On a limited budget

When your limited budget is zero that probably means you are unemployed and perhaps trying to become an Oracle DBA. Oracle is freely available up to a point, but, it requires a license for one to be completely successful. Some version of many, if not most, Oracle database products is available on the “Oracle Technical Network” (OTN). You can experience the product installation and configuration, as well as being able to develop your ideas on the platform.

Having specialized in data analysis and databases for years, I’ve seen a number of different approaches to licensing products for developer use. Some vendors require a key and they make the free keys very difficult to obtain. Oracle almost never requires a key for anything and you agree to their terms which include a possible audit. Some people stretch the OTN software into being their development environment for large teams of developers, and then they properly license their production environment with the prospect of being legitimately licensed. Hint: they are not.

The biggest deterrent to running without a license is support. Oracle support is called “My Oracle Support” (MOS), and this is the only place to obtain patches, updates and technical support.

Oracle developers are familiar with OTN, and Oracle DBAs frequently obtain software through that channel, but there are two or three other avenues to obtain software when you’re a paying customer. These other resources do not rely on the same packaged products which appear on OTN. Their version may perhaps be a specific incremental release or contain patches or special configurations. The OTN versions may be six to eighteen months old… and require immediate updates.

The point to that paragraph, you may, frequently will, get errors during the installation. These errors are not unique to you, and they are not unknown to Oracle. These errors may exist in OTN products for years without being corrected. You either get by them on your own, or MOS resolves them for you. They never act like this is a common error, or like they know what it is… they just proceed with their process… and it will be resolved. Without support they may never be resolved.

You are tied to Oracle, perhaps more so than you know.

Another oddity of Oracle, I mentioned before that Oracle “almost never requires a key”. The singular set of exceptions to this are the management packs, which for the DBA are the Diagnostic and Tuning Packs. These are required, costly, and not easy to obtain even fraudulently. I have never known anyone to turn them on with the OTN distributed software. There are normally two steps to turning them on, and the steps do not work on anything I’ve installed from OTN.

This sort of goes hand-in-hand with Oracle’s ownership policy on your system’s performance data. You do not own it. You may not query it without these’s packs purchase. You may have purchased third-party software that is capable of reading it, or you may be knowledgeable enough to write your own code against undocumented structures. By license, this is not allowed.

Let me clarify the ownership statement. Data collected on your system, a licensed Oracle database, about the operation of your database, does not belong to you. The data would not exist except for the operation of your database. The data tells everything about the operation of your database, and you can’t use it without paying a hefty fee. Not a single seat for your company, per database host… per environment (e.g., dev, qual, prod). Oracle fines can be hefty, too.

Oracle seems to have given up on auto-tuning. While they encourage people to use their software, they don’t encourage them to dig in where others don’t… performance. They restrict the rights and advanced tools to perform the work so that this knowledge has such limited ways to get to the student. In this way, we’re all students. Only the elite get get goodies. There have been changes to the Oracle footprint and more restrictive configurations for the memory models used by the Oracle instance. Oracle configuration is almost automatic, but configuration to use self-tuning is manually tedious.

Oracle makes many advertising claims, but because the name Oracle means so many things, one never knows exactly what is being advertised or what feature is being discussed. It is impossible for a product, distributed uninstalled via zip file, to meet advertising claims. Perhaps I am giving them too much credit, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all for Oracle’s cloud offering to rely heavily on these self-tuning features, which implies advanced configurations. Oracle Corporation’s cloud offering is on advanced hardware, as well. Oracle Exadata. 

Next time I want to discuss what products or components you need in your Oracle environment and discuss the logistics a bit.


About the author

I am retired from non-Oracle DBA positions as a primary responsibility. I am currently maintaining multiple Oracle databases hosted on Virtual Machines (VMs) in the cloud. Certified AWS solution architect associate level, experience in or exposure to Azure, Google and Oracle clouds.

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