back to article South Africa's state-owned energy firm to appeal after court rules Oracle does not have to support its software

South African electric utility Eskom is set to appeal against a court decision that refused to force Oracle to support software used by the firm while a licensing and payment dispute is settled. In a case that dates back to 2019, Johannesburg High Court dismissed an attempt by Eskom to compel the global software giant to renew …

  1. a_yank_lurker

    Well It's the Minions

    So the minions are practicing their thievery again.

  2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Sadly most of El Reg's commentards know this is the cost of touching Oracle products.

    They don't even give you complementary tubes of KY.

    1. sbt

      tubes of KY

      They're on the invoice somewhere.

      e.g. "Acceptance Facilitation" or "Bulk Load Assistance"

    2. Graybyrd

      Feel the burn

      "They don't even give you complementary tubes of KY."

      More like the honeymoon prank that led to the prankster being hunted down & vengeance wreaked upon his head: in lieu of KY, the prankster substituted a jar of Musterole. I imagine the Oracle 'negotiator' might offer the same.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Feel the burn

        substituted a jar of Musterole

        In the version I heard, it was Lidocaine...

  3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    R7.3bn down to R400m

    The tumbling demand figure is just like that of a ransom/extortion demand from a gang of criminals, going down when the mark refuses to pony up - if the original figure was legitimate, then there is no need to revise down the figure.

    1. sbt

      Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

      It does rather question the credibility and quality of their software audit software. They must be eating their own dog food.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

      Or Oracle realised that there is no way to legally compel Eskom to pay up and wanted to get out with whatever they could.

      Eskom really is a trash fire of an organisation. It's corrupt as they come.

      I don't understand why people are sympathising with Eskom here. Both firms are widely regarded as being typically nasty but Eskom is worse here by far.

      1. Ordinary Donkey

        Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

        Geography means that most of the people commenting have more experience of Oracle shit than Eskom shit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

          Well Eskom can and do cut your power off for no reason. Even Oracle can't do that.

      2. The Boojum

        Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

        AC: Full disclosure - I have no knowledge of Eskom but I'm really struggling to imagine a firm far worse than Oracle.

        Then again, maybe I have a very limited imagination.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

          Seriously, the tier list of fucking terrible things is as follows:

          1. Cutting your bellend off with a rusty cheese wire.

          2. Eskom.

          3. Oracle.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: R7.3bn down to R400m

          No imagination needed!

          ESKOM (sometimes referred to as EKSDOM - in Afrikaans means 'I am stupid') is just one of the many state organisations that have ended up in the shit because of the epidemic corruption in South Africa.

          The current inqury chaired by Justice Zondo has brought much to light, including lots at ESKOM.

          Whether Oracle are pulling a fast one or ESKOM is I can't say but I am not surprised by the circus - other global firms have been caught out but nobody ever seems to end up in jail!

  4. Woodnag


    I expect that Oracle's duty to maintain was voided when customer breached the contract with the licensing fraud.

    1. Pascal

      Re: Contract...

      Was it?

      I am legitimately curious.

      One one side, you buy a licence and support contract for something, and that support is due.

      Then other people install too many copies, unlicenced; you are at fault for sure, and the supplier can seek reparations.

      But can they actually refuse to support the bits that you use legitimately, with your paid-for contracts?

      Or can they only refuse to support the "extra" licences that are under dispute?

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Contract...

      Fraud suggests intent. Good luck licensing Oracle software correctly even with the best will in the world.

      Disclosure: I've managed to get Oracle to admit they got their own licensing rules wrong, and led negotiations that cut an Oracle bill from around $2bn to "yes, you're already fully licenced, and you won't actually need all of those."

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        I've managed to get Oracle to admit they got their own licensing rules wrong

        Wow. Well I'd treat that knowlege like gold dust. I'm sure there are many (all?) of Oracle's customers that would like to know more. You could make a mint.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Contract...

        I would imagine like most contracts the longer they are the more room for ambiguity and for interpretation. It’s the English language after all - not noted for precision.

        I guess Oracle are also hoping to get companies to cough up rather than going to court - where they may stand less chance of success.

      3. Aitor 1

        Re: Contract...

        What they essentially do is put enterprise options in the products, available.

        So the prof. version magically converts to enterprise if you even test it once.

        And, of course, patches will reinstall and enable these features, plus the list is in constant flux.

        Same as with support for java8 is pay for, your users download it as the autoupdater keeps nagging them? Well, pay!

        I had ppl in my team.almost make this mistake..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Contract...

          >So the prof. version magically converts to enterprise if you even test it once.

          Expect the counters to not notice uninstalls or multiple installs on the same host, so all those trial installs add up...

      4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Contract...

        Oracle bill from around $2bn to "yes, you're already fully licenced, and you won't actually need all of those."

