Oracle ULA - Unlimited License AgreementAs the name suggests, Oracle’s Unlimited License Agreement (ULA) is designed to give customers a flexible and affordable way of deploying Oracle software without having to worry about monitoring their license usage. Indeed, if properly and carefully considered and executed, Oracle ULAs can provide cost savings as well, especially in situations where customers are not sure of their needs in the next 2-3 years in light of projected growth.
An Oracle ULA allow a customer to use an unlimited number of licenses of certain products that are covered by the agreement for a certain number of years, usually 2 or 3 years. The customer pays for the deal up front, and pays support fees annually during the ULA term. At the end of the term, the customer counts how many licenses it used, and  “certifies” the quantities it used – these quantities become the customer’s license entitlement going forward.
For example, a customer may enter an Oracle ULA that includes Oracle Database Enterprise Edition and Application Server with a 3 year term. In this case, for a 3 year period, the customer may deploy any quantity of the two products. At the end of the ULA period, the customer has two options:
  1. Renew the ULA and carry on as usual. 
  2. Not renew the ULA. In this case, the customer will count up its usage of Oracle Database Enterprise Edition and Application Server and provide a written certification to Oracle about the quantities in use for each. The customer will then pay annual support on the ULA quantity.
So what’s the catch? What can go wrong with an Oracle ULA? Many things, including the following:
  • Firstly, Oracle ULAs are not cheap, and are not suitable for smaller customers.
  • If the customer is not experiencing strong growth, the ULA may turn out to be useless and a more expensive option than a straight license purchase. Truly optimizing the ULA is elusive except for the best planned ULA purchases.
  • The ULA certification process of counting up the usage of Oracle software at the end of the ULA term is a very significant undertaking that is underplayed by Oracle during the ULA sale. Most customers seriously underestimate the effort needed to do this, and lack the technical and licensing expertise to do this accurately and efficiently. Also, Oracle Sales and License Management Services (LMS) have a tendency to get themselves involved in the certification process, even when the customers don’t want their “assistance”! 
  • More often than not, Oracle Sales, with support from LMS, will push for an “ULA Assessment” – whereby they will provide the aforementioned “assistance” with the counting up process. This makes the process even more resource intensive for the customer and opens the door wide open for discovery of compliance issues.
  • If Oracle is not “satisfied” with the final certification by the customer, Oracle can (and does) use the threat of an audit to extract a favorable deal when the ULA expires. If a favorable deal is not reached, Oracle LMS may initiate a license audit of the customer.
  • Customers can unknowingly work themselves into a compliance blackhole over the 2-3 year ULA term if they are not careful of the products they are using. For example, a customer with Database Enterprise Edition on the ULA may deploy the product in an unrestricted manner, but may also be using certain Options/Management Packs that are not covered by the ULA. And since the Options/Management Packs must match DBEE licensing, the customer will need to additionally purchase the same number of Options/Management Pack licenses at the end of the ULA as they certified for DBEE. These unexpected compliance surprises can run into millions of dollars.
In short, Oracle’s Unlimited License Agreement is complicated and not for everyone. Careful consideration and attention to detail is important. Redwood Compliance’s team of ex-Oracle LMS licensing experts has the experience and expertise to help customers optimize the value of their Oracle ULA, remain compliant and provide crucial support and expert advice in dealing with Oracle’s Sales and LMS organizations.