back to article Yes, we need two million licences - DEFRA

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and its agencies are still forking out vast amounts of taxpayer cash on no less than two million Oracle licences, despite efforts by the government to slash expensive annual ERP fees. According to a Freedom of Information response to El Reg, DEFRA and some other relatively …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Really?

    150 licenses per head? Is this Oracle's insistence or total mismanagement? My gast is flabbered.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      If this was a fifth world country, the procurement clerk would have been sipping a mojito on the balkony of a 1000m^2 marble villa regardless of all US anti-bribery laws.

      I am wondering what is the UK equivalent? Having your sprog attent a boy's only private school within a couple of miles radius of the Windsor castle?

      1. Uffish

        Re: UK equivalent

        Sadly the likely cause is not corruption. If it were it could be corrected rapidly and reasonably robust safeguards put in place to stop similar things happening. This is most probably almighty blithering stupidity, caused, supported and protected by standard procedures and practices and most likely the grand total of licences was reported with a slightly sheepish grin and a total lack of any idea how the number could be reduced.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Really?

      Where does the 2m licence figure come from? The article says "£155 per employee - typically for many licences per head - at an annual cost of £1.3m", My calculator says that comes out at ~ 8,400 licenses. At the end of the article it then makes a guestimate of ~12,000 employees. 8,000 licences for 12,000 employees doesn't seem that strange.

      Even if we take £155 per employee, and around 12,000 employees, then buying everyone a licence would mean ~ £2m total, not 2m licences

      ??

      1. BearishTendencies

        Re: Really?

        They're not licensing EBS per person. They're licensing by transaction. Hence the large number of 'licenses' which is basically the same as the number of expense claim lines plus purchase order lines.

        1. NumptyScrub

          Re: Really?

          They're not licensing EBS per person. They're licensing by transaction. Hence the large number of 'licenses' which is basically the same as the number of expense claim lines plus purchase order lines.

          Who the fuck decides to license per transaction in a 10,000 user environment rather than license per core? I don't understand Oracle licensing (very few people do, and I'm sure that's by design), but I know they offer per user licensing, and I know they offer per core licensing. One of those options is highly likely to prove more cost effective than using some (frankly bizarre) "per transaction" licensing approach.

          You can colour my gast utterly flabbered as well o.O

          1. BearishTendencies

            Re: Really?

            You're confusing the technology licensing with the EBS licensing. The tech will either be by processor or by NUP. I suspect the former but I don't know.

            There's then another set of licences to use the ERP. That's what's being paid by use and will be pennies per 'licence'. It was, at one point, the standard way of licensing purchase orders and expense management as it kept it simple.

            El Reg and others (including HMG themselves who produced the chart in here http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/public-sector/2011/11/oracle-has-70-per-cent-of-soft.html) have done this article before and made the same mistake of conflating two very different licences and adding them up to give a single number. It's completely erroneous to do that conflation. Apples =/= pears.

            1. Julz Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Really?

              How dare you say that this is deliberately obfuscated...

              http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/pricing/applications-price-list-070574.pdf

            2. NumptyScrub

              Re: Really?

              There's then another set of licences to use the ERP. That's what's being paid by use and will be pennies per 'licence'. It was, at one point, the standard way of licensing purchase orders and expense management as it kept it simple.

              The company I work for uses Oracle E-Business Suite including the OM and iProcurement modules. We license those per user. I was completely uninvolved in any of that decision making process (I'm support, not development) but I do know that in over a decade of using E-Business that we have never used per transaction licensing.

              I am now intrigued as to how much we actually pay per user per year for E-Business, because I would be astonished if we actually are paying more than £150 per user per year for this, but I have literally no idea how much we do pay. I'll have to see if I can find out ^^;

  2. Shades

    Weasle Wording?