        How does that type of "income uncertainty" sit with shareholders/investors? Oracle revenues being dependent upon how much customers can be conned out of - good whilst it lasts - just until a class action suit comes along and whilst Oracle can afford to fight, the house of cards could also come tumbling down

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Contract...

          Well, it's complex but the basic thing is that even Oracle didn't intend that higher figure. By applying their stated licensing rules precisely I was able to demonstrate that this would be their bill (even after substantial 'large corporate customer' discounts). This forced them to acknowledge their position was unreasonable, which opened the route through which I was able to suggest an alternate approach.

          The rest is just commercial negotiations that I won't go into.

          If we'd been hostile, unco-operative and not already spending and planning substantial sums with them those negotiations would likely not have taken that route.

          Their shareholders don't look at the individual negotiations, they look at overall revenue, with the more sophisticated ones likely breaking that further into relevant groupings - e.g. new business vs renewals, cloud vs on-premise, services vs software licences, software vs hardware, etc. Audit related income may be significant enough to separate but I suspect (without checking) that its primary purpose is to drive new sales and renewals. Putting your customers out of business isn't good business.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm... not sure what to think here.

    On the one hand, it sure looks like Oracle was trying to shake them down. Absolutely not cool.

    On the other hand, imagine being a service provider involved in a billing dispute, and being told you had to keep supporting the product that you might not have been (fully?) paid for.

    Maybe Oracle should show the PROOF of how much software Eskom was entitled to, and the proof of how much they were using. Though the dramatic decrease in the supposed difference reminds me of Maxwell Smart - "Would you believe me if I said you owed me R7.3bn? No? Would you believe R400m?"

  6. autopoiesis


    What happened with the Chugh vs Oracle lawsuit?

    I heard about it here, read the court complaint (well worth the time BTW: - brutal!), and nothing since (that I've found). A brief search for the Case (Case No.: 5:19-cv-764) turns up near-zilch.

    Settled out of court? Pending? Anyone heard anything?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Chugh v Oracle

      It's still open and stalled since 2019. I hate to speculate why but I suspect the plaintiff ran out of money to bankroll the case, or gave up pursuing it.


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me guess...

    The audit happened right after a nice conversation with Oracle sales about how Eskom should move everything to Oracle cloud.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Let me guess...

      ...Eskom should move everything to OracleAmazon cloud. says AWS.

      Lock-in either way

  8. RM Myers

    Don't blame Larry

    Blame Covid-19. Larry needs a new island, and with the pandemic raging, the demand for islands is sky high. As anyone who has tried to buy a CPU or GPU lately can tell you, when the demand is high, the prices are even higher. Larry needs all the money he can steal earn. After all, he can't spend every penny on the island, he still needs to eat.

    Pity the poor multi-billionaire - so many demands on your wallet, so few Wilsons* to spend.

    * $100,000 USA paper bill only printed in 1934. It had a picture of Woodrow Wilson on the front.

    1. elkster88

      Re: Don't blame Larry

      The author Vartanig G. Vartan wrote a book called "The Dinosaur Fund" which I read many years ago.

      The _only_ fact I remember[1] from that book is that the highest denomination US note to ever be in circulation was the $10,000 bill, featuring Salmon P. Chase.

      [1] Besides of course, the name of the author.

      1. RM Myers

        Re: Don't blame Larry

        You might want to tell the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, US Department of Department. I would tend to believe them. Although this was never put into general circulation, it was and is still technically legal tender (if any still exist).

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Don't blame Larry

          US Department of Department

          Well, that beats "The Department of Administrative Affairs" as a silly name...

          1. RM Myers

            Re: Don't blame Larry

            !@#$%^ proofreading fail. That should have been Department of Treasury.

          2. XSV1

            The DAA

            Of course, with Sir Humphry at the tiller.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't blame Larry

      Oracle - One rich arsehole called Larry Ellison.

  9. Noodle

    Based on my own experiences with local Oracle sales and licensing teams this is completely in character, i.e. treating their own customers with complete contempt. We all know how hard it is for large enterprises to ensure they're compliant with licensing agreements, especially the byzantine arrangements favoured by Oracle, Microsoft et al. - the good vendors will understand this and work with customers to reach an amicable solution. The Oracle's of this world take a completely uncompromising approach - pay up or we'll pull the rug out from under you! This happens so much I can't understand why people still choose Oracle as a vendor.

    1. Mark 65

      Because the person signing the deal doesn't wear the consequences but did enjoy the hospitality of the negotiations.

    2. Rol

      Understanding that all major software has been hacked and made readily available for the general public to use as they wish, might have you believing that those who chose to pay, would be getting VIP treatment.

      Clearly, those who run their organisations on bootlegged software are getting the better deal.

      Reminds me of the days of DVD, where those who got a hold of the bootleg, could just watch the film on any device they had, and not be forced to sit through the anti piracy drivel.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    You'd think they'd be happy that the leech offered to leave.

