Meta Group claims Oracle slamming customers

Research company Meta Group is accusing Oracle of unfairly forcing database customers with named user licenses to either buy more licenses or convert to a more expensive processor-based licensing scheme.

Yesterday, Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group issued a statement claiming it had recently received a "flurry of calls by angry Oracle customers" who were upset by the software vendor's apparent decision to re-interpret some of the terms of named user licenses.

For the past year, pricing has been a major bone of contention between Oracle and its users. To assuage some of their concerns, the company recently adopted a CPU-based pricing scheme that it claimed would be fairer and simpler for the installed base to swallow.

At the center of the current controversy is how Oracle now defines multiplexing, according to Meta. This operation usually involves the use of a Web server or other application that uses a shared pool of connections to the database. It now appears Oracle is attempting to expand the definition of multiplexing to include batch feeds from non-Oracle applications into Oracle databases.

In effect, this means that Oracle is charging customers to use data created by another application on another database that Oracle had nothing to do with, said Meta analyst Charlie Garry. Most affected by the move are companies that use Oracle for data warehouses populated by a wide variety of data from different sources, but who have few actual end users.

Batch feeds are covered by the cost of a single license, making named user terms attractive to these companies, he said.

Although Meta claimed that this interpretation of the batch feed was a new development, Oracle begged to differ. "Oracle pricing and licensing policy, with respect to the treatment of multiplexing and batch processing, has been consistent and in effect for several years," the company said in a statement. It charged that Meta was highlighting a few cases of misunderstanding on the policy and that those users should contact Oracle headquarters to resolve the issue.

If Meta's interpretation on Oracle's pricing methodology is true, Oracle could be creating a "dangerous precedent" that could herald the beginning of more unreasonable license expenses, said Jim Prevo, CIO at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. in Waterbury, Vt.

It would also be "ridiculous" on Oracle's part, he said. "I hope it is an isolated incident by a rogue manager that will be solved by Oracle management."

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