    "an individual licence is required each time a new employee expense claim is processed"

    This, at first glance, seems to suggest a new licence is required each time an expense claim, by a new employee, is processed - so only one is required per new employee. If, as I suspect, its the other way round - a new licence is required for every time an employee submits a new expense claim - then I'm lost for words!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weasle Wording?

      I noted this. Then I suspect that there needs to be a license for the user to * enter * their expense claim. The civil service IT overlords are getting to/are at a criminally negligent situation regarding taxpayers money.

      1. Shades
        Thumb Up

        Re: Weasle Wording?

        Glad I'm not the only one to have noticed that.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Weasle Wording?

          "Glad I'm not the only one to have noticed that."

          But did you notice the miss-spelling of weasel?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Weasle Wording?

            I did, but I didn't want to spoil your fun.

            Selfless: me.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Weasle Wording?

      I remember when Oracle tried to pull this stunt with my company at the time telling us we needed a per transaction license for the database supporting our Online booking engine. Given that this was for a significant country-wide ecommerce site the license volumes were in the range given for DEFRA. Needless to say they were given a robust F*ck You until sense prevailed.

      As others have stated I suspect there is a combination of conflating of different license types, plus some fast ones being pulled by Oracle salesmen against civil service PHB's who knew no better.

      To be fair (if I must) I seriously doubt the Civil service were the only people to fall for this trick.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weasle Wording?

        I remember when Oracle tried to pull this stunt with my company at the time telling us we needed a per transaction license for the database supporting our Online booking engine

        =====

        There is no such thing as a "per transaction Db license" as can easily be determined by looking at the online Oracle price list. HTF would you even determine what a transaction was, let alone measure it, or log it or charge it (since only the customer could be logging it they could anyway say "we did what we determine to be 4 transactions last year according to our log what we wrote so thats 4 quid we owe you".

        I call bunkum.

    3. Joe 35

      Re: Weasle Wording?

      This, at first glance, seems to suggest a new licence is required each time an expense claim, by a new employee, is processed - so only one is required per new employee. If, as I suspect, its the other way round - a new licence is required for every time an employee submits a new expense claim - then I'm lost for words!

      =========

      You only need be lost for words because the article is pretty much bunkum and so is what the quoted DEFRA spokesman said.

      They will licence at so much for every 100,000 expense claims per year (whoever made them), or some such bulk transaction figure. Only a few items are licensed on this per transaction mechanism. Pay once every 100,000 (or whatever)

      They will also licence each employee per head, one-off for HR. Do it once, dont need to do it again, ever.

      To add the 100,000 transaction licenses to the employee count for HR makes no sense, its like adding up how many gallons of petrol you buy in a year, how many seats your car has, and then deciding your car uses that number of seats every year.

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    Sorry, when did we start down the path of paying a licence for every possible interaction on a system that's managed internally?

    I do not believe there's a need for this, and I firmly believe it should have been looked into BEFORE you bought into such systems, rather than years later when higher government picks up on it.

    Anything in the "per employee" range is ludicrous. Per seat, possibly. But even £70 per seat for a single piece of application software (which no doubt is operated by another licensed piece of software anyway) is at the absolute maximum top end for things that you cannot live without or do any other way.

    Government IT... such a shower.

    1. DaLo

      Microsoft haved stated that you need a licence for every user that picks up a DHCP address from a Windows based DHCP server whether that user access the network or files on the server or not.

      They have also said that every printer that is managed via windows needs a licence and also that if you have a website hosted on a Windows server that uses any kind of login (whether that login is linked to an Active directory or just your own SQLite user DB) you need a licence for every public person that accesses your site.

      Yes, I am not making this up - if you use IIS and there is any form of login, you need a windows CAL for every visitor!

      http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/12/01/DaLo_Microsoft_CAL_licensing/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "They have also said that every printer that is managed via windows needs a licence"

        Not normally. If your users who use the printer have CALs then the printer is covered by their use via their CALs.

