back to article Oracle rival chides UK councils for pricey database indulgence

County and district councils in the UK – Blighty's municipal governments – risk software bills they can't afford if they use Oracle databases, competing vendor TmaxSoft argues. That turns out to be almost all of them. TmaxSoft, which makes a relational database called Tibero, contends that in an era of austerity, the public …

  1. Lysenko

    Austerity is why Councils can't dump Oracle...

    Oracle has always been a textbook exercise in "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish", far more egregious than anything MSFT ever tried with JScript. You can run compliant (i.e. portable) SQL89, 92 and 99 on Oracle, but the entire ecosystem tries to push you into using proprietary PL/SQL extensions and locking yourself into the Oracle platform.

    There are various Oracle emulation layers for other RDBMS (EnterpriseDB variant of PostgreSQL, for example), but then you run into the other insidious aspect of Oracle: sales parasites deeply entrenched in the 'C' suite peddling horrific warnings about the risks of straying from the one true path that would make the 13th century Vatican blush ...and then there's the straightforward bribery.

    I've been encountering Oracle off and on since Oracle 8 ('90s) when they tried to convince me to port a major public sector system over from Ultrix/Ingres and have never once encountered a scenario where Oracle was the best tool for the job when considered holistically (meaning factoring the cost of licenses and audit compliance). It doesn't matter if Oracle is twice as fast (which it almost never is) if you can double the capacity of your cluster by not financing the local Oracle rep's next Breitling watch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Austerity is why Councils can't dump Oracle...

      I worked on a couple of prijects to migrate to SAP ASE (not SAPs ERP BTW). Oracle fought hard but we managed to do it and saved a load of cash. Obviously it's still a paying option but at least in the VM you only pay for what's allocated to the VM.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Austerity is why Councils can't dump Oracle...

      Could not agree more on this. Last I heard of Carl Davies was that he had gone off in a huff to a video streaming company from Oracle. I spent lots of wasted hours on Oracle audits thanks to this individual.

      Oh and using the media to tell everyone how bad Oracle is does not lend yourself particulary well to DBA's in government, local or otherwise.

  2. trisul

    Just say no ...

    Oracle is know for predatory sales and licencing tactics, Councils should definitely be looking at alternatives, the scale of their operations does not justify investments in Oracle and the opensource alternatives are excellent and stable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just say no ...

      Councils should definitely be looking at alternatives

      The problem with any commercial alternative is that the tactics of Oracle, SAP (not to mention Infor and Epicor) are simply to allow smaller and often better ERP competitors to grow, and then when they become commercially significant, they buy the company, and either snuff the product and force customers onto the expensive-and-crap core product, or borg the new software and force that down the throat of all their customers, on the normal userous licencing terms. Even the likes of Infor and Epicor are probably only biding their time, waiting for a bid from Oracle or SAP, and in turn the small fry often grow by acquisition:

      FOSS or home brew is the most sensible solution, but no councils have the expertise, courage or resources, and after the Munich capitulation ("I have in my hand an offer from Microsoft...") none now will. Given the combined buying power and common needs, it really should be a simple job for councils to commission one, maybe two public sector focused ERP systems to common standards, in which they own all of the IP. But that gets you back into the world of failure, pain, incompetence and waste that are endemic in any public sector shared service or IT project.

      1. Lysenko

        Re: Just say no ...

        FOSS or home brew is the most sensible solution, but no councils have the expertise, courage or resources

        Which was my point about austerity. If you're ever going to break the chain then it starts with (at least) doubling your costs as you'll still need Oracle while you invest in developing your exit strategy. As with any organisation linked to electoral cycles, it is improbable you'll secure funding for projects that have an ROI > 3-5 years at the best of times. Add austerity spending and the improbable becomes the impossible.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just say no ...

          I'm certain the money's there. Councils are often inefficient in many areas of non-discretionary spending, and invariably choose to fritter the discretionary element.

