At several companies I worked for, most of the time a lot of confusion exists about the licensing model of Oracle. The general feeling was that they paid too much for their use of Oracle products, and they were not certain of their compliancy. This post will try to give some clarity about this issue.

The information in this post is not intended to be used as legal statements or sources for negotiations with Oracle. I will be referring to some other documents which can and must be used. The information is not supposed to be exhaustive but will hopefully give the reader an idea of the licensing model of Oracle at this moment (2010). The post has been checked by Daniel Hesselink from License Consulting who suggested some very usefull additons. Thanks Daniel!

Subjects in this post:

License levels

Three levels to be recognized:

  • ‘Full Use’ level = end-user license, you may do with the database what you want, like running (several) tailor-made applications on it.
  • ‘Application Specific Full Use’ (ASFU) = Example:  SAP. You can only use the Oracle software for that particular purpose.
  • ‘Embedded Software License’ (ESL). Only to be used for specific to be used applications, and the database schema is not accessible to the end user but only to the aplication (runtime).

Scope in this post:  ‘Full Use’ – level.

You may use the Oracle software free for generally 30 days , after downloading and installation.  This period may sometimes be extended to (generally) 90 days after consulting Oracle, and is used for ‘proof of concepts’ and that kind of things.  This type of license is not a formal license-level, and is known as the ‘developers’ license.


First year’s costs can be calculated as:      ( purchase + support (22%))  –  purchase discount.

Costs of second and all the next years:       Support-costs – staggered discount.

Purchase without support is possible, you only get no Metalink support and patches.

Purchase is also possible for a period of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 years (Term License), but then you are required to purchase support with it (based on the list-price!).

On are the  so-called ‘list-‘ prices in dollars.   These are the prices with no purchase-discount at all. This discount depends greatly on the volume you buy, and there are some fixed ‘staggered’ discounts you can agree on with Oracle. A minimum purchase of 100.000 Euro is a common amount for getting any discount and a percentage of of 25 to 40%  for large customers should be reachable. Remember that these discounts are only given on the purchase, not on the yearly support…. when you won’t negotiate about it  😉   This works the same as for the license discount.

By the way:  the discount is based on the sum of the purchases. When you decide over time to end a part of the purchage, this will lead to a recalculation, and could be influencing your yearly costs, because of stumbling into a lower staggered discount.

Prices will be adjusted regularily. If changes happen, they occur within June. For Europe, changes will also depend on  the rate of the dollar.

Oracle has also a so-called  ‘Matching Service Level Policy’: sometimes it does not matter what you are using, but it does matter what you bought in the past. Example: you purchased database licenses for 3 servers, but only use one server, then you will be charged for 3 servers when you purchase an additional ‘management-pack’ for those databases. Those management-packs are linked one on one to the databases. Oracle does not pro-actively monitor this at this time.. only on an order-by-order basis, and when customers try to de-support a part of the license stack later in time. So it helps sometimes to act low-profile….

Species of databases

  • Enterprise Edition (multi-user database). Most expensive, complete database.
  • Standard Edition (multi-user database). Less functionalities, e.g. no online index rebuild, on servers with a maximum of 4 sockets.
  • Standard Edtition One. On servers with a maximum of 2 sockets.
  • Personal Edition (single user database).
  • Lite Edition (mobile devices)

Enterprise Edition is required with the following configurations:

  • When the server has got more than 4 sockets or
  • You are using Oracle Enterprise Manager Packs, like Tuning pack or
  • You are using Database Options (e.g. Partitioning)

You have to pay for the Database Options, besides the ‘standard’ database licenses:

  • Real Application Clusters
  • Partitioning
  • Advanced Security
  • Database Vault
  • Advanced Compression
  • Active Data Guard
  • Real Application Testing
  • Label Security
  • Total Recall
  • Spatial
  • In-Memory Database Cache
  • Data Mining
  • OLAP
  • Media Pack

For Apex and Oracle10 XE ,  no licensies are necessary.

