An Open Letter to Larry Ellison on AWR and ASH Licensing

Jun 29, 2007 / By Mark Brinsmead

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Please note this late-breaking news related to this story. Then still please sign our letter!

15 years ago, with the release of Oracle 7.0.12, Oracle gave the world—or at least its customers—something really great: the Oracle Wait Interface (OWI).

The OWI is one of the reasons that Oracle’s database product and its customer base are what they are today. It provides a clear, transparent, and above all useful view of what the database is doing and where it is spending its time. This level of instrumentation has allowed Oracle customers to not only tune their databases and applications but also to understand them.

Most importantly, this instrumentation was stored in performance views that were accessible by SQL so that tuning techniques could be invented and refined using the data that the wait interface provides. The wait interface revolutionized Oracle performance tuning, massively increased Oracle users’ ability to scale applications, and enabled Oracle to dominate the world-wide-web revolution thanks to the users’ new ability to genuinely understand the performance characteristics of their applications.

Over time, performance tools evolved from BSTAT/ESTAT reports to Statspack, both provided by Oracle to interpret OWI data. SQL tracing and session profiling using TKPROF and other utilities were the next tools that DBAs turned to, and they allowed an even deeper understanding of the functioning Oracle database. Neither the OWI data nor the interpretation tools were separately licensed. And in 10g, Oracle released Automated Workload Repository (AWR) and Active Session History (ASH), a revolution in the level of instrumentation provided by the database. However, Oracle decided to separately license both the data collected in the performance views and the interpretive tools in OEM. As a result, the true power of AWR and ASH have yet to be unleashed.

AWR and ASH boast a number of very useful capabilities already covered in great detail elsewhere. Unfortunately, the majority of Oracle customers have never been able to use even the most rudimentary capabilities because of licensing restrictions. In fact, these restraints not only prevent the majority of Oracle users from accessing AWR and its underlying data but they also leave customers with no supported means of turning AWR off.

(If you’re not already familiar with these restrictions, you can read about them in the Oracle 10g Licensing Information Manual, here, here, and many other places.)

What concerns us most is our belief that Oracle Corporation is missing out on a great opportunity to make an excellent product even better. These licensing terms are causing Oracle customers to adopt this otherwise excellent feature more slowly than they otherwise might, if at all. To give a statistically significant example, of Pythian’s 70 outsourced DBA-for-Oracle customers, so few have licensed the use of this feature as to approach zero. We assert that by relaxing the restrictions on accessing the data layer underlying AWR, Oracle may encourage more customers to purchase their “Diagnostic Pack,” the option still needed to access the advanced features of AWR, such as advisors and graphical analysis tools.

We believe that the Oracle database software is the best instrumented database software available. The fact that Oracle already leads the industry in this regard probably led to their decision to make this leap forward in instrumentation an extra-cost item. However, in the interest of making Oracle even better, we would like to invite readers to join us in signing the following open letter to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation. We plan to deliver this letter to Oracle Corporation by courier on July 10, the day before the planned announcement of Oracle 11g.

Dear Mr. Ellison,

On behalf of the community, please accept our congratulations on the release of Oracle 11g.

We are writing in the hope that you might seize the opportunity presented by the release of your next-generation database management software to review the licensing policy regarding access to the Automated Workload Repository (AWR) and Active Session History (ASH) features, at least for Oracle 11g.

We believe that AWR and ASH are breakthrough features and represent a leap forward in the already industry-leading instrumentation provided by Oracle. While we fully support your freedom to assess extra license fees for the advanced functions provided through the Diagnostic and Performance Tuning Packs of Oracle Enterprise Manager, we want to give voice to a consensus building among the Oracle user community that Oracle is missing its chance to capitalize on its lead in this area.

We are disappointed by the decision to restrict access, at least using SQL, to the lowest-level tables and views in which performance data, essentially our data, are recorded. Many of us are frustrated by the fact that AWR and ASH collect and retain this data regardless of our wishes, while we are not even able to look at it.

AWR and ASH are integral parts of Oracle, which is why there are no effective means of disabling them. They are even built in the Standard Edition, for which no way to license them exists. Consequently, Oracle customers are exposed to substantial licensing liabilities (since according to the licensing terms even a single accidental query of the data would entail a requirement to upgrade to the Enterprise Edition plus the Diagnostic Pack).

We believe that changing the licensing terms to allow customers to access the basic data in the tables and views underlying AWR and ASH would actually benefit Oracle’s sales by making Oracle databases substantially better instrumented and thus easier to manage than those built using any competitor’s RDBMS. This would also encourage customers to adopt the basic features of AWR and ASH and eventually become more likely to consider the advantages of licensing the more advanced features accessible through Oracle Enterprise Manager.

We hope that with this successful release of Oracle 11g your licensing team at Oracle Corporation will consider revising the licensing terms to allow us to access at least the lowest-level views and APIs of AWR and ASH in your current release. We believe that making this licensing change effective with the 11g release will assure that the rate of adoption of 11g will be substantially more rapid than otherwise because there is more pent-up demand for this feature today among Oracle performance enthusiasts than for any other in Oracle. In so doing, you will also make us more confident of our ability to assure our respective managements that we comply with with our Oracle licensing terms.

Yours truly,

Members of Oracle user community
(signed electronically at http://www.pythian.com/blogs/526/)


N.B. Please join us in signing this letter by placing your name and (optionally) your company affiliation(s), along with the word “SIGNATORY,” in a comment on this blog article. Comments that do not include this word will not be considered signatures.

Please also help by publicizing this open letter on your own blog, on mailing lists, forums or anywhere else Oracle users congregate. We are hoping to achieve a critical mass of signatures by the morning of July 9; the letter will be couriered that day.

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