          My local council bleats endlessly about austerity, and then happily pisses money up the wall on firework displays, music festivals, building a new swimming pool that the local swimming club have the total use of 90% of the time most members of the public might want to use it, running a loss making theatre, LGBT history month, and other shite.

          Take non-discretionary activities: Council tax collections - some councils can do it for £4 a property, others spend over £25. "Core democratic services" vary from £12 per head to as much as £110 per head. Much of the higher range is down to councils that are too small to be efficient, but FFS, its within their gift to get a neighboring council to do a lot of these functions for them. And within the body of similar sized councils, there's still a three or fourfold range of efficiency both for those core services, and the council's own support services. My council has recently merged a lot of corporate and support services with a neighbouring borough to save money - that's good, but WTF was it OK to do the job wastefully for years?

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Just say no ...

          "As with any organisation linked to electoral cycles"

          Oh that that were true. My local council hasn't changed political ownership for years and in any case the officials seem to be entirely out of the elected representatives' control.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just say no ...

        FOSS or home brew is the most sensible solution, but no councils have the expertise, courage or resources

        I've seen this alot, an although it may be true for small apps, I can only asusme that most people who repeat it have

        a) No clue what a BIG database actually means (talking multi-TB through PB here)

        b) Never actually measured performance on tens of thousands of queries/second on huge data sets.

        You may not like Oracle's commercial practices, but when you do need that sort of performance the FOSS stuff running on white box hardware just curls up & dies.

        1. Lysenko

          Re: Just say no ...

          a) No clue what a BIG database actually means (talking multi-TB through PB here).....

          1) I have a sneaking suspicion that people like Google, Facebook and Amazon know a thing or two colossal datasets and massive concurrency and (bizarrely) they don't use Oracle to do it.

          2) We're discussing County Councils. Half their work could be conducted with dBase III. Joining multiple million+ record tables is well within the capabilities of any number of cheaper (or free) RDBMS engines (certainly PostgreSQL or FireBird).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just say no ...

            Back when I worked in a Council (post 2000) half the databases were dBase III (or Clipper) !

    2. LaLaLand

      Re: Just say no ...

      Alas, not that easy, most LAs would love to move off Oracle, but the software they use is locked into Oracle. Changing systems would be way too expensive and the suppliers, also, haven't got the time, money or skills to move.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    "falls to the License Management Services team –.. and the optimization team. "

    That is in the sense of "optimize" as in "Optimize the amount of money you're going to pay us."

    I am also surprised "only" 70 get their license fees jacked up.

    TBH a fair chunk of this s**t should be foreseen up front but they may have bought the DB decades ago.

    Oracle sounds like a big ticket item that underlies a shedload of stuff at most of these councils. IOW finding ways to minimize what they can sting you for and uninstall unnecessary parts of it could pay off big time. It is therefor a strategic issue worthy of CTO level scrutiny.

    1. Mark 65

      Re: "falls to the License Management Services team –.. and the optimization team. "

      I'm also left wondering how much of this would actually stand up if actively pushed back on. For example

      "It becomes a bit of a horror show in very many cases when customers feel they are compliant [with the terms of the Oracle license] and are not compliant."

      Not compliant according to who? Oracle? Please! Independent 3rd party or legal decision else go get fucked.

      "If you're using something like VMware, then Oracle doesn't recognize that," he said. So if you're only using four cores to run our app and your organization is using 64 cores with VMware, Oracle will come and ask you to pay for 64 cores."

      Cannot see how this could possibly be legal under EU law. In fact I'd wager it isn't but Oracle are yet to have their turn on the judicial circuit but their turn will come. This is like MS enforcing you having to have IE. You don't technically but the punitive financial sanction on offer essentially enforces the user only virtualising on Oracle. That is not legal, it cannot possibly be.

      I don't even buy the "Oracle is a very good enterprise platform". It is generally grossly over-engineered for what the vast majority need and likely sub-optimal for those with specialist needs. It seems like a jack of all trades on steroids. Their syntax shits me, not to mention the number of conditions under which it will convert a datetime to a timestamp and then table scan instead of index, and it is generally a massive pain in the arse to use with other systems.

