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  • Von: Sanela Lukavica
  • 09/26/2018

End of Support vSphere 5.5: What's next?

The end of support for vSphere 5.5 on September 19, 2018, has once again intensified the debate on Oracle licensing. If you are using Oracle databases in combination with the virtualization software VMware, an upgrade to vSphere 6.5 or higher requires licensing of all processors of all servers in all vCenters. Even the mere opportunity to utilize Oracle products could theoretically be the decisive factor for delicate additional payments in some cases. Martin Klier, Responsible for High Responsibility Topics at DOAG, evaluates recent developments regarding the end of support in this interview and deals with alternatives for users. 

Will there be a flood of lawsuits after the end of support of vSphere 5.5 – coming from both Oracle and customers? 

Rather not. Oracle knows very well that their license agreements with customers do not affect the subject virtualization at all. There is no wording in the agreements that addresses virtualization in particular. The only thing that is explicitly included in the Oracle license agreement is the list of different CPU types. An explicit reference is made to this document, and so you have to adhere to it. However, the frequently cited partitioning document, that apparently regulates virtualization strictly, is explicitly not a component of the agreement. This is also clearly excluded in the partitioning document if you take a closer look at the footnotes.

That’s exactly the point of debate, correct? May this also lead to a precedent at the end of the discussion?

This is correct. Both Oracle and customers have an open issue there. Particularly because there is no precedential case yet. Oracle has obviously shied away from arguments on this topic in the past. There are many customers who have made an agreement with Oracle with and without the dubious VLAN approval, but customers had to ensure Oracle that they do not make the details of their agreement public. To me, this shows that Oracle knows exactly that there is a gap in regulation. From practice, I know that customers, who do not adhere to the partitioning document but securely cap the usage of resources, do not have to license more than they use. But there is no official regulation for this, only individual agreements, and that definitely makes it difficult because everyone needs this regulation now.

So the VLAN approval is rather a kind of camouflage?

Yes, it only seems to solve problems. I would even condemn the VLAN approval more strongly because it shows two essential problems in my opinion. First: It is issued for a very specific setup. When a customer adjusts his virtual environment, which is usually dynamic, he extends it, increases capacities, or advances the technologies, the approval regulates the IT. However, you do not want to ask your software vendor if you may change or extend your environment. This is also a psychological problem.

But what is significantly worse to me: The VLAN approval arrests customers due to its wording that is not part of the regular license agreement, the T-OMA. In my view, signing a VLAN approval leads to a legally worse situation compared to a mere license agreement. The approval is superficially a reassurance for customers but permanently arrests them for the future. That is why I recommend each customer to have the VLAN approval and his applicable T-OMA checked for disadvantages by a lawyer before signing. I have not yet seen a customer who would have had objective contractual advantages from the VLAN approval.

What can users do to prevent a rude awakening – for example in the course of an audit?

I cannot recommend any customer to actively go to Oracle with this topic. Without being a lawyer, I think that the contractual regulation by the T-OMA is absolutely sufficient. The customer obviously has to adhere to it! But Oracle tends to audit more strictly than stated in the agreements in case of license audits and license checks. This is the true scandal that is not even remotely published frequently enough: Oracle does not adhere to its own agreements for license checks, but checks the customers more strictly than necessary. What this means in practice is reflected by the fact that customers can insure themselves against additional payments from an Oracle audit, at quite affordable rates. Oracle never proceeded against this. In case of doubt, there was always a settlement for the benefit of the customer.

Virtualization software of VMware and databases from Oracle are a frequent combination. Could this torpedoing have consequences in the long run?

I think that the assumption of the Oracle management of how urgently customers need Oracle databases and how easily customers let Oracle push them to another virtualization is not in line with the actual developments on the market in Germany or Europe. This is also what I see at our customers. Oracle obviously thinks that a more complicated usage of VMware for the customer automatically leads to an increased usage of the Oracle stack, be it in the field of engineered systems, Oracle virtualization, or cloud services. From what I see, this is not the case. Customers do not let vendors tell them what to do in IT operations. They rather look for technical alternatives to an Oracle database that do not have these restrictions. In this case, we unfortunately have a negative unique selling point of Oracle: No competitor is as inflexible as Oracle when it comes to virtualization.

Do you frequently deal with customers who have chosen a different supplier?

Yes, of course. And I personally think that is very unfortunate. In many cases, I think that Oracle would technically be the best solution by far. Particularly when data must be changed concurrently, there is no competitor of Oracle who does this as well in a technically similar manner. However, the pressure is very high. As a result, customers live with disadvantages in terms of process and performance, only to avoid the risk of a check in operational daily routine and a negative legal confrontation with Oracle. Fortunately, there are also customers with enough self-confidence to let their existing long-term agreements critically check and who are not afraid of this confrontation. But not every CIO wants this or has the necessary support in his company.

What would you ask for regarding the further development of this matter?

Personally, I would like this technically excellent platform Oracle to consider the needs of the real IT in small and medium-sized businesses.