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Miro Consulting specializes in software license audit defense, license management, subscription management, and cloud services, for Oracle, Microsoft & IBM.

Licensing Disaster Recovery Solutions for Oracle, Microsoft, IBM & Salesforce

Date: February 11, 2020
Time: 2:30pm EST
Place: Online Webinar – Register Here

Will your Disaster Recovery solution cause you to fail a license compliance audit?

Join us for this informative webinar where we’ll cover how to properly license your disaster recovery and business continuity solutions to maintain compliance and not fail an audit.

Our analysts will be available for a Question and Answer session after the presentation.

Disaster Recovery Licensing:

  • Oracle – failover vs. standby vs. testing
  • Microsoft – permitted use, cloud, and software assurance
  • IBM – hot vs. warm vs. cold backup servers
  • Salesforce – discontinuation of the Data Recovery product, other options for backups

Register Here For The Event


Oracle announces Standard Edition 2 Database 19C won’t have RAC (Real Application Clusters)

A recent notice, posted January 1st, outlines changes coming with Database 19C, which directly impact Standard Edition 2.  As of 19C, RAC is no longer included or deployable for clients utilizing Database Standard Edition 2.  This is not a situation of unbundling, where RAC can still be obtained and utilized for additional cost, but a technical change to the underlying software itself.  Attempts to implement RAC with Standard Edition 2 19C will be blocked by the Universal Installer.

What does this mean for my SE2 RAC deployments?

Oracle outlines within the notice several options for clients currently utilizing a RAC configuration with their SE2 deployment.  While none of them are perfect, they do provide clients with guidance in how to move forward.

  • Clients can opt to stay on 18C with no impact to their current RAC configurations. The change does not affect past versions of Database SE2, only 19C and beyond
  • Convert the RAC Database into a Non-RAC Database instance.
  • Upgrade from Standard Edition 2 to Enterprise Edition. Though potentially costly, this option allows clients to retain their RAC deployments, while also opening up additional functionality and the ability to implement Options and Packs not available with SE2.
  • Convert to Oracle Cloud with Autonomous Database.

What if I utilize RAC as part of my DR (Data Recovery) strategy?

Based on the fact that this is an unavoidable technical change to Oracle Database, options regarding the use of RAC with SE2 are limited to those outlined above.  If you are using RAC for the purposes of High Availability, and do not wish to move off of SE2, then you are left with only a couple of options.

  • Remain on 18C. 18C was introduced in April of 2018 and Premier Support runs until June of 2021.  Extended Support for 18C however will not be made available as 18C is not an Oracle Long Term Support version.
  • Consider the use of RMAN (Recovery Manager) for Backup functionality. While not generally considered high availability, RMAN can be utilized at no additional cost with all editions of Oracle Database.

Although this is not an optimal situation for clients that utilize RAC with SE2 deployments, Oracle has provided this information in a timely manner, with nearly a year and a half of Premier Support remaining for 18C.  This should provide enough runway for clients to plan for the coming changes, prior to an imminent requirement to upgrade.

These changes are in addition to the changes to Database EE, with Spatial and Advanced Analytics now being included with Database Enterprise Edition.  You can read more about that here.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the licensing of your current or future DR solution, please contact us.


What are Containers and Why should I care?

What are they?

Have you seen all those photos of shipping containers?  That’s a good metaphor because shipping containers have a standard size.  For the purpose of this blog, a container is a standardized package of software with everything required to run that piece of software included in the container – code, runtime, system tools, and libraries.

Who’s using them? 

Containers are popular with application developers, including microservices.  Applications using containers are agile and portable.  Legacy applications can also be transformed into portable, and more secure applications, with containers.

Did you know that Netflix has been using containers to deliver microservices for ten years?

Secure?  Tell me more!

Security isn’t just a buzzword.  Containers create an additional layer of isolation for applications in addition to the ability to establish secure application zones for applications in a multi-tenant environment.    The lightweight framework of Containers can be easily upgraded and patched too.