  4. James 51

    It sounds like there might actually be a business case for moving to an AS400. That expense claim thing is a mistake I hope. If not, wow. Just wow and what the hell!?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fark me. Upvoted for sensible comment.

      Though last time did any RPG/ILE it was called an ISeries. Dunno what it is now.

      1. James 51

        Thanks.

        Yea, ours gets called the iSeries as well. These things hang around so long even if the name of the thing changed the people looking after them keep calling them the same thing. Just glad I'm not at the COBOL/JCL level anymore.

  5. gerdesj Silver badge

    They get you coming and going

    I have a customer who virtualized their Oracle stuff, only to find out that the licensing now quadrupled.

    The licensing is per processor that the system can run on, so going from one box with say 2 sockets to a cluster with four lots of two sockets = x4 more licenses needed, even though the bloody thing can only run on up to two of them and that is shared with other VMs.

    V2P isn't something you do very often these days ...

    Jon

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They get you coming and going

      Your customer should talk to their sales person again, it isn't supposed to work like that.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: They get you coming and going

        @AC

        It is when the salesman thinks he can get away with it.

      2. Raoul Miller

        Re: They get you coming and going

        Yes it is - if the virtualization is VMware. You have to license ALL the cores on the chassis, not only those on which the application is running.

        http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/pricing/partitioning-070609.pdf

        If you use LPAR, Solaris containers or Oracle VM you can get around it, but it's been a major issue for VMware and Oracle for years

      3. Loud Speaker

        Re: They get you coming and going

        "Talk" with a sharp implement.

    2. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: They get you coming and going

      VM licensing is usually factor-based on core of host. Run Oracle RDBMS on VMs and it's usually something lower like 0.75/core ( totals rounded up to nearest whole number of course! )

      No matter how you try to play them, they have a huge team of auditors and lawyers who will plug any loophole you try to find, then baffle you with the license calcs. Woe betide anyone who goes through a severe Oracle license audit, trust me the "Spanish Inquisition" would be a better experience!

      Hardly surprising they're being trounced by SQL Server for new installations in a lot of companies. Been working with Oracle since 1995 but Oracle are not helping their customers and sooner or later they will need some when they will find out they don't have many left.

      1. Raoul Miller

        Re: They get you coming and going

        I'm not sure where you are getting your information, but it's totally incorrect.

        There is a core multiplication factor applied based on chip architecture (generally 0.5 per core for intel chips - so one "processor" license is for two cores.

        Running on virtual hosts is completely different. If its VMware you need to license all the cores on the chassis, not just those assigned to the application. If it's LPAR, Solaris Containers or Oracle VM you can create "hard partitions" and just license the cores assigned to the partition.

        http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/pricing/partitioning-070609.pdf

        I will agree, though, that things can get ugly during audits - like zero discount and 30 days to get into compliance.

    3. omnicent
      Coat

      Re: They get you coming and going

      "Would you virtualise the Oracle DB server?" is an interview question here..... no goes in one pile, yes goes out the door...

    4. Fluffy Bunny
      Facepalm

      Re: They get you coming and going

      "a customer who virtualized their Oracle stuff"

      Done the same with IBM WebSphere. Hideously expensive to start with, then put it onto a virtualized system (VM-Ware) and the cost multiplies by the number of cores you use to run other stuff. Crazy way to licence something and a good reason to move off it, onto something with a reasonable licencing model.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the IOC (internet of Cattle) !

    This is Defra, it's one Oracle license per cow and sheep herd in the UK so they can have their own personal MooRP or BaaRP as suited.

  7. Dennisvd

    An Oracle license then costs about £1 on average????

    Do I read this correctly:

    Quote 1: "..paying £155 per employee.."

    Quote 2: "..an average of around one hundred and fifty Oracle licences per head.."

    An Oracle license then costs about £1 on average. Strange?

    1. BearishTendencies

      Re: An Oracle license then costs about £1 on average????

