Oracle licensing / Softwarelicensing

Oracle Licensing Disaster Recovery – Navigating the Pitfalls

  • Review Agreements: Check the Oracle policy document for DR licensing.
  • Remote Mirroring: Both primary and mirrored databases need licenses.
  • Standby Databases: Fully licenses both primary and standby databases.
  • Backups: A license is required when backups are activated on recovery servers.
  • Failovers: Up to 10 days of unlicensed use per year if within a single cluster.
  • Testing: Exemptions allowed for short, infrequent testing sessions.

Overview of Disaster Recovery (DR) Environments

Oracle licensing and Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery (DR) environments are essential for maintaining business continuity during unforeseen disruptions.

These environments allow organizations to recover critical data and resume operations swiftly after a disaster.

Licensing plays a crucial role in DR environments, ensuring that all software used during the recovery process complies with vendor regulations.

Importance of DR for Business Continuity

DR is vital for minimizing downtime and financial losses during disasters. It ensures that critical systems can be restored quickly, maintaining customer trust and operational stability. Effective DR planning reduces the impact of disruptions on business operations.

Role of Licensing in DR Environments

Proper licensing in DR environments is necessary to comply with software vendor agreements like those from Oracle.

Non-compliance can lead to legal and financial penalties. Licensing ensures that all software used in primary and DR environments is appropriately covered.

Disaster Recovery Environments

Definition of Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery is the strategies and processes implemented to restore data and systems after a disaster. It is a critical aspect of business continuity planning, designed to protect organizations from data loss and operational downtime.

Explanation of DR and Its Importance

DR is crucial for safeguarding against data loss and ensuring businesses can continue operating after a disaster.

It involves creating backup systems and processes to restore data and applications quickly, minimizing the impact of disruptions on business activities.

Common Disaster Scenarios

  • Application Failure: Issues with specific applications that prevent them from functioning correctly.
  • Network Failure: Disruptions in network connectivity that hinder communication and data transfer.
  • Data Center Failure: Physical or technical failures in data centers that house critical systems and data.
  • Regional Failure: Large-scale events such as natural disasters that affect entire regions and multiple data centers.

Key Components of DR

  • DR Plans: Detailed strategies outlining the steps to restore operations during and after a disaster.
  • Personnel: Designated teams responsible for implementing DR plans and managing recovery efforts.
  • Actions: Specific tasks and procedures to be carried out to ensure data recovery and system restoration.

Understanding these elements helps organizations prepare for and effectively manage DR situations, ensuring minimal disruption to business operations.

Oracle Licensing for Disaster Recovery

Understanding Oracle Licensing for Disaster Recovery

The Basics: Installed and/or Running

Before diving into Oracle’s DR licensing details, let’s cover a fundamental rule for Oracle software licensing.

All Oracle software that is “Installed and/or running” must be licensed. This means you must license all Oracle software installed on your machines, regardless of whether you’re actively using it. If it’s installed, it must be licensed. This applies to production, test, and staging environments.

Four Different Disaster Recovery Methods

Oracle differentiates four DR methods: Backup, Failover, Standby, and Remote Mirroring.

  1. Question: Do I need to license Oracle DR environments? Answer: Yes, but there are exceptions with certain limitations explained further down.
  2. Question: How to license DR? Answer: The DR server must match the metrics and software used on the primary server. This includes any database options or management packs, regardless of usage.


Database backups do not require licensing, but ensure your “backups” are not just copies of your live databases (full install).

If they are, they fall under the installed and/or running rule and need licensing.

  1. Question: Do I need to license backups? Answer: No, Oracle allows you to store a backup without a license. A backup is not a running copy of the database software but a copy of the data (control files, redo logs, data files) to reconstruct the database in case of failure.
  2. Question: Am I allowed to test my backup? Answer: Oracle allows you to test your backups on an unlicensed server four times a year, with a maximum duration of two days per test. Synchronizing or copying binary files during testing is prohibited (Oracle data recovery policy).
  3. Question: Do I need to license my backup if using a backup solution, perhaps a third-party solution? Answer: No, as long as it follows the installed and/or running licensing rule. Oracle also offers backup tools, like RMAN, that are included in the software.

Exception to Oracle’s “Installed and/or Running” Licensing Rule

One main exception to Oracle’s “installed and/or running” licensing rule for DR environments exists.

This exception, called the 10-day rule, applies only to failover environments. Under specific conditions, it allows running a server with Oracle installed without paying for licenses.

