The Campaign for Clear Licensing (CCL) has published a damning report on Oracle's auditing processes, describing them as a vehicle for driving revenue not compliance.
The Key Risks in Managing Oracle Licensing white paper claims that Oracle's approach to licensing and auditing has resulted in relationships with customers that are "hostile and filled with deep-rooted mistrust".
Ninety-two percent of 100 Oracle customers surveyed believe the company does not communicate its licensing changes clearly, according to the report, while 88 percent believe Oracle's audit requests are difficult to manage and respond to.
CCL said that this poor communication leads to a disproportionate amount of financial risk being put on the shoulders of Oracle customers, which have to deal with unexpected and unclear costs during the auditing process.
Such practices lead to "immature levels of trust" and a poor trading relationship with customers, according to the report.
"On the whole, the customers we surveyed appear to have an arm's length, impoverished relationship with Oracle," CCL said.
The group believes that these perceived shortfalls are down to several factors.
The first is an inconsistent messaging and customer experience, including "questionable sales tactics" and "poor communications regarding licensing changes".
"Oracle people themselves are often unclear what it all means. It appears to be designed to trap the unwary (and even arguably the wary) into paying," said one customer.
Another added: "Oracle did not make any effort to understand the needs of the customer. They were completely wrong in understanding their own licence policy and did not want to admit it. Oracle is over ... forever."
Oracle was also accused of moving the goal posts, whereby licensing policies are changed and the onus is left on the customer to decipher and rectify the changes.
This also means installing upgrades that are subject to licensing but have not been appropriately communicated to the customer.
CCL also believes that Oracle fails to allow its customers to measure compliance or to self-audit without being reliant on the company.
Mark Flynn, chief executive of CCL, suggested that the findings of the report were to be expected: "This is our first thorough review of a vendor's approach to licensing for our members," he said.
"While the results might not surprise anyone who deals with Oracle software licensing on a day-to-day basis, the deeply negative experience of its customers should serve as a wake up call to Oracle."
The report made several recommendations to Oracle, including improving the clarity of auditing conduct, using clear communication, and refocusing strategy to aim at customer satisfaction and relationships rather than using audit revenue as an indicator of performance.
V3 contacted Oracle for its thoughts on the report and recommendations, but the company has yet to respond.
V3 spoke to Flynn just after the launch of CCL, when he outlined the importance of fair auditing and licensing agreements given the potential of unexpected charges and practices to cripple an organisation.
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