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Failover: Your Guide to Oracle Licensing in Times of Trouble

A pandemic. A power outage. A security breach. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control. And in moments of disaster, even important things slip through the cracks. That’s why preparation is key.

But while disaster recovery strategies and business continuity plans are staples for most organizations out there, they can often miss the point when it comes to data and compliance issues. Unfortunately, contracts and licensing rules never take a break and it’s not enough to make sure the needed hardware is available during a disaster and applications are up and running.

Oracle compliance: control what you can

Software licensing is one thing you can easily control and prepare for in the event of a disaster.

Many Oracle customers don’t fully understand or apply the language in their Oracle contracts and licensing policies. You may be under the impression that you have failover in place so are completely covered by your Oracle agreement. Or you may have heard that as long as the DR servers are turned off, you have nothing to worry about. We’re here to clear up some of the myths and provide the facts on Oracle licensing in a Data Recovery environment.

We can’t predict disasters but we can take the time to fully understand the language of our contracts and policies to make sure we can cover our backs in trying times.

Introduction to Failover

Today, we’re going to discuss the first of four recovery methods within Oracle’s Data Recovery licensing policies for 4 types of recovery methods. It’s called Failover.

The other three methods are: Backup, Standby and Remote Mirroring.

Failover is a data recovery method where at least two servers (usually called nodes) are connected in a cluster and to a data storage or a storage array network.

When the primary node (“active node”) fails for any reason, a secondary (also called “passive”) node is automatically activated and takes over as the primary. The software is installed on both nodes (primary and failover) at all times but it’s only running on the primary node. The second node is inactive in a failover environment (there is always an idle node with Failsafe or other vendor’s cluster solutions).

The “10 Day Rule"

This Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy is usually covered by an Oracle agreement signed by your company. It has its own section in the agreement, and the standard licensing rule states that for this type of environment the customer can apply “The 10-Day Rule.”

The 10-Day Rule “includes the right to run the licensed program(s) on an unlicensed spare computer for up to a total of ten separate days in any given calendar year.”

Now keep in mind that when they say “ten days” they do in fact mean ten calendar days and not 240 hours. If the failover node acts as primary for 3 hours on Wednesday and 4 hours on Thursday, it will register as two days.

Strategies to stay compliant

There are a few additional considerations if you want to apply the Failover rule and stay compliant with the software used under this policy:

  1. The right to run the licensed program means your organization already has licenses for the programs installed and/or running on the primary node. Since that has failed, the licenses can cover the programs running on the “new” primary node.
  2. To be able to operate under this rule, make sure there are no databases running on the passive node.
  3. Only one node is free (in a given environment) for up to 10 days.

What if I’m using Real Application Clusters?

If you’re thinking this doesn’t apply because you’re using Real Application Clusters (RAC) anyway, you may want to think again. Oracle RAC is usually installed on nodes that are always both active.

If that’s the case, Oracle licensing rule states all nodes where RAC is installed and/or running must be licensed.

This means that they do not fall under the Failover licensing rule conditions.    

    Check your agreement

    It’s important to remember that the rule I’ve been talking about here is the standard licensing rule included in a standard Oracle agreement.

    Always check your Oracle agreements for any exceptions from the standard language, including the Failover rule, in the Licensing Rules section. Your organization might have negotiated hard to get a 20-day rule for example.

    Make sure to also check if this applies to very specific Oracle Programs under that agreement. Some agreements will list exactly which Oracle Programs can be used on the spare unlicensed computer, for example.

    That would read something like: Your license for the programs Oracle Database (Enterprise Edition, Standard Edition) and Database Enterprise Edition Options includes the right to run the licensed program (s) on an unlicensed spare computer [..].

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      Hopefully this gives you a better idea about your Oracle licensing in a Failover environment, the most relevant conditions, and where you can find this information.

      If you are in doubt or simply want to gain a better understanding of your DR environment, please reach out to us and let us help your organization get on top of Oracle software usage and licensing rules.

      Let’s start a conversation.