Failover and the 10-Day Rule

Oracle permits running its database software for up to 10 days (10 separate 24-hour periods) within any calendar year on one unlicensed spare server. This applies only to servers in a clustered environment with shared storage.

Only one server can be unlicensed per clustered environment. After a failure, you must switch back to the primary server once it is repaired or designate the repaired server as the new failover node, per the latest Oracle policy update.

Example: If the primary server fails and the failover server runs for 3 hours on a Monday and another 4 hours on a Tuesday, this counts as 2 out of the 10 days allowed.


Oracle describes a standby method where one or more copies of a primary database server are maintained on one or more standby servers.

Log information is sent and applied to the standby servers as the primary server changes. The primary and any standby servers must be licensed, and the licensing must match the primary server.

  1. Question: If I run Oracle Data Guard as my DR solution, do I need to license both the primary and standby servers?
    Answer: Yes. Although Oracle Data Guard is included with the Oracle Database Enterprise Edition, it does not allow you to run and maintain a standby copy of the database for free.
  2. Question: What is the difference between Data Guard and Active Data Guard? Answer: From a licensing perspective, Active Data Guard is a database option for the Enterprise Edition and requires additional licensing. Data Guard is included and does not require additional licensing. The licensing of the primary server must match the standby server in terms of metrics and database software.
  3. Question: How does the 10-day rule apply in virtual environments?
    Answer: The 10-day rule only applies when logical or physical machines are arranged in a cluster, as defined by Oracle, sharing one logical disk array in a single data center.

Remote Mirroring

Oracle describes remote mirroring as the method of mirroring storage units where the Oracle data files, executables, binaries, and DLLs are replicated to the mirrored storage.

Oracle must be fully licensed on the primary site, and if it is ever “installed and/or running” on the secondary site, all servers must be licensed.

  1. Question: Are there any other exceptions to DR licensing?
    Answer: Yes, there are other minor exceptions to DR licensing. For example, the Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) does not need to be licensed on the recovery server unless it has been used. There are also exceptions for Oracle Data Management Cloud Services.

Licensing Requirements for DR Environments

Assessing Licensing Needs

Reviewing Oracle License Agreements is Essential: Reviewing Oracle license agreements is essential to understanding the specific licensing requirements for disaster recovery (DR) environments. This ensures compliance and avoids potential legal and financial repercussions.

Remote Mirroring

Explanation of Remote Mirroring and Licensing Implications: Remote mirroring involves replicating data to a secondary location to ensure availability in a disaster. This process can have significant licensing implications, as the mirrored environment needs to be licensed similarly to the primary environment.

Solutions like Veritas Volume Replicator, EMC SRDF: Technologies like Veritas Volume Replicator and EMC SRDF are commonly used for remote mirroring. Organizations must ensure that the secondary site is licensed according to Oracle’s policies, considering these technologies.

Standby Databases

Licensing Requirements for Standby Databases: Standby databases are copies of the primary database that are kept up-to-date and can be quickly activated during a disaster. Oracle requires that standby databases be fully licensed if they can be accessed or used.

Geographic Dispersion and Replication Considerations: The geographic location of standby databases and the data replication method (e.g., synchronous or asynchronous) can impact licensing requirements. Organizations must consider these factors when planning their DR strategy.


How Backups Affect Licensing: Backups are crucial for data recovery but can complicate licensing. If backups are activated in a DR scenario, they may need to be fully licensed. This includes any environments where the backup data is stored or used.

Licensing Requirements When Backups Are Activated in DR Situations: When backups are used to restore data in a DR situation, the restored environment must be licensed by Oracle’s policies. This ensures compliance and avoids potential penalties.

Situations Where Licensing is Required

Active Use of DR Environments

When DR Environments Need to Be Fully Licensed: DR environments must be fully licensed if they are actively used to run Oracle software. This includes any scenario where the DR site is not merely a passive backup but actively supports operations.

Matching Licensing Metrics with Primary Environments: The licensing metrics (e.g., processor or Named User Plus) for DR environments should match those of the primary environments. This alignment ensures consistency and compliance with Oracle’s licensing terms.

Regular Testing and Failover

Licensing Implications for Regular Testing of DR Environments: Regular testing of DR environments to ensure they function correctly may require additional licenses. Oracle’s licensing policies may mandate that any use of the DR site, even for testing, be licensed.

