The ITAM Review

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Oracle customer has licensing meltdown

A letter from an ITAM Review reader:

Dear Martin,

I wanted to let you know how useful I find your Oracle Licensing Quick Guide when educating colleagues about the basics of Oracle licensing.

However it doesn’t mention one of my biggest Oracle Licensing bugbears, and one which is sure to be tripping up a lot of people other than myself.

T&C Spaghetti

This is the way Oracle just changes the T&Cs of its ordering documents without any notification. Given that the T&Cs in the ordering document override the T&Cs of any master agreement, it means that each time I purchase a license that in theory is the same as all my other licenses (all the same version, licensing metric and all under support and maintenance) the T&Cs of that license are different from the licenses I bought last week, last month and last year!

It drives me mad!

We have a pool of application licenses that we went through a complex process to migrate from a concurrent to a named user plus licensing metric, upgrade to the latest version, and place under maintenance. All the licenses, plus new ones we purchase have the same CSI (CPU Support Identification Number) number, but every time I buy new ones, I have to check the new ordering document line by line to spot the differences between it and our previous ordering documents to be sure we’re not agreeing to new T&Cs that mean we can’t manage the licenses as a pool.

Every single time I receive a new ordering document there are changes. Some of them quite significant changes. When I contact Oracle about it, they say ‘they’re not material changes, it won’t have an impact on your licenses’… to which I ask “if they’re not material, then why change things?!”

I’ve been lucky so far that when I dig in my heels Oracle generally amend the ordering document to the point where the only changes are ones that I do consider to be immaterial, but I find the complete waste of my time trawling through legal documentation to spot minor changes infuratiating!

Oracle Maintenance Nightmares

And as for Oracle’s maintenance policies… well, they make me want to kick someone! They have an all or nothing maintenance policy (can’t remember the proper term off-hand, sorry) and I understand the rationale behind it – we could easily take out a single maintenance policy and then log all support calls under that policy, whether they really were for the maintained system or not. But it can lead to snafus…if we have an unused set of licenses and want to let maintenance lapse, we need to formally cancel the licenses with Oracle before cancelling the maintenance, otherwise they will refuse to accept support calls even for the other 99% of the same type of licenses that are still covered by maintenance.

If the purchasing department messes up and doesn’t make a scheduled maintenance payment, Oracle will withhold all support, and charge us 150% uplift to put the licenses back into maintenance! But you know what, if we mess up, it’s our problem… we agree to abide by the process, so no, it’s neither of these things that make me want to commit murder.

Oracle Maintenance – “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”

What does make me want to commit murder is Oracle’s policy that if… get this… if we cancel some licenses within a CSI (to reduce our maintenance costs), then Oracle will ‘adjust’ the maintenance on all the other licenses within the CSI… and you know what? Somehow, miraculously, the new maintenance on all the other licenses within that CSI somehow adds up to just about the same amount of maintenance we were paying before we cancelled.

Now I’ve had the particular term pointed out to me in Oracle’s documentation that allows them to do this, and you know, you could read that paragraph to mean what Oracle says it means, but I defy anyone, ANYONE to agree that this is a fair and reasonable policy.

And what makes me doubly mad is that they do this for sets of licenses within a CSI, which is the exact same set of licenses that I have to do a word by word check of the ordering document to ensure these licenses all have the same material T&Cs!!!

AAAAAAaaaaaaargh. If anyone wants to work with an arrogant, inflexible, schmuck of a licensing vendor, they should get into Oracle licensing… they beat Microsoft hands down any day.

Ooops, this email turned into a bit of a rant! Sorry. But keep up the good work! I love the ITAM Review, and find so many of its articles really helpful!


About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.


  1. Rory Canavan says:

    word of the day… snafu! (nicely written, btw)

  2. Mark van Wolferen says:

    Thanks for the compliment on my article. I Fully agree with the issue you highlight on the T&C complexity and the relevance of understanding your support policy. It is good to see that you as an end-user are aware of this as most people I speak seem to think Oracle compliance is only about managing the numbers in the license lines like desktop management. In my company we have a special team that follow all the changes and track them and are building a repository to share.
    I thought about publishing on the T&C spaghetti and trying to list some logic that can be use full. Any thoughts?

  3. itsmreview says:

    Your contributions are always welcome Mark.

  4. Allen Woods says:

    Hmmm… Anyone looked at Oracles latest submission to US financial reporting authorities? If not have a lok. Check out how much of Oracles revenue is now down to relicensing and other support costs…..

  5. al says:

    Oracle – and a majority of other major licensors – have been doing this for the two decades that I’ve been working with licensing. Your only defense against “superseding” license terms is to include a specific clause in your master agreement that DENIES them permission to supersede the original negotiated license without your written approval. (Note that nearly every major license clearly states that the licensor may change terms at any time merely by posting them on the Internet. If you agreed to this license…)

    As well, your clause should include a statement that, regardless of the terms of any new license, the binding terms for all instances of “same product, same version, same release” will be governed by the original agreement.

    As long as the business technology consumer continues to accept these types of licensing sharp practices, we’ll continue to be snared by the legal & revenue games being played by the software industry players.

  6. leapy says:

    That’s a terrific idea. I agree that end-users are largely ignorant of the impact these terms can have.

  7. Shirish says:

    Interesting but “stealth” aspects you’ve put forth in the article, Martin. Liked it.

    Have a curiosity though when you say “if we have an unused set of licenses and want to let maintenance lapse, we need to formally cancel the licenses with Oracle before cancelling the maintenance” – Does this practically mean that we can never keep using a software (even though we bought a perpetual license) if we do not want support & hence ask them to drop just the support ?

    Thanks – Shirish

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