Oracle Java Changes to Licensing – October 2022

The content below is edited from the video, which is based on a presentation given by Palisade Compliance CEO, Craig Guarente, at the Gartner Symposium in October 2022.

Oracle acquired Java when it acquired Sun. And Oracle really paid nothing for it – Sun gave away Java basically for free.

Java is important because it permeates your enterprise.

Now – either you have an Oracle Java problem or you’re going to have an Oracle Java problem.

That’s because almost everybody uses a version of Oracle Java, coupled with the fact that Oracle’s now charging really big fees to use it.

Oracle Java changes make licensing complex

You probably have one license for your Oracle database. You might have multiple agreements, but all the terms and conditions are very similar unless you’ve carved out differences for some products. But Java licensing is complex.

Applicable license terms:

  • Binary Code License Agreement (BCL)
  • Oracle Java SE OTN license
  • Oracle No-Fee Terms and Conditions license (NFTC)
  • Commercial Agreement
  • GPL license (GPLv2+CPE)

These are all either open source license variants or things Oracle has created. Your usage of Java could have literally have versions of all of these licenses.

4 things Oracle is doing around Java

1. Oracle constantly changes their contracts, business practices and policies. So what you thought Oracle Java was a year ago in terms of licensing requirements is very different from today. And that’s pretty unsettling if you started to use a product and all of a sudden Oracle pulls the rug out and changes the rules on you or at least changes their policies. And we know that Oracle is really good at putting policies online that may or may not be for educational purposes only.

2. Java is easily downloadable. You can go online right now and download Oracle Java; you don’t have to put in a license code or your credit card number. You just provide some basic information and you hit download – same as database middleware applications.

3. The sales focus. Oracle has teams of sales people dedicated to selling you Java. You get the knock on the door from the Oracle Java sales rep. One of our customers had 41 separate Oracle sales people calling into their account! We’ve also seen Oracle sales people conducting quasi audits.

4. The multi-pronged audit approach. Oracle is coming at customers from different directions. It’s not that you get the audit letter just from Oracle LMS or SIA anymore. You could be getting audited through the sales team or your sales consultant. You could be giving Oracle information for audits through the support organization or the download site.

When you do get an official audit letter from Oracle LMS or SIA, and you try asking about the scope, they’ll say it’s for everything including Java. So, be aware that audits are encompassing more than just database, middleware and applications.

Oracle Java software is phoning home

“Unlike database middleware applications, the Oracle Java software is often phoning home.”

That’s right. Not only does Oracle know information about what you’re doing with Java because you’ve downloaded it, due to certain ways you install Java, particularly on Windows machines, your software is actually phoning home back to Oracle.

So when you do get that knock on the door, Oracle sales is much more informed about what you could be doing with the software than they would be for database. Often, customers are not prepared for Oracle knowing.

Find out more about Java software phoning home.

Database ULA certification trap

We’ve got an article and video about what we call the database ULA certification trap.

When you give Oracle information about your implementation of database products, usually through a certification or through an audit, the Java sales teams are going to use that information to extrapolate. So be careful when you’re certifying ULAs.

Virtualization gone wild

The other thing that Oracle sales people are doing is refusing to give quotes. Customers who want to buy Java and need e.g. 500 licenses are being told they’re not going to get a quote until they tell all about their virtualization.

Oracle’s playing chicken with their customers! You’re going to want to give Oracle money at some point, and they’re going to say “no” – they don’t want a little bit of money, they want a lot of bit of money. I call this “virtualization gone wild”. You need to license everything and they want to extrapolate that to Java.

How much does Oracle Java cost?

Unlike database that’s underlying an application, Java is much easier to rip and replace, with certain limitations. That’s one of the reasons we haven’t seen Oracle really push Java until recently because they know their customers can just leave.

Java fee structures and contracts are different. It’s much less expensive than database, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

Java subscription can cost you millions of dollars, especially if you don’t negotiate and don’t run through the process correctly.

The other big difference with Java is Oracle basically sells it by subscription.

Java ULA (Unlimited License Agreement)

You can buy a Java ULA, but unlike a database ULA, at the end of the term – let’s say it’s three years – all those licenses go away. If you use a Java ULA to expand your footprint, your next Java ULA will be more expensive.

You can sign a Java ULA. It’s not always a bad idea, but you should really look at that term as an opportunity to reduce your Oracle Java footprint. There’s really no reason for a customer to sign a second Java ULA with Oracle. You can sign an agreement with Oracle for a certain number of users, which will be much less expensive, or you can move to third-party Java.

What are customers doing about Oracle Java changes?

So what are customers doing to deal with what Oracle’s doing here? A lot of them are just waiting for the knock on the door. This is not a good idea, because you’re going to be unprepared. A second bad idea is approaching Oracle for help.

A third approach is just looking at an alternative to Java. But if you just move to an alternative and you still have some Oracle Java in your environment, you really haven’t addressed the root cause.

You could have some Oracle Java in a large virtualized environment, and despite the fact that you’ve adopted a third-party Java tool, Oracle’s still going to try to hit you with a huge Java ULA.

The fourth way is recommended

So the fourth approach we’ve seen customers take is really try to understand what they’re using today, what their compliance position is, and then building out a plan from there. And that plan could be signing a one-time Oracle Java ULA, or it could be buying some additional Java licenses, or it could be I’m OK, or it could be let’s go buy some other Java while I work with Oracle on a small deal.

If you follow this fourth path, you’re going to spend the least amount of money on Java and you’re going to come up with the best solution, whether that’s an Oracle Java solution or non-Oracle Java solution.

Crucial questions

Do you know what Java is deployed? Do you know what Java is covered by your agreements with Oracle and what Java is covered by third-party applications that have embedded Java? What’s free requires licenses.

Read more free content about Oracle Java.

See news about further changes in the way Oracle licenses Java in January 2023.

We can help

Palisade Compliance can do a proactive review of your Java usage for both Oracle and non-Oracle Java. We can give you a compliance and licensing position, and obviously we can give you recommendations and help you execute on those recommendations at least as far as resolving any Oracle Java issues.

Craig Guarente
Craig Guarente
Craig is the President and Founder of Palisade Compliance, which he founded in 2011. Before 2011, Craig worked at Oracle for 16 years where he was the Global Vice President of Contracts, Business Practices, and Migrations. He was also the Global Process Owner for Oracle’s audit teams (LMS), a member of Oracle’s CIO advisory board, and on the Oracle User Group’s contract and licensing advisory board. Craig is now the leading expert on Oracle licensing, is quoted in dozens of publications, and assists with many high-profile Oracle disputes.