Oracle’s 10-Day Failover Rule and Its Application: Oracle’s 10-day failover rule allows temporarily using a DR environment without additional licensing for up to 10 days per year. This rule applies to unplanned downtime and must be carefully managed to stay within the allowed period.

Situations Where Licensing Isn’t Required

Failovers: Failovers typically don’t require additional licensing if they are within the scope of Oracle’s failover policies, such as the 10-day rule. Proper documentation and management of failover events are essential to stay compliant.

Testing: Testing environments may be exempt from additional licensing if the testing is infrequent and within Oracle’s specified limits. It is crucial to document all testing activities to ensure they fall within these exemptions and maintain compliance.

Situations Where Licensing Isn’t Required


Conditions Under Which Failovers Are Exempt from Licensing: Failovers are generally exempt from additional licensing if they occur within the scope of Oracle’s policies. For instance, if a failover event lasts fewer than ten days in a calendar year, it may not require additional licensing.

Restrictions and Limitations of Oracle’s Failover Policy: Oracle’s failover policy allows for the temporary use of a DR environment for up to 10 days per year without requiring additional licenses. Documenting these failover events accurately ensures compliance with the policy’s limitations.


Licensing Exemptions for Testing Purposes: Oracle provides certain exemptions for testing purposes, allowing organizations to test their DR environments without additional licensing. These exemptions ensure that systems can be tested for readiness without incurring extra costs.

Frequency and Duration Limitations for Unlicensed Testing: Unlicensed testing must be infrequent and short-duration. Organizations should carefully plan their testing activities to ensure they fall within Oracle’s specified limits, typically requiring detailed documentation to prove compliance.

Best Practices for Licensing DR Environments

Regular Audits

The Importance of Conducting Regular Licensing Audits: Regular licensing audits ensure compliance with Oracle’s licensing policies. Audits help identify discrepancies or potential non-compliance issues before they escalate into significant problems.

Ensuring Compliance with Oracle’s Licensing Policies: Conducting regular audits ensures that all DR environments are correctly licensed and compliant with Oracle’s policies. This proactive approach helps avoid unexpected penalties and legal issues.

FAQ: Licensing a Disaster Recovery Environment in Oracle

What is a Disaster Recovery Environment?
A Disaster Recovery (DR) environment is designed to protect and restore mission-critical data and applications in case of significant negative events, such as application failure, network failure, data center failure, or regional failure.

Why is licensing important for DR environments?
Proper licensing ensures compliance with Oracle’s rules, avoids penalties during audits, and guarantees that all software used in primary and DR environments is legally covered.

How do I determine if my DR environment needs licensing?
Review your Oracle license agreements and the policy document referencing disaster recovery environments.

What is remote mirroring in a DR environment?
Remote mirroring involves replicating data to an identical storage unit in a different location using solutions like Veritas Volume Replicator or EMC SRDF. Both the primary and mirrored databases need licenses.

What are standby databases in a DR environment?
Standby databases are copies of the primary database maintained on geographically dispersed servers. Both primary and standby databases must be fully licensed using the same metrics.

How do backups affect Oracle licensing in DR environments?
Backups can be stored without additional licenses, but proper licensing is required once they are restored and active on recovery servers.

Do DR servers need to match the primary server’s licenses?
DR servers must have the same licensing metrics (Processor or Named User Plus) and database options as the primary servers they support.

When is additional licensing not required for failovers?
Failovers are exempt from additional licensing for up to 10 days per year, provided they exist within a single cluster and share a disk array. After ten days, licensing is required.

How does Oracle’s 10-day failover rule work?
Oracle allows a secondary server to run a database for up to 10 days per year without additional licenses. This time must be consecutive, and scattered hours count as full days.

Are there exemptions for testing DR environments?
Yes, unlicensed testing is allowed within certain frequency and duration limits. Document all testing activities to ensure they fall within Oracle’s specified exemptions.

What is the role of regular audits in DR licensing?
Regular audits help ensure compliance with Oracle’s licensing policies and identify discrepancies before they lead to significant issues.

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  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson brings two decades of Oracle license management experience, including a nine-year tenure at Oracle and 11 years in Oracle license consulting. His expertise extends across leading IT corporations like IBM, enriching his profile with a broad spectrum of software and cloud projects. Filipsson's proficiency encompasses IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce platforms, alongside significant involvement in Microsoft Copilot and AI initiatives, improving organizational efficiency.

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