Types of licenses

With ‘Full Use’ licentie there can be chosen from 3 types of licensies:

  1. Processor based  (Proc)
  2. Named User Plus (NUP)
  3. Employee (EMP) – license.

1. Processor based (Proc).

Here you pay per processor, but a processor under the definition of Oracle. As the processors become increasingly powerful and have multiple cores, Oracle has created a “core element”.

For Intel and AMD dual-core CPU typically a factor of 0.5 for each core is used, so Oracle will count this processor as 1  Oracle processor (2 cores x 0.5 = 1). This is no different from the number of CPUs in this case. But customers also uses servers with 2 quad core cpu’s. Suppose this has also a factor of 0.5, so Oracle will count this as four processors: 2 CPUs x 4 cores = 8  cores.  8 cores x 0.5 = 4 Oracle processors.

The core-factor-table Oracle uses is to be found here.

Thus, if a database on a server is installed on two quad core processors running as previous example, 4 processor licenses must be paid for. On that server you are free to install multiple databases, regardless of the version! The processor-based license is paid per server and not per database.

Oracle is not supporting virtual servers, except their own OracleVM. A consequence is that in virtualization with VMware for example, the underlying number of hardware processor are calculated.
Extreme example: on a cluster ESX (VMware) with 3 nodes, each with two quad core processors, a VM is created. On a VM is an Oracle database installed, and one (1) virtual processor is assigned. In terms of technique uses this virtual server is actually only one core of the available 24 (3 nodes x 2 CPUs x 4 cores). License Technically you pay  the underlying hardware. When the factor of the CPU concerning is e.g. 0.5, then you will be settled on 24 cores x 0.5 = 12 processors for this one database.

2. Named User Plus (NUP).

What does it mean:
• A person in any way data viewing and / or importing data into an Oracle database
• A non-human operated device. This may be scanning robot for example, but also an information board at a station, if it also actively approaches the  database. A batch process, however, is not considered as Named User. This is an escape worth thinking of !
• With multiplexers (such as application servers) the real users are counted and not just the user that the database approaches.

When the application server is connected to the outside world (web application),  it is not possible to license under NUP, and you have buy processor-based licenses.

The name also suspect that there’s a “Named User” license exists without ‘Plus’. In the past it did exist indeed, but with the recent licensing change, this was changed in NUP.

A named-user is attached to a database, but with a minimum purchase. You may not purchase a database license with eg 2 named-users. Oracle will take the server as base. For an Enterprise Edition is a minimum purchase of 25 users per processor (definition of Oracle) required, for a Standard Edition a minimum purchase of five users per organization. An application server 10 per processor.

Example of the latter: If there are 10 Enterprise Editon databases running on a server with two quad-core processors, and there are a total of 50 developers, then based on the NUP minimum number of 100 users is calculated:

  • 2 quad-core = 8 cores.
  • With the factor of 0.5 released: 4 Oracle processors.
  • Minimum of 25 users per processor = 100 users.

3. Employee based  (Emp).

This is all the staff:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Temporary staff
  • Hired consultants
  • Staff of companies which are executing the outsource of that company.

This type of license is for a limited number of products possible, for example BI Publisher.
Not the users of the system are counted, but the number of people who are employed, fixed, temporary or outsourced.


Oracle has got a Lifetime Support Policy , This means that there is always support for different versions, but is limited after the ‘normal’ support period (five years after general availability date).


Release General availability date End of Premier Support End of Extended Support (to pay for) End of Sustaining Support
9.2 Jul 2002 Jul 2007 Jul 2010 Indefinite
10.1 Jan. 2004 Jan 2009 Jan 2012 Indefinite
10.2 Jul 2005 Jul 2010 Jul 2013 Indefinite
11.1 Aug 2007 Aug 2012 Aug 2015 Indefinite
11.2 Sep 2009 Jan 2015 Jan 2018 Indefinite

Premier support usually ends five years after the release of a version. When a customer really wants it, he can buy off the same level of support by switching to extended support.

