Oracle UK has reacted to user pressure and quietly changed the licensing policy for its 8i database.
Databases connected to the Internet will no longer be charged by the number of users, but by the power of the machine that the database runs on.
Oracle has now joined the ranks of IBM, Microsoft and Informix, which have openly changed their licensing model for Internet usage.
Chris Baker, sales director of business solutions for emerging technology at Oracle UK, said that until now the 'general' approach had been to price licences according to the number of concurrent users.
There is no standard Oracle licensing policy because, "there is no such thing as a standard Web environment," he said. "The issue with the Internet is public access to the sites."
Oracle customers demand flexibility because they "want licensing to be customised for their business for a competitive edge," he said.
"Oracle has not formally announced the change because they want to see through those negotiations already in the cooking pot," said one person close to the company.
The move follows complaints from the members of the UK Oracle User Group that the company's licensing is both unfair and hard to understand. Analysts and users criticised the complex licensing, warning that it left naive customers open to poor deals.
Mark Raphael, program manager at researcher Meta Group, said last week that, "clarity is not always in Oracle's interest."
Ronan Miles, deputy chairman of the UK Oracle User Group - which has campaigned for a change since December - was surprised by the news.
"Maybe Oracle should be louder in its responses," he said.
Different database licences
Named licences allow only specific users to access the database, and are priced by the number of users
A concurrent licence gives a set number of users access to the database. The price depends on the number of users connected at any one time
CPU licensing determines the price of the licence by the size of the CPU in the server on which the database runs
A subscriber licence is a negotiated licence dependent on the number of subscribers to a database application
For more stories see this week's issue of Computing
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