Oracle’s Acquisition Trail

Since 2005, Oracle’s M&A department has been busy – we have seen a total of 87 acquisitions covering database, middleware, applications, products, tools, server & storage to vendor specific solutions.

Why is this interesting? It’s interesting because this underpins the importance of knowing what software you have in your IT estate and how you manage it. An effective software asset management methodology is vital for managing all your ERP software vendors, however is of particular importance for Oracle and its ever growing list of acquired products.

Let’s just take a quick look at the list of companies Oracle has acquired (in no particular order);

Database
• Datascaler
• e-Test
• Innobase
• Moniforce
• m Valent
• Secerno
• Sleepycat
• Times Ten
• TripleHop

Middleware
• AmberPoint
• BEA
• Bharosa
• Bridgestream
• Captovation
• ClearApp
• Context Media
• Datanomic
• FatWire
• HyperRoll
• GoldenGate
• Java
• Oplix
• OcterString
• Passlogix
• Sigma Dynamics
• Silver Creek Systems
• Stellent
• Sunopsis
• Tacit Sofware
• Tangosol
• Thor Technologies

Applications
• AppForge
• Collective Intellect
• Haley
• InQuira
• Interlace Systems
• LogicalApps
• Market2Lead
• Ndevr
• RightNow
• SelectMinds
• Taleo
• TempoSoft
• Vitrue
• Eloqua (Dec 2012)

Product Lines
• Agile
• ATG
• Endeca
• Hyperion
• Involver
• PeopleSoft
• Primavera
• Siebel
• Skire
• Telephony@Work

Implementation and Integration Tools
• Global Knowledge Software (GKS)

Server & Storage Systems
• Ksplice
• Sun
• Virtual Iron

Communications & Media
• Convergin
• eServGlobal’s Universal Service Platform (USP)
• GoAhead
• HotSip
• MetaSolv Software
• Net4Call
• Netsure Telecom Limited
• Portal Software
• Sophoi
• Acme Packet (February 2013)

Engineering & Construction
• Primavera

Health Sciences

• ClearTrial
• Phase Forward
• Relsys

Industrial & Manufacturing
• Agile
• Conformia Software
• Demantra
• G-Log

Insurance
• AdminServer
• Skywire Software

Retail
• 360Commerce
• Advanced Visual Technology
• ProfitLogic
• Retek

Utilities
• LODESTAR
• SPL WorldGroup
• Data Raker (Dec 2012)

Infrastructure
• Xsigo

Oracle Support Change for E-Business 11.5.10.2

Review of the recent Oracle support change for E-Business 11.5.10.2 and the introduction of the “Exception” sustaining support period.

by Stephen Graham, Senior Principal Consultant

Background

The terminal release of E-Business Suite 11i, 11.5.10, moved into its 3-year extended support phase in November 2010. As extended support normally runs for 3 years then that phase is due for completion in November 2013, after which the product moves to Oracle’s lowest support level of sustaining support.

Sustaining support normally includes the following:

• Updates, fixes and patches (including security patches) created during the Premier & Extended Support periods
• Legislation, tax and regulatory updates created during the Premier and Extended Support periods
• Upgrade scripts created during the Premier Support period
• Assistance with service requests and access to My Oracle Support
• Non-technical customer service during normal business hours

Sustaining support normally excludes the following:

• New updates, fixes, security alerts and security patches
• New legislation, tax or regulatory updates
• New upgrade scripts
• Certification with new third party products/versions
• 24 hour commitment and response for severity 1 issues
• Previously released fixes or updates that Oracle no longer supports

In addition to the normal sustaining support that would typically be available Oracle have included what they are calling an Exception sustaining support period where, in addition to the normal Sustaining Support components the following will also be available for the first 13 months (i.e. to the end of December 2014):

• New fixes for severity 1 production support issues
• Critical patch updates (i.e. security patches) up to and including the October 2014 CPU release
• Payroll regulatory updates for the US, Canada, UK and Australia for each countries fiscal year ending in 2014 (i.e. for the UK that means the legislation updates will be available for the March/April 2014 year-end)

It’s worth noting that in order to qualify for that support then the system has to be patched to at least the Extended Support minimums. Most customers will already have done that in order to qualify for the extended support period. If it’s not been done and the intention is to rely on the provisions of the Exception sustaining support period then it’s essential that this work be done as soon as possible.