      Bigg observed that Oracle often makes demands outside of the scope of contracts. "Oracle will routinely tell the customer they have to license every one of their VMware hosts, even if a only a portion of them run Oracle software," he said.

      So, fraud essentially. Fuck me, their time in front of the EU cannot come soon enough.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    poor data management

    Last time I dealt with Oracle licencing it was a joke. We were presented with a bill for £200K, my boss would have paid it (as it was each year) but ran it past me to check, the software listed was years (if not decades) out of date, no longer in use and no longer supported. We refused to pay the bill and Oracle could not even provide a list of what we'd bought in the last few years. They kept ringing demanding payment but could not provide a correct invoice. In the end we gave them a list of what we used after performing an internal audit. The bill came to £80K. The following year they sent us the old list and a bill for £200K+ so clearly they hadn't updated their database, and again new licences purchased since were not listed. Needless to say we sent them the list again with changes for that year and paid the lesser amount. They didn't seem to care as long as you paid them something.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      "We refused to pay the bill and Oracle could not even provide a list of what we'd bought"

      "In the end we gave them a list of what we used after performing an internal audit."

      That's more like how such negotiations (and it is a negotiation, your money versus their hassle) should be conducted.

      If it wasn't a multi $Bn company you'd actually bought software off of it sounds a lot like a version of the "pro forma invoice" scam, not unlike the old "Readers Digest" nonsense.

      S/W companies have astonishing data management practices. I've seen very high end development environments where the "contact" listed was the CFO who'd signed the contract.

      They had no f**king clue who within IT used it, or who was in charge of IT. All they had kept was the CFO name, which was often years out of date.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: poor data management

      "The bill came to £80K."

      I hope you deducted the cost of conducting the audit.

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    What Oracle does today

    the rest will do tomorrow. (some are already doing this)

    Oracle do seem to be the most agressive and expert at pissing customers off.

    Either pay up or get shafted some other way.

    Don't even threat to move to someone else. They'll keep sending the bills anyway.

    As a former Oracle DBA (the shame of it... but it was in the 7.3 days) I'd like to use a 'finger' icon but the pirate will have to do instead.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eyes Wide Open

    Most County Council Oracle shops are there because the database underpins core applications, I've been working with Oracle since release 5 and the company approach has been reasonably consistent since then. Most councils now split the workload between the older - Oracle based applications and the new SQL Server based apps and have teams skilled in managing and operating both DB regimes.

    What posters don't seem to understand is that these core apps are embedded in the business operation and the cost of change is crippling. Council IT teams are severely resource constrained running literally hundreds of niche applications supporting everything from (fairly) standard back office systems (finance , property, CRM HR&Payroll) to critical applications sup[porting the most vulnerable members of society in Social Care, Education, trading standards etc. Most larger authorities are capable of dealing with Oracle and Microsoft (who are just as predatory) and manage the estates within the licence constraints. this includes not installing the pretty optional products before including them in the site licence. Oracle approach to VM recognition is annoying but in reality most Oracle large Oracle installs are still running on Unix servers and the Oracle VM and containers works well there. what hasn't been mentioned is that Microsoft take a similar approach to licencing SQL Server. They only recognize hyper-V as a Virtualization environment but also insist that every core for every server which a A SQL VM may run on is licenced. This means that if you operate a private hyper-V cloud you have to pin VM's running SQL Server to particular hardware hosts which restricts recovery in the event of a hardware fail. Again it's a pain but the tech teams are aware and do manage this. On top of that the tight integration between COTS packages and Microsoft Office make it impractical to replace MS Office with Libre office for these application users and the enterprise licencing model makes an estate split between opensource and Microsoft products more expensive than licencing MS Office for the whole estate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eyes Wide Open

      "Microsoft take a similar approach to licencing SQL Server. They only recognize hyper-V as a Virtualization environment"

      Completely untrue. Microsoft recognise any hypervisor solution that can control resources to limit the CPUs / cores in use by SQL servers. There is no Hyper-v only policy for that.

