On-Prem

Oracle demands $12K from network biz that doesn't use its software

Mistake, fishing expedition, or attempt to hold a company liable for its customers?


Merula Limited, a UK-based network service provider, recently received a bill from Oracle for $12,200 for using the company's proprietary VirtualBox Extension Pack, which provides extra capabilities for the free GPL-licensed VirtualBox hypervisor.

For Richard Palmer, director of the company, this was a perplexing demand. As he explained to The Register, "Merula does not operate or manage any computer using VirtualBox or any Oracle software."

Oracle provided the company with a range of IP addresses, more than 100, that it claimed had been using its proprietary VirtualBox Extension Pack in conjunction with VirtualBox installations.

It's claimed that Oracle's software phones home to report where it's being used, though the company may be repurposing VirtualBox telemetry for its audits. Or it may simply be checking the IP addresses associated with downloads of the software and contacting address registrants to seek payment.

According to Palmer, while the IP addresses cited fall within Merula's assignment range, they're not all those used by the biz, which runs a virtual network for several other companies that control their own IP addresses. So those it does control aren't part of its core or hosting environment; rather they're used by customers on broadband connections.

In short, Palmer believes Oracle is billing the wrong entity. Yet Oracle's message to the company suggests it wants to hold Merula accountable for the software used by its customers.

"Although your organization might be an ISP however if your use is outside of your customer base beyond 30 days, payments are due to Oracle," the confusingly worded billing demand says.

For the past three days, The Register has been seeking clarification from Oracle about whether this is actually the company's intention. It may just be that Merula was billed by mistake, but Palmer expressed doubt about that.

An Oracle spokesperson told The Register that a UK sales representative intends to get in touch with Merula to clear things up. Palmer, however, on Thursday said he hadn't heard anything further since the initial billing demand.

He said he wonders whether Oracle's demand might be a fishing expedition to get Merula to cough up customer data, similar to the scattershot legal demands that music companies in the past directed at ISPs to get the identities of subscribers sharing copyrighted music. Having that data would make it easier for Oracle to target payment demands.

And Palmer is not alone in that suspicion. In a phone interview with The Register, David Woodard, COO of House of Brick Technologies, a Nebraska-based IT consultancy, said normally when a company sends another a bill, there's usually some sort of agreement or contract between them.

"It seems like a fishing expedition," Woodard said. "Normally, when we see Oracle say these IP addresses have downloaded this software, we haven't seen it get to the point where they send them a bill."

Woodard said that while Oracle was within its rights to go after license violators, it ought to be sure it's invoicing the right people.

Palmer's experience appears not to be unique either. A recently deleted Reddit post, preserved presently in Google's web cache, contains a similar anecdote. Another Reddit post from a year ago tells the same story. And a Reddit post from earlier this month says as much.

Paul Berg, a software licensing consultant, expressed concern about Oracle's software license auditing practices in an email to The Register.

"When companies use their legal department as a profit center it is highly indicative that the products they claim they are incorporated to provide are no longer competitive in the marketplace," he said.

"They are not seeing a path for themselves to change that either, as evidenced by the fact they are more willing to damage their brand with a broad campaign of litigation against the small parties already using portions of their product, which are both their best potential new customers and unable to successfully defend themselves, rather than market to them and bring them into compliance." ®

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HPE's Aruba adopts DPUs, but in a switch, not a server

Decides switches need help performing network functions, just like servers need their CPUs free for core workloads

HPE's networking subsidiary Aruba has added data processing units to a switch.

Data processing units (DPUs) – aka SmartNICs or "infrastructure processing units" (IPUs) – are small computers integrated into a network adapter. Hyperscale operators adopted the devices to relieve servers of chores ranging from handling I/O to external storage or running network services under software-defined networks. DPUs/IPUs/SmartNICs are also valued for adding isolation to components in a data centre, which helps for security purposes.

VMware, Nvidia, and Intel have backed the devices as a new and vital tier of enterprise data centres, and are endeavouring to make them work in mainstream servers any month now with the suggestion that they are a splendid place to spin up network-centric workloads as needed.

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Windows 11 Paint: Oh look – rounded corners. And it is prettier.... but slightly worse

New iconography, minimalism, less text – and at least it is not Paint 3D

Microsoft's redesigned user interface for Paint in Windows 11 is prettier but perhaps a little less useable than the previous version.

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Weeks after Red Bee Media's broadcast centre fell over, Channel 4 is still struggling with subtitles

Got a Disaster Recovery plan? Ever tested it? You probably should...

Confusion continues to reign in the world of television, including UK national broadcaster Channel 4, weeks after a broadcast centre cockup wrought havoc upon servers.

Things went horribly wrong at Red Bee Media's broadcast centre back on 25 September. Yes, that was the weekend before we ran an accidentally appropriate episode of Who, Me?

A fire suppression was triggered and severely damaged a lot of critical hardware. The net result was that a number of UK television channels (including the BBC as well as Channel 4) suffered a wobble. While others have recovered, Channel 4 remains unable to provide accessibility services, such as subtitles or audio description.

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WTF? Value of Finnish open-source-as-a-service startup Aiven jumps $1.2bn in 7 months

Cloud data market heats up as company lures $60m in Series C funding

Finnish open-source-as-a-service provider Aiven has attracted a $60m extension to its Series C funding which now values the firm at $2bn.

