to consultants pockets, at least as much as Oracle."

          News to me as a long term MS consultant. How do I get some?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "But if SQL Server can handle it, then MySQL or MariaDB or Progres can handle it too."

          But none of those scale as well or are as fully featured. MySQL and Postgres certainly are vastly inferior in terms of performance.

      2. Cederic Silver badge

        erm. Aren't the pension fund suing because their investment has performed poorly due to alleged misbehaviour by the company in which they invested?

        They may not even be an Oracle customer. Certain I hope for their sake that they're not.

  4. Nick Kew

    Lawyer-fodder

    Autonomy, Oracle ...

    Are claims that sales techniques defraud business owners an up-and-coming feeding ground for the biggest parasites of all?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "They don't dislike the technology, they just dislike how Oracle treats them."

    It was ever thus. In the 1980s I can remember a customer of ours, who used Oracle database as the basis for software that they had written around it, discover that the Big Red brought out a near identical product a few months after some techies had been round to fix some database issues. Clearly Big Red's programmers were either better than the customer's (whom had taken years to develop their solution) or Big Red had been developing in parallel...

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "They don't dislike the technology, they just dislike how Oracle treats them."

      "Clearly Big Red's programmers were either better than the customer's (whom had taken years to develop their solution) or Big Red had been developing in parallel."

      I can think of another explanation.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: "They don't dislike the technology, they just dislike how Oracle treats them."

        Yes Will, that's what the AC was implying.

  6. JohnFen Silver badge

    They're in good company

    Most of the major software companies are doing their best to bully their customers into the cloud these days.

    1. tekHedd

      Re: They're in good company

      "Most of the major software companies are doing their best to bully..."

      ...and Oracle is one of the biggest bullies there is.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sales tactics come from the top

    In our case, we were informed our sales people were only being put onto accounts that were moving their apps to Cloud. If we wanted to continue our trusted relationships with their on-shore staff, Cloud was the only path. We were told on-premise subs would have to place their orders with the sales staff in Hyderabad. It's easy to disregard the value of Oracle's sales staff until you remember that your CFO and CTO have been working on the upgrade plans and the budget is in the tens of millions, and there's a good working relationship from working with them on previous projects.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Sales tactics come from the top

      There comes the point at which Oracle's lead account manager confesses to you that his internal legal team cautioned him that he was (at risk of) breaching the Bribery Act in his interactions with your boss.

      Which kind of says everything you need to know.

  8. rnturn

    Oracle's shifty licensing strikes again

    We always hated (with the heat of a thousand white hot suns) Oracle's insistence that you owed them more money because you bought faster CPU boards for your database server. But I find it interesting that Oracle ships their DB with extra-cost features turned on by default.

    I was aware of the clusterwide database feature misbehaving this way years ago when we were converting a DEC ASE cluster to Tru64 5.1. Oracle's software saw that it was now on a true (pun intended) cluster and incorrectly assumed it should start the database as though the cluster database feature was appropriate. The DBAs were horrified as the licensing that was in place only allowed for using the RDBMS as single-host product (with N users). We had to scramble to figure out how to prevent the database from starting up in "cluster mode" lest a future call for Oracle support wind up telling them that we were using that feature w/o it being licensed. So, I guess they've been weasely about this for a long time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oracle's shifty licensing strikes again

      "But I find it interesting that Oracle ships their DB with extra-cost features turned on by default."

      Of course - it's been a screw the customer model for many years now.

      As an example of how crappy Oracle are, if you want to discontinue support for a product you no longer use, it has to be on a separate invoice! So if you buy multiple Oracle products together its all or nothing for support renewals!

      Hence on the rare occasion I'm forced to buy something Oracle I make sure it's ordered as one product per PO / invoice.

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