  11. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Sorry if I laugh

    Eskom stumbles from one disaster into the next. If it's not Oracle attempting to fleece them, it's the coal suppliers. De Ruyter recently fired the head of procurement for buying an ordinary broom for @ R240,000 and simple knee pads for R80,000. I would laugh more if it wasn't for the fact that consumers are footing the bill for this looting. From this month our electricity rates increase by 15% This on top of all the other steep fee increases we've had to deal with over the last few years — approved by the Energy Regulator.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Sorry if I laugh

      De Ruyter recently fired the head of procurement for buying an ordinary broom for @ R240,000 and simple knee pads for R80,000. I would laugh more if it wasn't for the fact that consumers are footing the bill for this looting

      Lots of inflated procurement over here in "un-corrupt" Blighty with rubberstamped eye-watering deals done without tender to chums of the government under the cover of covid legislation.

  12. Roland6 Silver badge

    Its 'reinstate' not 'renew'

    The Contract ran from 2017 for 5 years, so Oracle have withdrawn services they contracted to supply, which means Eskom, no longer have a contractual duty to pay any monies to Oracle after that date and in fact should be seeking to recoup any overpayment...

    Looks like Eskom will be rapidly migrating off Oracle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its 'reinstate' not 'renew'

      I Doubt they can migrate quickly and if they lose access to the rolled up quarterly security updates they better have cast iron border security and no remote access.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its 'reinstate' not 'renew'

      The only thing Eskom knows how to do rapidly is disconnect their customers. Migrating their database system would take them years, and that's just to decide who sits on the committee that decides who sits on the working group that formulates a grass-roots plan for empowering previously disadvantaged children to learn about database management so that in 10 years or so there can be a commission of enquiry set up to unpack the reasons the grass roots database management skills initiative failed and there is *still* nobody (or nobody appropriately connected at least) who is qualified to comment on whether or not to stick with Oracle or go with something else... maybe on the blockchain (am I joking? I'm certainly LOLing), and so the cycle starts again.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    license discounts

    Oracle discounts to long standing government agency customers are in the 90% region. The discounts had to increase year on year to retain the legacy base.

    Once you step outside your licence agreement everything becomes list price.

    A key to managing an Oracle installation is to ensure that the technical teams do not install or use anything outside the purchase product set without talking to the licence manager (a part time role for me as tech support manager).

    One of my DBA's came across a new feature called RAC many years ago and nearly turned it on. Its a fantastic product but once I investigated the licensing implications I found out switching RAC on would more than double my Oracle licence costs. I have spoken to other TSM's over the years who have ended up at the bottom of a deep well after a well meaning DBA used an unlicensed feature which was embedded in the architecture by the time the next audit came around.

    Ironically enough even this doesn't make them as bad as Computer Associates who had been trying to get into my infrastructure for years then bough the disk compression company I used. We'd been am early user and had been paying peanuts for the software bought at a point where DASD was incredibly expensive to purchase and maintain, CA came back with an eye watering increase but by then I was in a position to say fine I'll just de-install it and buy a couple of banks of second user DASD and run them without a maintenance contract. Luckily for me I had just cleared a large amount of space in the data centre and I didn't have to find the budget for the electricity bills so this wasn't an Idle threat. In the end the CA account manager backed down.

    1. Astrohead

      Re: license discounts

      "One of my DBA's came across a new feature called RAC many years ago and nearly turned it on. Its a fantastic product"

      You had a lucky escape there! RAC is complete and utter pants.

      The only thing RAC gives you is the assurance (OK - vague possibility) that one half your RAC database will stay up if the other RAC node crashes.

      And the most common cause of RAC node crashes? RAC itself! 99 times out of 100. In fact after 20 years on RAC sites - I have never seen a RAC node go down for anything other than a RAC induced issue.

      It only ever made sense if you could not get enough iron to run single instance. Which was only ever likely 20 years ago.

      Like I said - a luck escape.

  14. localzuk Silver badge

    No sympathy here

    So, Eskom bought into Oracle's services - a company renowned for its litigious behaviour and sharp licensing, then proceeded to play fast and loose with the licensing?

    And now, they're trying to force Oracle to support them for services they haven't properly paid for? Do they realise that Oracle could take them to the cleaners for the blatant license breaches?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The corrupt fleecing the corrupt, fleecing the SA people...

    Given that this is a South African state-owned entity we're talking about, there would be no surprise if it were found that someone in Oracle had been approached by a well connected "facilitator" who might have suggested that, for a "finder's fee", they could wield enough influence to slide through a slightly inflated claim - 18 times sounds fair; after all, the ANC is apparently in financial difficulty, so fund raising efforts are likely to be somewhat aggressive.

  16. TVU Silver badge

    "Oracle conducted a software licensing audit of the company...and concluded it was using more software than it was entitled to. Oracle first claimed the users had underpaid..."

    ^ Now that really does sound ever so familiar and unfortunate.

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