      Not strange when you know what they are doing. They're licensing the database either by processor or application user and EBS on a transaction basis then El Reg are conflating them all as 'Oracle licences' as though they are equivalent. Which they're not.

      They're still overpaying though.

      1. BearishTendencies

        Re: An Oracle license then costs about £1 on average????

        I didn't mean application user. I meant NUP.

  8. JeffTravis

    This reeks of negligence

    While I'll be the first the line up and draw parallels between Oracle Licensing and a protection racket, so much of this doesn't stack up.

    I've worked with both charities who believe they are too small to have any negotiation leverage and large corporates who will only deal with Oracle US (believing in a organ grinder/monkey relationship between Oracle US/UK). There are ways to optimise your licensing spend and Oracle bless them will even help you, via Oracle LMS if you ask the right questions and don't show too much of your working out.

    Oracle technology licenses as Jon says above can be difficult to virtualise if you use the 'wrong' architecture in Oracle's view, equally so you can drive the costs down if use the 'right' one.

    Maybe it is time to throw off the shackles of PAYE and go consulting after all......

  9. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Oracle? Sounds familiar

    Oracle would be that company that sold the enterprise software that all the really successful companies used in the early 2000's to predict the business environment - Big Successful companies like Enron, MCI/Worldcom, HealthCare South, Clearstream ... good stuff!

    So, how's it working out for the UK government then?

  10. LucreLout Silver badge

    ....and they say the public sector is cut to the bone.

    Clearly there's room for substantial cost savings, quite apart from a deep need to remove whomever signed off on the use of so much Oracle from public service. 30 citizens per licence is readily managable all the way down the database stack to Access; you don't use a Bugatti Veyron to pop to Tesco, and you certainly don't need so many Oracle licences to run a trivial government department. If heads don't roll, lessons will not be learned.

    1. billse10

      Re: ....and they say the public sector is cut to the bone.

      "Clearly there's room for substantial cost savings, quite apart from a deep need to remove whomever signed off on the use of so much Oracle from public service. "

      It's not just they signed off on the use of so much Oracle, it's that they did so in an appallingly silly way. The first cost saving to cut is the salary of that person & everyone else who approved / supervised them

    2. Mephistro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: ....and they say the public sector is cut to the bone. (@ LucreLout)

      "If heads don't roll, lessons will not be learned."

      True that. Corollary: As heads never roll in the public sector, lessons will NEVER be learned. :-(

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ....and they say the public sector is cut to the bone.

      " If heads don't roll, lessons will not be learned."

      Culture survives the elimination of individuals. What's needed is the complete closure of DEFRA. As far as I can see they don't do much of any use, other than refuse to accept scientific evidence on everything from BSE to bovine TB, fail to fight effectively for British agriculture in Europe, at the same time ignore scientific advice on fisheries whilst still selling British fishermen down the river, etc etc.

      I'm with the badgers, and I vote for all of DEFRA to be gassed in their offices, or be trapped in cages as they commute to and from work, and then shot by marksmen.

  11. h4rm0ny

    For people with more money than God, there's Oracle. For everyone else, there's Postgres.

    1. amanfromarse

      Postgres..

      The licenses are for Oracle ERP not just the db.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Sykobee

        Re: Postgres..

        Oracle DERP.

        Spec out the use case (expense processing), then implement that (couple of developers + DBA for PGSQL) and the overall cost will still be a fraction of the Oracle licensing costs.

        And you have developers to implement more features in the future as well as maintaining the system.

        The issue is that Government didn't want developers in house, when it could give money to their freinds who run consulting businesses, so this really isn't an option now.

        I'm guessing the Oracle DBAs they have will be consultants rather than in-house too.

  12. DrXym Silver badge

    Money better spent

    Bung a few million at the likes of PostgreSQL to implement functionality / support required and enjoy free, unlimited use forever.

    Perhaps Oracle and its ilk are vitally important for certain functionality - payrolls, benefits processing etc. where there may be millions of records to process in a timely fashion. But I suspect 99% of government use cases do not require this at all or the enormous complexity / horsepower / administrative overhead that goes with providing it.

