Oracle Administration - Part 1

August 12, 2004

For most DBAs, not only is there Oracle database administration to deal with, but there are Oracle administration issues as well. What do I mean by "Oracle administration?" Depending on your role within your company, "administration" can encompass several areas related to the use and licensing of Oracle's software. Some of these areas include MetaLink (and its site administration), licensing (yours and your customers), Partner program involvement, and sales/reseller functions.

This two-part series will provide you with an overview of some fairly important aspects of Oracle administration. If you are the DBA, all eyes may be upon you for everything involving Oracle. "But I'm just a DBA" is a battle cry of the narrow minded. Oracle administration is a topic area with which you need to be familiar. For example, if you are a "developer/DBA" type of DBA (which is becoming more common) and you have grand plans to migrate your Oracle Forms and Reports to the web, although the nuts and bolts of performing the migration work may be easy, you have to take into account the impact of that migration on your customers. Your customers might not appreciate the fact that your work just cost them $24,000 to improve something that wasn't broken or didn't need fixing in the first place. Oracle Corporation does that by design (fixes things that weren't broken), and if you do that, at least do it with cause and not out of ignorance.

Let's start this investigation into Oracle administration by examining some key areas.

MetaLink

You already know what MetaLink is and how it can help you. Two areas of MetaLink frequently overlooked are the "Certify & Availability" and "Patches" links. For the most part, Oracle Corporation goes out of its way to explain which product is certified against which platform with which patch, and so on. Have you tried installing Forms 6i on Windows XP Home? Is there life for Forms 6i after Windows XP? If you do not have access to MetaLink (through your workplace), you are at a disadvantage. Much of your information about product versus platform certification probably comes from the rumor mill. (Forms 6i is not certified against XP Home, only against XP Professional, and no, XP is the last supported Windows version for 6i.)

To get a copy of most any Oracle product, Oracle Technology Network is open 24x7, and everything there is free. You just have to affirm you are not under the control of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, or extraterrestrials. But, how do you get a patch? Occasionally, a patched version may be available for download at OTN (and there used to be an ftp site), but otherwise, you get patches via MetaLink, and that implies you have a CSI.

Your key to MetaLink access is a CSI number. What does "CSI" stand for? Customer support identifier? Actually, CSI stands for "CPU Support Identification," but for all practical purposes, "customer support identifier" is close enough. Just like the way you get privileges with American Express, you get privileges with your CSI. Don't go to work without it. A good way to learn more about support is to spend time reading what is already written. If you do not know the difference between ES and EMS, or do not even know what those are, this link is for you: http://www.oracle.com/support/index.html?policies.html.

Licensing

You know its there, but you do not want anything to do with it because it seems so uncoordinated and disjoint. Whom do you contact at Oracle to find out what a product costs? You can almost get as many different answers as the number of calls you make. And the turnover! Sometimes, I get a call every three to four weeks from a new sales support representative. I don't even try to remember their names anymore. I think my current one is named Clair. She sounded friendly on the phone, so I wished her good luck on her new job.

Therefore, to help demystify what a product costs, let's use Oracle Application Server 10g Enterprise Edition as an example. Why the Enterprise Edition, you ask? Because you want to migrate your forms to the web using Forms 9i/10g. But, why not the Standard Edition? Because forms services comes with the Business Intelligence installation option, and the BI option is only available with the EE version. That's why. Aside from the installation guide, actually finding a reference to that factoid is an exercise in of itself. Nevertheless, here it is: http://www.oracle.com/appserver/index.html?pkgsum.html. Scroll down in the Feature Summary to where Forms Services is shown and note the big red check mark under the EE column.

Oracle Store (available under the "Buy" link with the shopping cart on most Oracle Corporation web pages) is the place to start. From the screen shot below, you can see there is a lot to choose from.

Navigate to Application Server using the tab. At the bottom of the web page, the list of values shows "Internet Application Server Enterprise Edition - Processor Perpetual[$20,000.00]" and "Internet Application Server Enterprise Edition - Named User Plus Perpetual[$400.00]." (http://oraclestore.oracle.com/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=13805)

The translation of these options is this: For 49 or fewer users, it is cheaper to buy 49 $400 named user "seats," and for 51 or more users, it is cheaper to buy the $20,000 version. At 50 users, the cost is the same either way. "I have three users who need this product, so the cost is only $1200." If you click on the "Check User Minimums" link on the right, you will see that the EE version requires a minimum of 10 named users, so your cost is really $4000. Remember, you are only the bearer of bad news. You are not the one who made these pricing schemes.

The table below shows the user minimums for several products.

As another quick example, look at the last row of the table. You can see there is a "5 Named Users Plus" minimum for Oracle Standard Edition One. If you have seen any advertising for Oracle's push into the small to medium business market*** ("You can own Oracle for only $749!"), that is where the $749 comes from (5 users times $149 per user under the "Oracle Standard Edition One - Named User Plus Perpetual[$149.00]" option).

***Oracle Database Standard Edition One is designed for small businesses or departmental systems. It is simple to install and configure, and offers the proven performance, reliability and security of Oracle Database at a low entry cost.

Some more explanation of licensing can be found at Oracle store licensing. How much does support cost? Once you "Add to cart," the next page contains a support option list of values. Product support and software updates, using the EE version of Application Server as an example again, costs another $4400. The good news is that (as of the time of this writing) there is a 10% discount being applied.

In Closing

As you can see, there is a lot going on behind the scenes with Oracle administration. In the next article, we will look at some of the benefits of being in the Partner program and ways you can reduce the cost of Oracle products for your customers.

» See All Articles by Columnist Steve Callan








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