For extended support you’ll have to pay extra:

  • Year 6 after product release: 10% of current year’s Software Update License & Support
  • Year 7 after product release: 20% of current year’s Software Update License & Support
  • Year 8 after product release: 20% of current year’s Software Update License & Support

Extended Support offers the following:

  • Updates, fixes and security alerts
  • Tax, legal and regulatory updates
  • Upgrade scripts
  • Technical support
  • Major product and technology releases

Quotes Oracle for sustaining support:

Sustaining Support will be available for as long as you license your Oracle products. With Sustaining Support,you receive technical support, including access to our online support tools, knowledgebases, andtechnical support experts. You benefit from

  • Major product and technology releases
  • Technical support
  • Access to My Oracle Support
  • Fixes, updates, and critical patch updates created during the Premier Support stage

Sustaining Support does not include:

  • New updates, fixes, security alerts, data fixes, and critical patch updates
  • New tax, legal, and regulatory updates
  • New upgrade scripts
  • Certification with new third-party products/versions
  • Certification with new Oracle products

Support on VMware

Oracle will give no formal support on Oracle product running on virtual software, unlike oracleVM. Bottom-line is that  questions are to be answered, but serious problems will first be ‘replayed’ on physical hardware.
Note 249212.1 on Oracle Support: Support Status for VMware Virtualized Environments “. Quote here:

Oracle has not certified any of its products on VMware virtualized environments. Oracle Support will assist customers running Oracle products on VMware in the following manner: Oracle will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS, or can be demonstrated not to be as a result of running on VMware.

Cost and pitfalls

  • Generally you can save money by installing as much as possible Standard Edition (One) Databases instead of Enterprise Edition Database. But there are more factors than just saving costs, and you should carefully consider all the options.
  • When using VMware the underlying processor-capacity (ESX-servers) is used as base for the licenses, and may only be usefull when there are a lot of VM’s with Oracle software. Support-issues still play a major role in this, so be carefully using this.
  • When using standby-databases with a processor based licensing, you have to count both servers (primary and standby) !
  • Generally it is cheaper to license a development- and a test- environment as NUP, but recalculate  this per database/purchase. The following rule will mostly be valid: when (sum named users) / (sum processors) >= 50, then choose for processor-license.
  • When you don’t pay a license anymore, the status will be internally set as ‘expired’. But when there are suddenly licenses needed, this may be set ‘active’ within a year, with only a fine of 50% on the support-costs. Should be a lot cheaper then buying new licenses. When you actively ends it, it will be set to terminated and you can no longer re-activate it (although exeptions occur if you insist whithin a resonable time timeframe after the termination).
  • When using options,like partitioning or spatial, centralize the databases which will use these options as much as possible on one server, as you have to license just one server in that case.
  • You need approval from Oracle (account-managers level) to install two species of database on the same server. E.g. Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition may officially not reside on the same server. But Oracle may hardly complain when you install a Standard Edition database on a server which has been licensed as an Enterprise Edition server. You paid for a Rolls!


  1. Software Investment Guide:
  2. Processor-factor tabel:
  3. Prijslist:
  4. Support:
  5. Metalink note 249212.1 : Support Status for VMware Virtualized Environments
  6. With special thanks to Peter Vermaat of Transfer Solutions and Erwin de Kok of Logica

Differences between Enterprise, Standard and Personal Edition

Starting point: Note 465455.1

Content of this note:

Version   Note #                                         ABSTRACT

8.1     NOTE.112591.1 Differences Between Enterprise, Standard and Personal Editions on Oracle 8.1

9.0     NOTE.161556.1 Differences between Oracle9i Personal, Standard and Enterprise on NT/2000

9.2     NOTE.269040.1 Differences Between Enterprise, Standard and Personal Editions  on Oracle 9.2

10.1   NOTE.271886.1 Differences Between Different Editions of Oracle Database 10G

10.2   NOTE.465465.1 Differences Between Enterprise, Standard and Personal Editions on Oracle 10.2

11.1   Note.465460.1 Differences Between Enterprise, Standard and Personal Editions on Oracle 11.1

11.2  Note.1084132.1 Differences Between Enterprise, Standard and Personal Editions on Oracle 11.2