  13. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    "some applications are separately licensed and because an individual licence is required each time a new employee expense claim is processed,"

    wtf?

  14. Andy P 2

    Oracle license either per user or per core. They are very open to negotiation and a site license is usually the best (but depends on how the organisation uses it i.e. do they lots of user connecting to one database or lots of users and lots of databases and so on).

    If you virtualise Oracle (say on VMWare) you need to license the entire VM cluster. You don't see many virtualised Oracle environments!

    For Oracle, £150 / user isn't actually that bad!

    1. TechicallyConfused

      Actually you do see quite a lot of visualized Oracle environment but they are generally done with Oracles Hypervisor which allows for hard partitioning thus removing the requirement to license all cores in a cluster or on a host.

      As already noted above though the issue doesn't seem to be with the cost of licensing the data centre so much as the idiotic decision to license through transactions. If they have indeed done this then someone needs to lose their job and/or have their several Caribbean mansions audited.

      1. JeffTravis
        Big Brother

        Minor typo

        Actually you do see quite a lot of visualized Oracle environment but they are generally done with Oracles Hypervisor which allows for hard partitioning recognised by Oracle as a marketing lever thus removing the requirement to license all cores in a cluster or on a host.

        I believe as they say around these parts, "There, fixed that for you."

  15. TechicallyConfused

    It wouldn't be so bad if these pricks actually paid any UK taxes.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One customer site I know of was quoted 1 million just to upgrade from SQL Server 2008 to 2012. So a couple of million for the whole of the UK doesn't sound so bad?

    1. wolfetone
      Trollface

      You know MySQL is free right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You know MySQL is free right?"

        If your time has no value.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          and...

          You know that Oracle owns mysql, right?

        2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          @AC

          "You know MySQL is free right?"

          If your time has no value.

          This is an idiotic statement. I've worked fairly extensively with Oracle and MySQL*. Oracle is certainly the more feature-rich, but for many applications there is little or no time penalty for using MySQL. The advantage may even be the other way, as you don't need the army of DBAs that seem to be part of every Oracle installation.

          It appears, however, that this row isn't about Oracle database, but Oracle applications, so MySQL isn't an alternative.

          * and Sybase and SQL Server and PostgreSQL (and Rdb, for those who remember it)

          1. NumptyScrub

            Re: @AC

            This is an idiotic statement. I've worked fairly extensively with Oracle and MySQL*. Oracle is certainly the more feature-rich, but for many applications there is little or no time penalty for using MySQL. The advantage may even be the other way, as you don't need the army of DBAs that seem to be part of every Oracle installation.

            I think that statement was actually meant to imply that many people bandy about the term "free" without considering cost implications of the people required to implement and maintain the aforementioned "free" software. You can move from an Oracle DB backend to a MySQL backend, but unless your time (and the time of your staff) is valued at nothing then there is going to be a cost associated with it, even though MySQL (or other backend of choice) has no licensing cost. Whether the cost of switching is less than the cost of not switching is a question that can only be answered by actually looking at the specific scenarios involved; some cases it will be significantly cheaper overall to switch, and some may actually be more expensive overall (although these may be mostly edge cases).

            I could ditch all our Windows clients and implement "free" Linux clients; they have office software and can connect to SMB shares out of the box these days, and to be honest a lot of users would barely notice the difference until they tried to find the Control Panel.

            What I cannot do is change all our clients over in zero hours, and implement an immediate (and zero cost) skillset upgrade for our support staff, or even a zero cost skillset upgrade for our users (some may already be familiar with MATE / KDE / <insert desktop manager of choice> but many will not be). Those costs are the ones that stop it from being a "free" upgrade.

        3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          " "You know MySQL is free right?"

          If your time has no value."

