One thing our team hears frequently from customers is a variation on “I have to upgrade so that my database will be supported.” This statement just drives me crazy and I will get into the details of why in this article. For the short version as long as you are paying Oracle for support your database is supported regardless of the version.
First up, there are two terms surrounding support that need to be understood and Oracle takes every opportunity to conflate them as to cause confusion with the customer base. These terms are:certified and supported.
When referencing the term certified, this simply is an operating system version and Oracle software combination. For example, Oracle Database 19.X.X.X is certified for use with Linux 7.x and 8.x. This information comes directly for the “Certification” tab in My Oracle Support. Optionally, if you have no MOS account and too much time on your hands you can obtain certification information from the version specific product docs.
Bonus tangential rant. At House of Brick, we have heard from many of our clients over the years that someone from Oracle has told them that VMware or that some other hardware or virtualization platform is not “certified.” Technically they are correct. This is because Oracle only certifies the OS, not anything that runs “under” it. Again, intentional confusion to scare the customer into something that is beneficial to the Oracle Sales rep rather than what is in the best interest of the customer.
Again, as long as you are paying for support, you are supported. The information from Oracle is no longer as straight forward as it use to be. The relevant doc was called the Lifetime Support Policy that has since been replaced by a few web pages, and a chart of versions and dates. To summarize the links, Oracle has three levels of support: Premier, Extended, and Sustaining support. The details for each are:
For the first 5 years that a product has been GA it falls under Premier support. This level of support is just what you would expect. You get a long list of benefits with the primary ones being:
- The ability to open a service request 24/7.
- Software updates/upgrades.
- Access to the quarterly security patches.
- These have gone by many names over the years, I am simply calling them the quarterly security patches.
Also, under this level of support if you find a new bug Oracle is supposed to work with you to provide a patch. There is no real guarantee that they will provide a patch for your specific version. You may have to perform a minor version upgrade.
Oracle does list several other “benefits” to Premier Support, I simply listed those that most are actually concerned with.
Extended Support is available after Premier Support ends for up to another 3 years. Extended Support is an extra cost on top of the normal annual support renewal. It is an extra 10% for the first year and an extra 20% for years 2 and 3. You may see these listed as years 6-8 as the first 5 years are Premier Support.
Extended Support provides most everything that Premier Support does. The only thing that Oracle drops between the two is “certification with 3rd party products.” The typical concern for most Oracle customers here is quarterly security patches. Also, if you find a new bug, they are not likely going to back port the fix.
Sustaining Support is for any version that is not in Premier Support or if you choose not to pay for Extended Support. With Sustaining Support, you can:
- Open a support ticket on any version you have running.
- Have access to any patch that already exists.
- You will not have access to any Extended Support quarterly security patch if you did not pay for Extended Support.
- Have access to new software versions so that you can upgrade.
Sustaining Support is why I say if you are paying for support you are supported. As long as you have been paying for support since the early 80s you can open a support request on version 2.3 if you need to.
Exceptions and Changes
As with any policy there are exceptions and changes over time and the Lifetime Support Policy is no different. First up, there have been a few times in the past when Oracle has given away a free year or two of Extended Support. Basically, everyone got free security patches for a little while.
Starting with the change to year-based versions (18, 19, 21) Oracle changed to an innovation and long-term support release schedule. The innovation releases only get 3 years of Premier Support and are not eligible for Extended Support. Currently, only version 19 is a long-term support version. Both 18 and 21 only have 3 years of Premier support.
Why am I unsupported?
Why do various sales and support organizations say that you are unsupported when running an old version? Most of the time it simply means that the version is out of Premier support and the quarterly security patches are no longer “free.” Free being a bit of a loose term as you are paying for Support. If you are ok with the terms of Sustaining Support, then feel free to run older versions that are out of Premier Support and do not pay for Extended Support. However, do check in with your Security and Compliance departments as they may have something to say about it all.
Do you have questions? House of Brick’s team of experts can help. With our help, monitor database feature usage automatically, validate all usage against valid license entitlements, and flag all non-compliant events in one dashboard, in real time. Contact us to get started.