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What does an Oracle audit look like? This one certainly wasn't pretty

Katherine Noyes | Jan. 21, 2016
More than 233,089 pages of documentation later, Mars Inc. finally got relief.

Mars' audit experience was not uncommon, said Robert Scott, managing partner with Scott & Scott LLP.

"Those are the standard letters that any customer being audited by Oracle would see," Scott explained.

What's less common is Mars' decision to fight back, and "frankly, more of Oracle's customers should assert these rights," Scott said.

There's nothing in the Oracle license agreement that requires a customer to spend the time and effort Mars did in its attempts to satisfy Oracle, he added. In fact, audits are supposed to be conducted at Oracle's expense.

Scott had plenty of advice for all the other Oracle customers out there.

"The biggest thing you can do is be very careful about the agreements you get into," he said. "Sometimes with Oracle it's very difficult to get a full appreciation given all the complexities and ambiguity, but that's an important place to start."

Particularly important -- and highly relevant to the Mars case -- is avoiding arrangements that require you to count processors or cores, for example, when the basis for such counts isn't completely clear, Scott said.

"Virtualization is one of the biggest areas of risk," he said. "I've helped clients avoid that issue by negotiating unlimited agreements with Oracle."

Oracle has also reportedly been offering what's known as a Perpetual User License Agreement (PULA) with flat-rate pricing for unlimited use of its database in perpetuity.

For agreements that are already established, "get your arms around them" and try to negotiate any parts you don't like. In fact, "with each order you make, you should be demanding additional concessions from Oracle," Scott said.

Finally, fighting back is an option Scott wishes more companies would use.

"If they're coming at you in a way that seems unreasonably heavy-handed, there is a mechanism, but it's underutilized because people are afraid of Oracle," he said. "I commend Mars for stepping up and doing the right thing."

 

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