Oracle starts at $198/year or $0.16/hour

I learned that spacewalk requires oracle the other day. To an open source weenie that sounds bad, but how much of a problem is it in practice?

Oracle XE is free, allowing up to 4GB of data, which seems like it would last you about 2 years of running spacewalk with a few thousand packages and a few hundred machines.

Oracle One costs $180 per user with a 5 user minimum, installable on one machine with two sockets (so up to 12 core for an AMD opteron). Including one year of support that adds up to about $1000.

But that’s a perpetual license. A 1-year oracle license is $36 per user, so adding in support, for one year or oracle on one machine you pay just shy of $200.

The next upgrade after oracle one is oracle standard, which costs $350 per user perpetual, or $70 per user per year.

So to get started with oracle you can use Oracle XE. When you run out of space you buy a decent database server machine and a $200 oracle license, allowing for 4 middleware nodes and one administrator. You have to pay that $200 once a year. Or you can run Oracle One in the cloud with Amazon RDS from $0.16 per hour.

When you need a resilient set up you will need oracle standard so you can cluster with Oracle RAC. You’ll need a license for each server (which can now have 4 sockets so up to 24 core), so your cost increases to 2 * 5 * 70 = $700/year.

You can also deploy oracle standard on Amazon RDS, where you’ll pay from $0.11 per hour per VM in addition to your license. Though it seems like at the moment, amazon RDS replication doesn’t work for oracle, so there’s probably no point in using that. Instead, you’ll have to switch to creating your own EBS-backed AMIs and installing oracle into them (or, perhaps, use an oracle-provided AMI).

I can find nothing that states there’s a limit to Oracle RAC scale with oracle standard. So you could potentially build big, BIG clusters this way.

$350/server/year is not exactly free of course, but this actually gets you really good clustering. That bit of capex gets you the ease of deployment and use of Oracle RAC. For some use cases, it’s probably easily the cheapest option if you take into account the opex of doing anything else. For example if Oracle Locator, the subset of Oracle Spatial that’s available in the standard edition, is good enough for you, this seems easier than figuring out your own clustered PostGIS setup. Postgres or mysql replication would’ve been just fine for spacewalk though.

Oracle Enterprise has additional features that aren’t really relevant for most scale-out (webby) stuff: using more than 4 sockets, some of the advanced administration/audit/backup tools, advanced security features, oracle spatial, compression, table partitioning, and some other bits. Enterprise still costs about a gazillion dollars.

We have to erase this idea that “oracle is ridiculously expensive” out of our brains. It just isn’t true anymore: there’s some very reasonable oracle database offerings for reasonable prices. Instead, the idea should now be “oracle enterprise is ridiculously expensive”. For things like spacewalk, where you don’t need the advanced stuff, it seems oracle is now almost always a very reasonable backend that probably can have a competitive TCO.