What does it mean for an 11.5.10.2 customer?

Most 11i customers had decided to upgrade to release 12.1 before the end of the extended support period in November 2013, however this announcement from Oracle complicates the issue and some are now re-thinking their plans. In order for an informed decision to be made it’s essential that each customer fully understands what support would be available to them during the Exception sustaining support period so that they can take an educated assessment of the risks. As the situation with the Critical Patch Updates/Security patches is clear that leaves two areas that need to be clarified:

Legislation updates

• If your system uses Payroll legislations other than the ones Oracle have included – U.S., Canada U.K. and Australia then the exception period is not of benefit
• If you system is dependent on any other legislation or regulatory functionality other than for Payroll (or for the US Form 1099 updates which Oracle have also included) then there is a risk that if the government makes changes that can’t be implemented by you (as Oracle wouldn’t necessarily assist) using the 11.5.10.2 system as it was at the end of the Extended Support period then you may have a problem. For UK customers there aren’t that many other legislation requirements other than Payroll that are widely used but there are some – for example the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

Changes to such legislation haven’t been a regular occurrence but it’s important to understand that if changes did occur then you’re probably on your own.

New Severity 1 fixes

It’s important that you understand Oracle’s definition of Severity 1 which is:

Your production use of the supported programs is stopped or so severely impacted that you cannot reasonably continue work. You experience a complete loss of service. The operation is mission critical to the business and the situation is an emergency. A Severity 1 service request has one or more of the following characteristics:

• Data corrupted
• A critical documented function is not available
• System hangs indefinitely, causing unacceptable or indefinite delays for resources or response
• System crashes, and crashes repeatedly after restart attempts

It’s perhaps even more important to understand what Oracle’s definition of Severity 2 is, to be clear what you won’t have support for during the Exception period:

You experience a severe loss of service. Important features are unavailable with no acceptable workaround; however, operations can continue in a restricted fashion.

So based on Oracle’s own definitions, during the Exception report period you’d have access to Oracle support if your database was corrupted, if a critical function of the system stopped working or if the system crashes and can’t be brought up. If however you have what they class as a “severe loss of service” and other parts of the system still work then you’re likely to have to rely on either fixes or patches that were already available or on your own efforts to resolve. There are grey areas as well:

• What parts of the E-Business Suite system will Oracle view as “critical documented functions”?
• What level of assistance will Oracle give in finding pre-existing fixes for non-Severity 1 issues you encounter? Oracle support analysts have a high workload and need to prioritise the calls they deal with, so it’s quite possible that 11.5.10.2 customers with lower priority issues will find themselves well down the list.

Summary and Rocela Opinion

Having reviewed the implications of the change in detail it’s my opinion that what Oracle have done is to put together a support package in the Exception sustaining support period to assist customers who’re upgrading from 11i to R12 but may struggle to get the upgrade completed before the end of November 2013. What they’ve done is particularly relevant for U.K. Payroll customers because prior to the Exception period being introduced they’d be in a lot of trouble if their R12 upgrade ran on past March 2014 as they’d no longer be able to process their payrolls to meet the legislation beyond that date.

It’s also my view is that Oracle don’t want the Exception sustaining support period to be used by customers as an excuse to not get moving with upgrading onto a better supported version. If that had been their intention then surely they’d have lengthened the Extended Support period – as they’ve just done with the support for R12.1.

If you were already willing to continue using E-Business Suite with only sustaining support available then this change may give you a little extra security. If however you view E-Business Suite as a key or critical system then you should make sure that all relevant parties in your business understand and accept the implications. The drop from Extended to Sustaining Support is softened slightly by the introduction of this Exception sustaining support period but it’s important that you’re aware that Oracle have excluded support for any new fixes, what they class “a severe loss of service” and the potential implications on that for your own business – perhaps at your own year-end, when trying to get a payment batch out to your suppliers or trying to receive cash from your customers.