      In fact the rules don't even mention Hyper-v:

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eyes Wide Open

        "Completely untrue."

        Correct - it's only Oracle that behave like that.

        You are number 6....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thankfully x86 per core performance is improving

    We'll be selling a lot of dedicated Oracle Virtual clusters soon with low core count high frequency CPUs.

    Until of course Oracle start applying a license per Ghz/per core performance model.

    1. foo_bar_baz

      Re: Thankfully x86 per core performance is improving

      Hah, the inevitable £/clockcycle model.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Thankfully x86 per core performance is improving

      Why all this per-core rubbish ?

      Why not just licence per-transaction ?

  8. agurney

    Something doesn't add up..

    "Of the 60 that responded in the allowed time, 92 per cent said they currently used Oracle database software."

    55.2 ?

    1. David Nash

      Re: Something doesn't add up..


      Rounded up. Wouldn't you have quoted it as 92%?

  9. Milton

    Pity the infected

    Those who have already been bitten by the Oracle bug are mostly doomed. Oracle has been fiendishly clever in creating an interdependent ecosystem of (surprisingly poor) application suites, often adding very little value but still of course chargeable, along with and further interpenetrated with essential functionality like finance (also done startlingly badly) to feed off its database (which itself is no longer particularly competitive) and thereby ensure it cannot be binned. Buying Oracle is like swallowing an alien parasite: before you know it you are being bled dry, the tentacles extend into every vital part of your organisation and if you try to surgically remove any part of it, destruction ensues.

    Very few organisations, especially those which have been sacking all their best, experienced people in favour of outsourcing to supposedly cheap employees, are remotely capable of freeing themselves from Oracle's clutches. Indeed, the outsourced ones now exist to funnel money to two parasites—Oracle and their outsourcers: though sometimes the parasites allow their hosts to keep just enough money to keep breathing.

    So really we have to focus our message on those who haven't yet got the facehugger wrapped round their heads, because only they might be saved. "Run—don't walk, RUN—from that Oracle saleslizard, and we'll send a dropship for evac".

    PS: A virtual pint for whoever's first with: "I say we take off, and ..."

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Pity the infected

      ...and nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they really cared about tax payers cash

    ...they wouldn't waste IT time on FOI requests that are blatant market research with a view to selling us their wonder product.

    We don't buy a database first then look for the application to put on it, we'll buy the software service that meets the business needs and go with the supported database from that supplier.

    I can see it now; "your application meets our critical needs but could you port it to Tibero please?",

    "you want what now ?, yes sure we can do that, it'll cost you £60K+ an extra £20K support per year"

    1. Mark 65

      Re: If they really cared about tax payers cash

      We don't buy a database first then look for the application to put on it, we'll buy the software service that meets the business needs and go with the supported database from that supplier.

      Normally you trade off the closest fit against the lifetime cost and with a lifetime of reaming from Oracle in store I'd say you chose wrong. I'd also seriously question the value and quality of any software that can only run on one database engine unless that database is PostgreSQL or any other free instance. Seriously, "our software will only run on an Oracle DB" has amateur hour written all over it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Eyes Wide Open

    With ms sql you have mobility for guests in a virtualized setup if you pay for software assurance or you have licensed all the physical cores on a host, you will possibly need to demonstrate from logs etc that the guests have not moved to an unlicensed host & when needs must you can just buy another 4 pack of core licenses?

    In the oracle world you would have to pay for every virtual host that the guest will potentially land on unless you are using oracle's own partitioning methods, vmware say this isn't the case but I don't see them offering to pay the legal costs to fight it out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RE: Eyes Wide Open

      "In the oracle world you would have to pay for every virtual host that the guest will potentially land on unless you are using oracle's own partitioning methods, vmware say this isn't the case but I don't see them offering to pay the legal costs to fight it out."

      We just laughed at them when they explained this, but they wouldn't budge so we spent less than Oracle would have cost on migrating to an SQL Server utility model! Much nicer / easier to update, maintain and run too. For instance - in SQL Server to create a new database - almost instant - in Oracle it can take forever!

