Postscript to “An Open Letter to Larry Ellison”

Jul 6, 2007 / By Mark Brinsmead

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Last week, in collaboration with several of my colleagues here at Pythian, I published an open letter to Larry Ellison. The response to this letter has been — well — surprising, both in volume and in character. It is clear that many in the Oracle community seem to share the sentiments that we have expressed. In fact, we know that we are not alone in this endeavour. Niall Litchfield, for one has run a related online petition for over a year now.

Perhaps the most surprising response came indirectly by e-mail, a note from an Oracle Corp. insider informing us of an upcoming announcement. You can read the details in this note posted by Paul Vallee; and also commented on by Niall Litchfield himself here.

Oracle Corp. surprises me occasionally, and often in a positive manner. This is one of those occasions. They have clearly demonstrated that they are interested in what the user community has to say. I have no illusions that my clumsy “open letter” could possibly be the trigger to this event, as I am sure (or I sure hope) that Oracle’s QA procedures would require some time before even a simple “fix” like this one can be widely released; this must be attributed to the combined efforts of the community at large, and undoubtedly also more than a few complaints registered privately with Oracle Support.

In fact, this is what impresses me. It seems clear that Oracle has been thinking about this for a while, and now they have acted. The fix they have provided is — I think — an important and worthwhile step in the right direction. I still hope that they will continue moving in the right direction, but even if they do not, I feel the need to recognize this improvement.

Accordingly, I plan to append to the “open letter” the postscript that follows the original text:

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/)

P.S.: We see that since the publication of the first draft of this letter, Oracle Support has provided, in metalink note 436386.1, a means of resolving at least some of our more fundamental concerns regarding license compliance. We welcome this as a clear step forward, but continue to hope that you will consider the advantages of freeing us to use the data-level APIs for AWR and ASH, and that you see the mutual benefits this might bring.

As we are approaching 100 signatories to the letter, I would like to make one last push to get to 150 signatures by Monday when the letter must be printed and fedexed. Please post a comment to the open letter with the word SIGNATORY and let your voice be heard.

3 Responses to “Postscript to “An Open Letter to Larry Ellison””

  • Doug Burns says:

    and undoubtedly also more than a few complaints registered privately with Oracle Support.

    Including, if I recall correctly, a certain Mr. Brinsmead trying to get clarification through a Metalink SR! ;-)

  • Mark Brinsmead says:

    Hmmm… No need to drag names into this…

    As to whether or not I personally put the Oracle Support group’s collective feet to the fire on this topic, I choose to neither confirm nor deny. At *this* time. :-)

  • Doug Burns says:

    I choose to neither confirm nor deny. At *this* time. :-)

    I spot a man with a political future! LOL :-)

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