The cost of Oracle

It’s not uncommon for people on one hand to expound the functionality, performance and features of Oracle, whilst on the other hand, lament the potential high cost of the product.

I’m not pontificating here – I’m commonly one of these people.  So much good stuff in Oracle….yet so much to pay to get that good stuff :-(

So in the interests of fairness, I thought I’d share a little story where an Oracle solution was implemented with total expenditure of: ZERO

A friend saw a request on a "volunteer registry", asking if anyone could (on a voluntary basis) help sort out a book keeping mess.  The request was from a small organisation, and their list of contacts, organisations, memberships, and the like, was a jumbled mish-mash of spreadsheets, word documents, post-it notes, emails etc.  They knew it was a bad, but didn’t really have the capability or time to fix it.  They had a number of PC’s that they used day to day, and a "server" (aka, a spare PC), where they shared information.  Backups consisted of a manually run program once every few weeks to dump the server folders onto an external USB drive.

So my friend, armed with not much more than good Oracle SQL skills, spent a few days becoming a self-taught "Application Express developer", spent a few months on the occasional evenings and weekends building an application for them.  And just last weekend, with a little design review and a little implementation knowledge from myself, the application has "gone live" for the organisation – staff using Apex against the embedded PLSQL gateway listener running out of Oracle Express Edition.  RMAN backs up the whole lot each night.  A couple of Apex plugins delivers ad-hoc reports, and caters for mail out’s etc. 

Total license cost: nil

Total additional hardware cost: nil

Training cost: nil

No-one is claiming that the application is a show case for Application Express.  When you’re a new developer to a technology, you go with what works, rather than what is the best way.  But it proves that with a little SQL and a grasp of the relational fundamentals, you can deliver fully functional Oracle systems in places that you would not expect to ever be Oracle "customers".  And moreover, for a cost not measured in dollars, but purely in one’s enthusiasm to play with the technology.

Now that’s a real success story

:-)

9 thoughts on “The cost of Oracle

  1. I’ve done a decent bit of work with non-profits and NGOs myself, and I can totally understand that they will always take whatever they can get. If someone with Oracle background is available to put something together on XE with APEX then it’s certainly better than nothing! That said, I think the big cost here is maintenance down the road.

    Last year my family spent several months in Africa while I was doing some pro-bono IT work for a hospital there. When I rebuilt their main network server, I chose the simplest platform possible… a windows server. Personally I’m a much better unix admin. But I had to consider how hard of a time they would have finding a volunteer three years from now to come in and fix it when it breaks. Personally I would hesitate to put APEX/XE in at a non-profit for this same reason – I think I’d first try as hard as possible to find some free online SAS platform (wordpress.com? a wiki?) or a pre-built product from a company who will negotiate drastically reduced prices for them. If that wasn’t possible at all then I’d consider building something. Just that the biggest cost to building anything is the maintenance down the road, and this is an area where Oracle is distinctly challenging to justify.

    • Definitely valid point. It’s for this reason, we used their existing (Windows 7 PC) server to put XE on….No linux, no VM’s etc…

      Sometimes though, I’d contend that maybe its a *good* thing that its hard to get resources. If the database had been done in (say) MS Access, then whilst its easy to find people who could “maintain the code”, there’s also a large pool of people that will claim to be able to maintain it well…and likely to make a giant mess of it :-)

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