If you were planning your upgrade and had concerns about the impact of it slipping beyond November 2013 then Oracle have helped by slightly alleviated those concerns. If however you’re using the support change to re-schedule or delay your upgrade then I’d urge you to fully consider the implications first – and at the very least ensure that your key business users are aware of the risks.

I hope this has clarified this sometimes confusing area and if you have any questions on this topic, then please do not hesitate to ask by creating a comment.

A Standard Way of Thinking – Final Part

Written by Paul Bullen, Senior License Consultant

In my previous blog posts on Standard Edition (Part 1, Part 2), I referred to the massive reduction in price from Enterprise Edition to Standard (92% in our typical example). Hopefully you’ve had some time to realise that Standard Edition is a viable database edition and could, with some discussion, potentially replace some use of Enterprise Edition in your company. In this last blog post, we’ll look at Named User Plus licensing for Standard Edition and summarise my previous blogs posts.

So, hopefully you’ll remember from my earlier blog post that Named User Plus licensing is not trivial, and needs careful management. With that in mind, let’s look at the differences with Named User Plus on Standard Edition.
With Enterprise Edition database, you have to license the greater of either the actual users of the software or the ‘Named User Plus minimums’. This can get messy; especially with database options (read this). Most people think of the minimums of 25 NUP per Processor when considering NUP licensing for DB EE.

So, what is the minimum for DB SE? The answer is a simple ‘5’; No, not 5 per Processor, you must own at least 5 NUP licenses in your company; if you have 5 Named Users, 5 NUP licenses and 1,000 servers running Standard Edition, you would be licensed correctly. So, 5 is the answer.

This lack of minimums makes a massive difference across a large estate. Consider that each set of 25 DB EE NUP will cost $23,750 (list price) and that for Standard Edition this will be zero, you can probably see that the savings soon start to mount.

It brings the Named User Plus metric back to a point of common sense: you buy an SE Named User Plus license for everyone who uses Oracle, simple as that. You have no minimums to calculate or track; you have no database options to mess things up. You get an effective and capable product for a reasonable price, and therefore reasonable on-going support costs.

So, to wrap things up:

  • Standard Edition database is a very capable product and can probably run most of your workload
  • SE is significantly cheaper than Enterprise Edition database: we are talking over 70% savings on capex and opex here
  • Unless you specifically need Oracle’s extra cost options or management packs, there are very mature and cheaper alternative products available

In my view, Standard Edition database should be your “Standard way of thinking” i.e. your database edition of choice if you want to get best value and reduce costs: Enterprise Edition should be used as an exception. As with any large change, it is always worth consulting the experts before you undertake a significant change to your current or future estate (as we could save you even more!)

Please feel free to ask me any questions on this or any other Oracle licensing related topics.

A Standard Way of Thinking Part Two

by Paul Bullen, Senior License Consultant

In my last blog post, I introduced the basics regarding Oracle Database Standard Edition. To recap, Standard Edition/Standard Edition One is a very capable and high-performing database, which is limited by the socket capability of your server (maximum of 4 sockets for SE, 2 for SE1) and the inability to license and use some database options against your database: but all for a mere fraction of the price of Enterprise Edition. Note a key point here – it’s the capability of the server in terms of socket count that’s the restriction – not what’s actually deployed. If you have an 8 socket server that has only 2 sockets occupied, then SE/SE1 aren’t viable options.

But when it is viable, the potential savings are higher than I told you last time due to the way a Processor is defined for Standard Edition.