          To judge from the article, the cost of using Oracle will include someone whose full-time job is tracking Oracle's latest licensing regime and making sure that you don't get screwed. So I suppose the real question is, do you want to hire someone full-time to manage your DB or hire someone full-time to manage your DB vendor?

      2. maff

        You know that changing an applications database platform is a massive ball ache at best and impossible at worst, right?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked in the civil service. How it happens is like this. Employee gets a promotion to middle management. Common sense is removed. Middle manager starts making crazy decisions to please the newly appointed CIO that has grand plans to radically change the systems used in the organization. Just because. Middle manager becomes senior manager. Now crazy decisions have to be backed somehow. Senior manager outsources to external company. Now IT is run by senior manager with common sense removed and provided by external company. Senior manager becomes even more senior because they now deal with multi-meellion (to paraphrase El Reg) accounts. Lovely jubly.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      The way I remember it

      Employee gets promotion to maximum level of ability. Does good job, Higher level management embarrassed by someone doing better job than them - moves them to other projects until they finally accept outsourcing to better paid job elsewhere.

      Or alternatively they work alongside helping outsourcing that had to be done by tender and company that won the contract makes them an offer they cannot refuse and they disappear with all their useful knowledge leaving their old department 'undefended'.

      There's never been a 'ooh Lovely Jubbly' amongst good people - just a lack of resources to prevent others deliberately screwing over the taxpayer.

      Thats why theres so much activeX/IE6 in the world - a two year old could replace most of it but would never be allowed near enough to sort things.

  18. Disgruntled of TW
    Facepalm

    Oracle licensing ... good summary

    So ... here's one of the best summaries around, dated August 2012 sure, of the mess Oracle are making while getting off the fence. Oracle’s Director for Cloud Business Development says it out loud at VMworld 2012.

    http://www.licenseconsulting.eu/vmworld-tv-oracle-on-licensing-vmware-virtualized-environments-updated/

    Yes, this is just RDBMS licensing, and doesn't directly address "app specific" RDBMS licensing or any custom negotiation that HMG should have done, intelligently, for eBS.

    It's a humorous read/listen, as Oracle really don't want to lose the revenue they'd get by more folks using VMware in preference to Hyper-V or XEN hypervisors. Or indeed, in preference to SQL Server or postgres. Cough.

    Enjoy.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't suprise me

    Last time I worked as an Oracle DBA (as a contractor) I was presented by the head of IT with an Oracle invoice for support renewal to sign off. It was a list of very old software and non of our recent stuff was on it, after about 6 months or so of wrangling with Oracle (who kept chasing payment) and refusing to sign it off, doing an audit of licence usage, I sent them a list of what we were using. The bill which was just my list, was £80K instead of £240K, the boss was a very happy man as he was just expecting me to tell him to pay the original bill. I warned the permanent DBA I helped recruit that when the renewal came it would probably be the same rubbish as I doubted Oracle would update their database and sure enough when I spoke to him a few months later he confirmed they'd got exactly the same billing details provided.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    any fule know...

    any and all documentation from oracle is intentionally obfuscated.

    i tried following some instructions to install oracle db on an oracle linux vm

    <insert WTF am i reading meme>

  21. maff
    Thumb Up

    Ah, I do love the snide insinuations that such a situation must surely be due to the incompetence of the Public sector rather than the outright greed of the Private. As someone in the Public sector (FE) who has found themselves in the yearly Oracle licence renewal process more than once, I can assure you their cost evaluations and customer service bear a striking similarity to Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. "Oh, you have significantly fewer students this year? F*ck you, pay me. You're no longer using that particular Oracle module? F*ck you, pay me". If your software does not support alternative database platforms, or suitable alternative software is not available, you're screwed and Oracle knows it. They can revise the licence any way they want.

  22. cortland

    That's

    ... licentious. Go, and sin no more.

  23. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Per transaction licensing?

    Don't forget that license you'll need to process the purchase order for your new Oracle license.

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