  12. fixit_f

    A lot of their income must come from legacy applications. I can’t imagine anyone working in procurement for a local council now would have much luck pushing a new application that required an oracle back end once the licensing fees became apparent, particularly when multithreaded across many cores. The problem is people who’ve been using apps with lineage back the late 90’s and early 2000’s when there wasn’t really anything to touch it. Legacy apps built on that platform are generally stuck with Oracle’s non-ANSI compliant SQL and often pushed into using Oracle specific features like materialised views, Once you’re in that ecosystem it’s a fundamental re-write off your app to make it portable again, and that’s if the vendor even still exists and is still developing the product rather than just maintaining basic support for it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not out to defend Oracle but...

    the honeypot that Oracle has found is not that the price of their software is through the roof, they've been able to identify the right people in most business that have nothing to do with the Oracle software but pay the bills. Oracle database is a very good product, otherwise we wouldnt all be whinging about the price of it. Some of the things we have identified are that even though Oracle will provide you with the licensing you need for a project, you really have to understand their licensing model and the cost of all the oracle environments in your business. Dont be afraid to tell the Oracle auditors and sales people to fuck off. If your really stuck and Oracle has you by the balls, get in a license specialist to go through your environment and recommend the lowest cost models that are out there. If you can challenge Oracle on every single point in the audit then they soon want to settle as you've created more hassle and work than they'd anticipated. Its the same tactic that all the big software vendors use, oracle is no exception.

    If you take one point from my rant, then its look at the license models they have (including whats new) and negotiate hard and dirty. At the end of the day, your employed to keep the money in the company and not in the pocket of the vendors. Deal with them as if your being asked to stick your bleeding hand in a tank full of piranhas and asked to trust them not to bite.

    I've been through Oracle audits, remember that Oracle are a big sales company and the sales people hate each other, think big and get regional offices or sales partners to quote as that really pisses them off. I had an Auditor in Oracle tell me I was a bastard and it was low down tricks I'd pulled after his "sale" fell through and I got the same licenses for half the price from another region. Let them play hardball, just be playing a ducking different game that they didn't even know they're part of!. Your vendors don't pay your bonus.

    Coat, keys, CTRL-ALT-DEL, pub!

    No wallet as the Directors buying!

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: I'm not out to defend Oracle but...

      "I had an Auditor in Oracle tell me I was a bastard and it was low down tricks I'd pulled after his "sale" fell through and I got the same licenses for half the price from another region."

      @Hans Blick

      Ever thought of doing a bit of consultancy/trouble-shooting on the side? Might get a few customers by the sound of it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Oracle declined to comment".

    No $hit Sherlock.

  15. TVU

    Abandon ship!

    It's time to leave overpriced Oracle Corporation if you can. If they didn't spend so much $$$ on lawyers to pursue pointless and hostile litigation then they might be in a position to offer their long suffering customers a better deal...but that's not going to happen while a certain boss is in control.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corrupt staff

    Once your skills are in Oracle, you'll do everything to keep yourself employed and your CV relevant - no matter how much it costs someone else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cheap Staff

      Competent software engineers can work with more than one RDBMS and they can port your application to a different system.

      So if leadership really wants to make a change, they certainly could.

      Postgresql, DB/2, TeraData, MSSQL, SAPDB,...

      Of course it helps to stay clear of proprietary extensions like PLSQL. And to test the application during development against several different RDBMSs. Then you can switch at low cost.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a municipal government client who hired a consultant, each year, to ensure they were paying Oracle correctly, i.e, not necessarily according to the invoice. This is a government with a gaggle of lawyers and professional procurement managers on the payroll.To me, this is the best example of the bizarre universe of software licensing: when you need outside expertise to decypher it for you.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As the old IBM quote went (paraphrased, and of course anyone might get fired for buying IBM now). "Nobody gets fired for buying Oracle."

    1. Mark 65

      Bloody should do though.

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