Expanding on the pricing model for Standard Edition, you are allowed to run any number of cores in those 4 sockets and you pay by the occupied socket, NOT by the core. Let’s look at the Dell R910 we mentioned last time. This has 4 sockets and so is fine for Standard Edition. Let’s not go daft here and just assume it actually has 2x Intel E7-2800 processors installed, with 10 cores per processor – and we are going to license it with the Processor metric (because we are very careful about using Named User Plus for licensing)

For Enterprise Edition, we need to do a quick calculation to work out the number of licensable ‘Oracle Processors’, i.e. take the core factor into account. So processors multiplied by cores per processor multiplied by appropriate core factor gives us:

2 x 10 x 0.5 = 10 Oracle Processors (for Enterprise Edition)
10 Oracle Processors (Enterprise Edition) at $47,500 each = $475,000 list license cost

Wow. Standard Edition is a bit easier – 2 occupied sockets give us 2 Oracle Processors;
2 Oracle Processors (Standard Edition) at $17,500 each = $35,000 list license cost

There’s no typo here. SE is 92% cheaper!! When you consider on-going support costs, this is significant.
Hopefully your interest is raised: why would you not go for Standard Edition? The main reason we hear is because some database options cannot be used in Standard Edition. Let’s clear one thing up straight away. RAC (Real Application Clusters) can be used with Standard Edition (not Standard Edition One), and best of all, in this case RAC will be free. Yes: you pay nothing to use RAC with Standard Edition! You have to split the 4-socket limit across the RAC cluster, so typically you’ll be looking at two servers each with two sockets, though you could have a 4 by 1-socket node cluster.

The database options ‘missing’ which seem to cause most pain or an issue to adopting Standard Edition are Diagnostics, Tuning packs and Data Guard. Each DBA and organisation has its own standards for supporting and managing database so it is hard to undermine or question them here however, given the cost savings, a review of any such standards is worthwhile.

It is also worth bearing in mind that for the three options mentioned, there are very good third party tool vendor solutions which offer very similar (and sometimes more mature) capabilities and are specifically built and marketed to function with Standard Edition.

Hopefully these posts are giving you a flavour of the potential that Standard Edition Database could have for your organisation: with everyone currently looking to reduce costs and demonstrate savings, Standard Edition (and our expertise!) may be your saviour. Next time we’ll look at some other ‘quirks’ of Standard Edition. I’m not going to have space here to go over every aspect of Standard Edition, so please let me know if you have any questions in the meantime especially if you are thinking of making the strategy change to Standard Edition.

APEX 4.2 Early Adopters at the Ready!

By Andrew Archibald, Senior Consultant

Oracle have just announced early adopters version of APEX release 4.2

https://apexea.oracle.com/pls/apex

A whole host of new functionality has been added to APEX proving not only that Oracle are committed to pushing forward with APEX but also how great a tool it is. Some of the new functionality includes;

• a faster application builder wizard allowing for simple applications to be built very quickly
• enhanced charting using both flash charting and HTML5 charts
• use of HTML5 page items with new item types such as sliders and additional attributes

… plus many many more features!

Go to http://apex.oracle.com/pls/apex/f?p=38997:1 for more details.

The look and feel to the Application builder has also come on leaps and bounds and looks very impressive. Enhancements have also been made to the wizards allow for quicker generation of objects. Delivered with APEX 4.2 are the same applications available with the Oracle Cloud – these pre-built applications can easily be installed and come with demo data to allow you to quickly get started.

The new feature that excites me the most are the built in Mobile templates using jQuery mobile.

This now makes it easier for APEX application to be ‘mobile ready’ with little effort – simple reports and calendars are some of the features which are available to application developers. Combine the mobile templates with the HTML5 Charts means that APEX is now a superb tool for building enterprise applications for mobile devices.

Happy Application development!

A Standard Way of Thinking Part I

By Paul Bullen, Senior License Consultant

Let me ask you a question. How does spending only a third of the price for Oracle database sound? Or even better, just over 10% of the usual price? You read that correctly: nearly 90% saving on capex and opex for Oracle Database. Well, you can buy a very capable Oracle database for a mere $5,800 per Processor list price: compare that against the ‘usual’ price of $47,500 per Processor for Enterprise Edition.