Multi-Tenant?  That sounds like Cloud talk.  >: ^(

Slow your roll, Larry Legacy.  Check out the benefits of Edge Computing before you judge.

But you are right, containers are referenced heavily during discussions of cloud-native development.

What are the general benefits of Containers? 

  • Freedom to choose platform – packaged applications can be run on any public or private cloud.
  • Efficiency – Diverse applications can be managed with container infrastructure
  • Infrastructure Savings – Better utilization of resources with containers
  • Deployment Speed – Container fans claim they are deploying their containerized applications 60% faster.
  • Faster Development and Better Agility – Those same container fans claim that developing new applications and services with containers is 300% faster

This sounds like VM.

There’s similarities such as VM allowing you to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical host computer.  A VM, or Virtual Machine, emulates a computer system, right down to the individual operating system choice.  A VM allows you to create a virtual environment where you can run different types of software.

Containers do not require a virtual machine to be spun up to run them because the container contains everything needed to run the small piece of software.  That means containerized code could be run almost anywhere, free from environmental constrictions.

Software Vendors

In addition to software vendors that are container-specific, such as Docker and Kubernetes, there’s familiar names operating in the Container realm such as Red Hat and SUSE.

Traditional vendors are also aligning their software to be forward-looking and container-ready.  Oracle introduced the Multitenant option to Database Enterprise Edition starting with Release 12c (12.1), and in 2015 updated their Standard Edition Database to Oracle Database SE2 which included new features including a container database architecture.

What about software licensing? 

Good question – since that’s why Miro investigates these technology changes.

In addition to licensing or subscribing to the container software or support, depending on the vendor involved, the software that is deployed may not be your traditional on-premise software such as Oracle Database.  But you need to consider what the containerized microservices or application touches on the back-end.  Is this an API that can access your database?  Since so many types of software count users or access at the front end, this would be the likeliest cause for concern.   Please refer to Miro’s previous blog on APIs to learn more about this potential licensing issue.


Oracle Spatial, Graph & Machine Learning Now Free

Oracle SpatialThe core spatial features in Oracle Spatial and Graph have been included in Oracle Database Locator feature for over a decade. Now, all Oracle Spatial capabilities are available with both Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition 2. According to the announcement, all Spatial features are included.

https://blogs.oracle.com/oraclespatial/spatial-now-free-with-all-editions-of-oracle-database

Previous to this announcement, Spatial and Graph was a paid for option of Oracle Database Enterprise Edition, $350 per Named User Plus, and $17,500 per Processor license.

Oracle Spatial is an extension to the Oracle DBMS that adds a spatial type and spatial query functions to Oracle. It is offered by Oracle using two primary options.

  • Oracle Spatial was an optional feature of the Oracle Database Enterprise Edition. In addition to providing the SDO_Geometry type, Oracle Spatial provides a number of additional geospatial capabilities.
  • Oracle Locator provides a subset of Oracle Spatial capabilities. It was included as a standard feature of Oracle Database Standard and Enterprise Editions. Among other capabilities, it provides the Oracle Spatial geometry type (referred to as SDO_Geometry) and a SQL API.

As of December 5, 2019, all Spatial and Graph features of Oracle Database as well as Oracle Machine Learning (formerly known as Advanced Analytics), may be used for development and deployment purposes with all on-prem Database editions and Oracle Cloud Database Services. This news is also reinforced by the Oracle Database Licensing Information Manual.

The latest copy of the Oracle Licensing Information User Manual indicates that Machine Learning as well as Spatial and Graph is included with all Database editions without any prerequisites (beyond Oracle Database) and does not state that it requires an extra cost. The latest Oracle Pricelist (December 5th, 2019) no longer has Spatial and Graph listed as a purchasable Database option.

