Sunday, August 26, 2007

How to get help with Oracle - Part 2

When dealing with Oracle products, self help is mandatory. But there is no doubt it can be confusing, especially since there are a lot of Oracle 'things'. So where do we start?

OTN - Oracle Technology Network

The best place for a technical person to start is with the Oracle Technology Network reference site. OTN should be your Portal to Oracle. It points to a huge amount of information. Unfortunately Oracle periodically changes the layout, so the locations described may not be accurate when you look at it. But in the 8 years I've been using it, OTN has not changed in content.

The following is a brief guide to what is there and when you should look at it.

1) The subject menu (usually at top of page) gives quick access to
  • Getting Started
    • Quick start guides, tips, and things you absolutely need to know as a beginner ... or a beginner to that area of Oracle.
  • Downloads
    • Everyone's favorite area, with the new and improved "yes, you can use this software for personal education" notice that clarifies the license
  • Documentation
    • A quick link to - if you have never been there, go there NOW!
  • Forums
    • The interactive community (that wsa the subject to my previous post)
  • Articles
    • The best source of Oracle-related 'How To' documents this side of APress
  • Sample Code
    • For those who believe in Pattern-based programming, this is the place
  • Tutorials
    • Learn Oracle by Example. These are self-guided, self-paced tutorials
2) The Products mini-portal menu (left strip)

The Products mini-portals are the source for overviews, white papers and relevant information. A great place to get an idea of WHY I want to use something, and then get additional information about how to use it.

Each mini-portal has it's own preferred layout, but they tend to be reasonably consistent

- left edge to get you back to the OTN portal
- center to drill into the product by topic
- right edge to get to other resources (docs, video, forums, events, how-to and tutorials, etc)

So if I have a question about the general way a feature - say Advanced Queue - works, I'll go down the Products > Database > Integration > Advanced Queue info.

The trick here is to be patient enough to go down 2 or 3 sub-folders or portals.

3) The Technology mini-portal menu (left side)

Same idea as the Product mini-portal, but oriented towards solutions (technology) rather than products. That allows the mini-portals to call in information across products,

4) The Community mini-portals and links (left side)

There are a lot of human resources available to help with Oracle. This is the place to look!

Pricing and licensing

Oracle Pricing and Licensing seems to be a mystery. It's not really. There are only a few ways to license Oracle products. And there are only a few basic rules to follow:

1) All Oracle products are owned by Oracle. To use them we need permission. That permission is called 'licensing'.

Oracle has a number of different licenses that cover different kinds of use. In some use-cases we need to pay to get permission, and in others we can use the product without added payment.

2) Most Oracle technology can be freely downloaded from the Download link at OTN (see above).

When we download, we agree to a specific license. Oracle's download site has several licenses, but most give us the right to use the software for prototyping and learning.

However, if the software goes into production we need to have a 'right to use in production' license - some of those are also free.

Remember to read the license before you agree to it. It is a contract!!!

3) Patches are available from Metalink and access to Metalink always requires a support agreement. The support agreement is linked to a formal 'right to use in production' license and a fee will be involved.

Access to Metalink has it's own contract. Part of that contract says I can not provide you patches. You need your own Metalink account.

4) A 'right to use in production' license is obtained from Oracle, usually from the sales rep or
from the Oracle Store at . You know you need this kind of license if you or your company will face either revenue loss or increased expense should you be asked to remove the Oracle software.

The general licensing rules are fairly well documented at

The two tricks I have noticed with licensing:
1) Don't assume discounts when you budget, unless you know (in writing) that you will get those discount;
2) Don't try to cut license count with "only use the following features'" arguments - they may work for size of discount, but not for number of licenses.

My favorite links (missing a few, I'm sure)

General info:

Oracle TechNet
Gurus portal

Database details from the gurus:

Julian Dyke
Pete Finnigan
Tom Kyte
Jonathan Lewis
Howard Rogers

Oracle and Linux:

Ivan Kartik
Werner Puschitz

The quality and information provided by these sites is the main reasons why I have not published much myself! (Why duplicate good work?)

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