So what’s the difference? I’m talking here about the different Oracle database editions and the comparison between Enterprise Edition ($47.5k/Proc), Standard Edition ($17.5k/Proc) and Standard Edition One ($5,800/Proc). I’ll come back to Oracle Database Express Edition (which is free) at later date.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve reviewed hundreds of Oracle estates and we’ve seen roughly the following distributions of the different editions (note that we are excluding licenses acquired via Unlimited License Agreements, here):

  • 85% Enterprise Edition, 10% Standard Edition, 5% Standard Edition One

So, why is there such a large proportion of Enterprise Edition usage? Sometimes, the requirement is obvious: for example using extra cost options such as Partitioning, RAC or Diagnostics and Tuning Packs.

However, I think mostly the adoption of Enterprise Edition is a habit – one that with some care and foresight can be reduced: allowing you to reap the potentially massive savings.

Let’s break down the potential ‘blockers’ to Standard Edition which might be cited as reasons not to use it:

  • Hardware restrictions
  • Performance
  • Extra cost option usage
  • Support

Hardware restrictions

Standard Edition (SE) and Standard Edition One (SE1) have limitations surrounding the servers they can be deployed on: anything of an ‘enterprise class’ is not suitable for SE/SE1. In Oracle terms, this means any server with more than 4 sockets for SE and 2 sockets for SE1. It is important to note that sockets are counted if they are populated or not – it is the potential to add processors which is the limit here. So, a Sun M8000 with 4x SPARC VII processors cannot be licensed for Standard Edition as there are a total of 16 sockets (only 4 being occupied). So how about ‘hard partitioning’ your enterprise server into partitions with no more than 4 sockets? I’m afraid that is not allowed. You have to consider the physical number of sockets within the frame.

So what sort of server can you run Standard Edition on? Well, with 4 sockets and no core restrictions – you can have as many cores per processor as you like – you can actually have a very potent server: in the four sockets you are allowed, with the Intel E7-series chips (e.g. in a Dell R910), you could have 40 cores!!

Performance

Occasionally we have heard people comment that Standard Edition database is somehow deficient in performance compared to Enterprise Edition. There’s potential confusion here between Standard Edition and Express Edition. The latter does have limitations: for example, it will only ever run on one processor in the server regardless of how many are installed. However, unless you are using special or extra cost options, there is no reason Standard Edition cannot perform as well as Enterprise Edition. Indeed, Standard Edition is derived from the same code base as Enterprise Edition: they are very closely related products. With up to 40 cores (and who knows how many this will become in the next few years), database performance is unlikely to be a problem caused by the edition.

For information, a comparison between the database options can be found here – but we’ll discuss more about the options in the next blog post.

Remember, we are talking about potential savings of anything up to 90% here – Standard Edition really deserves consideration. Saving so much money should be a no-brainer: so why are more people not adopting other editions? There are some restrictions to what features you can use in Standard Edition, the hardware you can use it on, and the definition of a Processor: we’ll look at these in the next instalment. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Oracle vulnerability grants ‘free’ use of Advanced Security Option with Real Application Clusters

by Paul Bullen, Senior License Consultant

Oracle has released its latest security alert (here-30 April 2012), regarding “TNS Listener Poison Attack”.  This affects 10gR2 and above.  Interestingly, if you are using RAC on 10.2.0.3 and above, the workaround for this vulnerability requires use of Oracle Advanced Security (ASO), in particular SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) to ensure secure registration of listeners between instances.  Oracle has therefore granted the use of SSL/TLS as part of the Oracle Real Application Clusters license.

Oracle has currently provided workarounds (My Oracle Support log in required) for 10.2.0.3 and above.  All these versions are affected and require implementation of ASO to resolve.

We’d be interested to hear how you find implementing this workaround and your thoughts on the license change this makes for you.

In short, if you have Oracle RAC (on Enterprise or Standard Edition), RAC One Node and are running 10.2.0.3 and above, Oracle is now granting you the use of the extra-cost Advanced Security Option (specifically SSL/TLS) as well.  It remains to be seen whether Oracle will rescind this entitlement in later releases or if a non-ASO solution is provided. The workaround for non-RAC instances uses IPC and does not require SSL/TLS – therefore the right to use ASO does not extend to non-RAC instances.

Useful external links:
Oracle announcement
Oracle blog post
Pdf download; Overview of exposure
Configuring SSL/TLS in 11.2
Dark Reading analysis

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