Oracle Spatial and Graph includes high performance, enterprise-scale, commercial spatial and graph database and analytics for Oracle Database 18c, in the cloud and on premises.  It supports enterprise business, business intelligence, large-scale Geographic Information Systems, and location services applications.  A general-purpose property graph database and analytic features support applications for social networks, Internet of Things, fraud detection, and recommendation systems.  A special-purpose RDF graph database supports linked data applications.

Spatial features now available for development and deployment with Oracle Database includes:

  • 2D and 3D geometry data types to represent locations, regions, and other geometries
  • All spatial functions and operators
  • Map authoring tools
  • Sensor and imagery data support with Point Cloud, LiDAR and GeoRaster data types and operators
  • Networks and parcel data management with Linear Referencing, Network and Topology data models
  • Geocoder, Routing Server, Tracking Server, Map Server
  • Open Geospatial Consortium web service APIs
  • Spatial Studio, a self-service, no-code/low-code map canvas and spatial analysis tools

https://www.oracle.com/technetwork/database-options/spatialandgraph/overview/spatialandgraph-1707409.html

Oracle Machine Learning provides a notebook style application designed for advanced SQL users and provides interactive data analysis that lets you develop, document, share, and automate reports based on sophisticated analytics and data models. Oracle Data Mining (ODM), a component of the Oracle Advanced Analytics Database Option, provides powerful data mining algorithms that enable data analysts to discover insights, make predictions and leverage their Oracle data and investment.

https://www.oracle.com/database/technologies/datawarehouse-bigdata/oml-notebooks.html


Save on Licensing & Increase Performance with Active Data Guard

Active Data Guard can help maximize efficiencies in using your Oracle licenses

If your organization has replicas of various databases and is interested in identifying ways to reduce its Oracle licensing requirements and increase performance, it can take advantage of the features of Oracle Active Data Guard.  It’s an option for Oracle Database Enterprise Edition (since version 11g).

The Active Data Guard program should not be confused with the (for-free, non-licensable feature) Data Guard functionality that was part of the Database Enterprise Edition program (since version 10g) and was enhanced in Database version 11g Enterprise Edition to support the Active Data Guard option.

Benefits of Oracle Active Data Guard:

  • Reduces costs because the physical standby database can also provide disaster recovery and/or serve as a test database when converted to a Snapshot Standby
  • Increases performance by offloading resource-intensive activities from a production database to an up-to-date replica
  • Simplifies operations by eliminating management complexity that accompanies traditional replication solutions
  • Eliminates compromises because the reporting replica is up-to-date and online at all times which is not possible with traditional storage mirroring technology

Active Data Guard Licensing must meet the following criteria:

  • Both the primary and standby server(s) must be licensed
  • The licensing of Active Data Guard must match the number of licenses of the associated Oracle Database Enterprise Edition
  • A minimum of 25 Named User Plus per Processor licensing requirement must be met
  • Active Data Guard’s deep integration with Oracle Database and complete focus on real-time data protection and availability avoids compromises found in storage remote mirroring or other host-based replication solutions

Example:
An organization is running three database servers; production, standby and test databases.  By implementing Active Data Guard, it can support the same production server, and a dual status standby and test server.  This would free up the Database Enterprise Edition licenses allocated to the test server to be used somewhere else in the Oracle environment.

Conclusion:
Oracle Active Data Guard offers many benefits, including the ability to be easily converted to a Snapshot Standby which maintains protection by continuing to receive data from the production database.  It can then archive it for later use and once the tests are complete, a single command can discard changes made in testing mode, and then quickly re-synchronize the standby database with the primary. However, it is important to note that the use of it will require additional licensing cost.

Remember to discuss any potential changes with Miro Consulting prior to executing any changes through implementation or purchase. Miro can help identify the total licensing impact of any changes and work with Oracle to provide the lowest cost of ownership solution for your organization.

About Miro:
Miro is a leading global provider of software asset management and subscription management services for Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, and Salesforce. We specialize in license management, audit advisory, negotiation tactics, support management, and cloud services. Contact us for more information.