The latest cash injection suggests remarkable growth in the nominal value of the Scandinavian startup, founded five years ago, which was worth $800m when it got its first $100m-tranche of Series C funding in March.

Aiven sells open-source data technologies as a managed service. Unlike some DBaaS systems, which punt proprietary or less permissive licences for their as-a-service offers built on open source technologies, Aiven provides a stack of as-a-service systems in their true open source form.

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UK's competition regulator announces market study into music streaming biz

Watchdog is getting comfortable with its new digital remit

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said this morning it would be carrying out a market study into the music streaming industry.

The announcement states that following discussion by the board, the regulator would now "consider and develop the final scope of the market study, before formally launching it as soon as possible."

In a letter to MPs [PDF], chief exec Andrea Coscelli wrote it was agreed that such work "supported a strategic goal of the CMA to foster effective competition in digital markets, ensuring they operate in a way that promotes innovation and the consumer interest."

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Northern Ireland Water ready to take the plunge with HR and finance software, prepares to flush Oracle R12.2

Utility biz has £28m to spend on replacement system

Utility provider Northern Ireland Water (NIW) has set aside £28m to replace its current Oracle E-business Suite with a new HR and finance system.

According to recently released tender documents, the business is looking for a tech outfit to "supply, implement and support a suite of new core corporate systems for its finance, commercial, inventory, human resources (HR), payroll and learning and development (L&D) needs."

The Prior Information Notice, designed for early market engagement before the competition officially starts, said the need for new enterprise software arises because of "the approaching expiration of the licencing and support contracts for its current core corporate systems."

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If your apps or gadgets break down on Sunday, this may be why: Gpsd bug to roll back clocks to 2002

Alternative headline: Yet another widely used project maintained thanklessly by 'some random person in Nebraska'

Come Sunday, October 24, 2021, those using applications that rely on gpsd for handling time data may find that they're living 1,024 weeks – 19.6 years – in the past.

A bug in gpsd that rolls clocks back to March, 2002, is set to strike this coming weekend.

The programming blunder was identified on July 24, 2021, and the errant code commit, written two years ago, has since been fixed. Now it's just a matter of making sure that every application and device deploying gpsd has applied the patch.

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Share your experience: How does your organization introduce new systems?

The answer is rarely obvious. Take part in our short poll and we'll find out together

Reg Reader Survey The introduction of new systems into an organization is essential. If we stay still, if we continue to rely on legacy systems, if we fail to innovate – well, we (or, in reality, the company) will die. As business guru Sir John Harvey-Jones once put it: “If you are doing things the same way as two years ago, you are almost certainly doing them wrong.”

But who should lead innovation in our companies? Who should be introducing new systems? The answer is not obvious.

On one hand, the introduction of new systems into the business should be led by the business. In principle, the people doing the work, dealing with the suppliers, selling to the customers, are best placed to be standing up and saying: “We need the system to do X,” whether their motivation be to reduce cost, increase revenues, make products more efficiently, or even bolster our environmental credentials.

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These Rapoo webcams won't blow your mind, but they also won't break the bank

And they're almost certainly better than a laptop jowel-cam

Review It has been a long 20 months since Lockdown 1.0, and despite the best efforts of Google and Zoom et al to filter out the worst effects of built-in laptop webcams, a replacement might be in order for the long haul ahead.

With this in mind, El Reg's intrepid reviews desk looked at a pair of inexpensive Rapoo webcams in search for an alternative to the horror of our Dell XPS nose-cam.

Rapoo sent us its higher-end XW2K, a 2K 30fps device and, at the other end of the scale, the 720p XW170. Neither will break the bank, coming in at around £40 and £25 respectively from online retailers, but do include some handy features, such as autofocus and a noise cancelling microphone.

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It's one thing to have the world in your hands – what are you going to do with it?

Google won the patent battle against ART+COM, but we were left with little more than a toy

Column I used to think technology could change the world. Google's vision is different: it just wants you to sort of play with the world. That's fun, but it's not as powerful as it could be.

Despite the fact that it often gives me a stomach-churning sense of motion sickness, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately fully immersed in Google Earth VR. Pop down inside a major city centre – Sydney, San Francisco or London – and the intense data-gathering work performed by Google's global fleet of scanning vehicles shows up in eye-popping detail.

Buildings are rendered photorealistically, using the mathematics of photogrammetry to extrude three-dimensional solids from multiple two-dimensional images. Trees resolve across successive passes from childlike lollipops into complex textured forms. Yet what should feel absolutely real seems exactly the opposite – leaving me cold, as though I've stumbled onto a global-scale miniature train set, built by someone with too much time on their hands. What good is it, really?

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Why Cloud First should not have to mean Cloud Everywhere

HPE urges 'consciously hybrid' strategy for UK public sector

Sponsored In 2013, the UK government heralded Cloud First, a ground-breaking strategy to drive cloud adoption across the public sector. Eight years on, and much of UK public sector IT still runs on-premises - and all too often - on obsolete technologies.

Today the government‘s message boils down to “cloud first, if you can” - perhaps in recognition that modernising complex legacy systems is hard. But in the private sector today, enterprises are typically mixing and matching cloud and on-premises infrastructure, according to the best business fit for their needs.

The UK government should also adopt a “consciously hybrid” approach, according to HPE, The global technology company is calling for the entire IT industry to step up so that the public sector can modernise where needed and keep up with innovation: “We’re calling for a collective IT industry response to the problem,” says Russell MacDonald, HPE strategic advisor to the public sector.

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