Microsoft Self-Service Lets Users Buy Subscriptions Without IT Approval

Beginning now next year in the United States (and more locations to follow), Microsoft will make available its Self-Service program. This is designed, as per Microsoft, to give “… users a chance to try out new technologies and enables them to develop solutions that will ultimately benefit their larger organizations.”

And it provides an avenue for Microsoft to target non-IT administrators for the sale of its Power Platform offerings.

But Microsoft reversed its earlier decision to bypass IT administrators. Previously, there was virtually nothing IT administrators could do about it. It was automatic and non-configurable. So, in order to effect this change, Microsoft has delayed the launch of this capability from November 19, 2019 to January 14, 2020.

The offering only involves Microsoft’s Power Platform:

  • PowerApps, an app building service;
  • PowerBI, for analytics; and,
  • Flow, for automatic workflows.

Whether this is good, bad, or just plain ugly is in the details. Some of these follow.

The Good

  • Self-Service enables users to buy subscriptions on their own.
  • Self-service purchasers don’t consume the hours from the Premier Support agreement.
  • IT doesn’t need to get involved in this purchase if the user and/or product is allowed to participate in the self-service program. Per an updated FAQ document from Microsoft, “If required for their organization, admins will be able to turn off self-service purchasing on a per product basis via PowerShell. Admins have the same data management and access policies over products bought through self-service purchase or centrally.”

The Bad

  • Per Microsoft, the “… prices may differ from the prices an organization pays when making central purchases or prices offered through a partner.”
  • Only purchases through credit card are supported; there is no invoicing for Self-Service purchases.
  • User training is obtained via the products’ individual websites, which feature guided lessons, product documentation, examples, and a portal to interact with other users. (Or they beleaguer IT.)

The Ugly

Despite the controls that Microsoft offers to IT administrators, this process can work against a sound Software Asset Management program. It certainly can make it more difficult to manage.

The IT administrators can view Self-Service purchases via his or her portal, they can restrict some users and/or products, and the data governance policies that are in place for the users will apply. However, while the organization itself owns the subscription, its payment – both initial and on-going – is the responsibility of the user.

Some of this might impact the ability of the license manager to track the subscriptions accurately. With Self-Service purchases, the license manager may need to gather information from multiple locations to verify the use of the product and even to determine if the subscription can be brought into the corporate agreement. Doing that – bringing the subscription under the corporate agreement – will require that the user cancel his or her own subscription. And this cancellation is something that will need to be verified by the license manager.

Conclusion

With the controls that Microsoft will put in place, the policies around whether to allow certain users to purchase certain products… or not… must be implemented, documented, memorialized, and codified in order to avoid a non-compliance situation. This is yet another step in the management of the license estate and the technical need to maintain coherent environments.

While the initial announcement had not met with many positive statements with some claiming it may be among Microsoft’s worst decisions ever, this reversion by Microsoft is viewed more optimistically. But IT administrators and IT managers must take the necessary precautions.


Oracle waives extended support fees for some databases

Oracle has recently started sending emails to certain clients regarding extended support fees being waived.  The emails state that if the database meets the following conditions, it will be eligible for the waiver. Oracle clients who qualify must request the extended support waiver from Oracle.

Application Requirements:

  • Database releases 11.2 or 12.1
  • Database is being used to support Oracle E-Business Suite applications
  • The organization must contact Oracle and provide all CSI numbers, quantity and versions of these database licenses

Timelines:

  • Premier support for 11.2 originally expired in January 2015, and subsequently was waived through December 2018
  • Premier support for 12.1 originally expired in July 2018, and subsequently was waived through July 2019
  • Qualifying Extended Support fees have now been waived through December 2020

Normal Costs:

  • Extended Support fee is calculated at 20% of the most recent support fee for the Database (and any options/packs if applicable) on the CSIs and license quantities identified

Exemptions:

  • Clients are still required to pay for Extended Support for any databases of the same release used as backend to other applications
  • Clients cannot pick and choose, which databases they want on Extended Support within each release because of Oracle’s rule of “Matching Service Levels”, which states “…If you add Extended Support,…, you must acquire Extended Support for all licenses of a particular version release of a program if you acquire Extended Support for any license in such version release…”

In summary, if the client organization is using one of the DB releases mentioned above to run BOTH E-Business Suite and non- E-Business Suite applications, they will not get access to any new patches, fixes and security updates for their E-Business Suite databases unless they pay for Extended Support on non- E-Business Suite databases.

Additionally, Oracle is blocking any patch downloads until they get confirmation from the Client organization regarding how they are using their databases – see an example of Oracle’s response to Client organization’s inquiry on the topic via SR (Service Request):

Example Text:

Dear [Client Name],

[Client Name] has been identified by Oracle as having both database licenses and Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) licenses. As part of our continued commitment to provide the industry’s leading support offerings, Oracle has approved a fee waiver for database Extended Support fees through December 2020 for E-Business Suite customers running 11.2 and/or 12.1 database releases. The Extended Support fee waiver will be specific to the database licenses within your environment that are used for running the EBS software. In order to determine if you are eligible for this waiver, please provide answers to the following:

  1.   Are you running version 11.2 and/or 12.1 database release(s)?
  2.   Are you using these database licenses to directly run your EBS software?
  3.   If so, please provide all CSI numbers, quantity and versions of these database licenses.

Please be aware that in order to meet compliance, you must abide by our Matching Service Level Policy (page 3). If you add Extended Support, you still must maintain Software Update License & Support for the entire license set; subject to availability, you must acquire Extended Support for all licenses of a particular version release of a program if you acquire Extended Support for any license in such version release. You may reply to this RSR and include the information requested above.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please contact us.


Microsoft Tenant-Level Services Licensing Guidance

Microsoft Tenant-Level Services Licensing GuidanceIn a document published on August 13, 2019, Microsoft offered some “guidance” regarding licensing concerns around tenant-level services. “Guidance” is in quotes because the document is very unclear.

Some background first: Microsoft defines “tenant-level services” as those online services that when licensed for any user in the tenant, it becomes available – activated, in Microsoft terms – becomes accessible for all users in that tenant.

The Microsoft document includes the disclaimer:

Some tenant services are not currently capable of limiting benefits to specific users. Efforts should be taken to limit the service benefits to licensed users. This will help avoid potential service disruption to your organization once targeting capabilities are available.

On two levels, this can be disconcerting news to organizations who make use of tenant-level services. We’ll look at the second one first: a potential service disruption. This is technical in nature but also holds some business ramifications. That is, when Microsoft does implement targeting capabilities – likely without any warning or pre-announcement or grace period – it could cause some failures within the company’s business operations.

The second issue addresses license compliance. More importantly, it addresses an organization’s lack of controls in the management of their software estate. Unless that organization has a sound software asset management (“SAM”) program and/or regular monitoring and/or a software compliance officer, it could easily fall prey to unanticipated expenditures in the form of software licensing and subscription services.

Tenant-level services can ease the management of users with differing capabilities. But since Microsoft is not aware of the extent to which these capabilities – such as information protection – would be used, they enable these capabilities for all users within the tenant. This is risky! And Microsoft acknowledges this, prompting the distribution of their guidance.

Proper management of this environment – and, in fact, the entire Microsoft estate – is essential. Miro can assist clients in helping them to understand the caveats associated with the tenant-level services they are considering for subscription. For more information on this or any Microsoft topic, please contact Miro Consulting.

[1] Be aware that Microsoft, like any vendor, can implement governance tactics to protect their own intellectual property. With this guidance having warned that “efforts should be taken to limit the service” the continued, unlicensed use of the capabilities can be considered both flagrant and non-compliant.