Spilling The Tea On The Audit Exemption Promise Under Oracle’s VSAM Partner Program

Sunday, 14 April, 2024

Imagine finding the perfect Software Asset Management (SAM) partner, one who whispers the enticing promise of “no future audits” into your ear. It’s tempting to dive headfirst into this relationship, swayed by the assurance of security and ease. However, Oracle’s Verified Software Asset Management (VSAM) program and its independent alternatives suggest proceeding with caution. These programs, akin to charismatic suitors, entice with audit exemptions and the lure of drama-free management. Yet, as with any relationship, especially one orchestrated by Oracle, there’s a fine print that whispers caution: “I won’t pry, but my associate might.” This nuanced dynamic invites a closer examination of what lies beneath the surface of Oracle’s VSAM program and its implications for businesses.

While the program dangles the appealing possibility of audit exemption, it’s crucial for customers to carefully consider what this entails. It’s somewhat ironic that Oracle has positioned itself as both the source of the problem, through its aggressive audit practices, and the provider of the solution, via audit exemptions. Before you find yourself in a situationship, we explore the various facets of this program. In this blog, we aim to determine whether the offer of an Oracle audit exemption genuinely holds value or is merely an attractive facade.

Oracle VSAM Program Overview

Launched at CloudWorld 2022, Oracle’s VSAM Partner Program signifies a strategic departure from traditional, audit-focused license management. Integrated within the Oracle Partner Network (OPN), this program mandates that partners satisfy certain certification requirements, which may not necessarily reflect practical experience. Its core aim is to redistribute some of Oracle’s licensing duties to its partners, extending the reach of Oracle’s Software Investment Advisory (SIA) and Global License Advisory Services (GLAS). The program promotes an active partnership approach, with Oracle maintaining audit control to ensure a balance of autonomy and supervision.

Participation in the VSAM Program symbolizes SAM providers’ commitment to Oracle’s licensing principles, both explicit and implied, effectively pledging their loyalty to Oracle’s standards. This commitment highlights the importance for customers to carefully select their partners, with the program’s appeal largely resting on the potential for audit exemptions. Key aspects of the program include:

  • Opt-In Requirement: Customers are required to opt into the program.
  • Enrollment Process: Involves submitting a form that details the customer’s entity and the specific Oracle programs covered.
  • Confidentiality Agreement: Establishes a three-way confidentiality pact among Oracle, the SAM partner, and the customer to enable open information exchange.
  • License Inventory and Data Collection: Critical for setting a foundational license position.
  • Strategy Implementation: SAM partners guide the implementation of compliance strategies, including remediation or optimization.
  • Oracle Communication: Outlines the process for requesting an audit exemption from Oracle, contingent upon Oracle’s consent.

VSAM Program Red Flags

🚩Just a Slice of Pie, Limited Product Coverage

The program zeroes in on a specific subset of Oracle’s offerings, notably its Database, Fusion Middleware, and E-Business Suite. This targeted approach covers a significant portion of Oracle’s audit activities but notably omits Java—a glaring exclusion. This oversight prompts critical questions about how licenses for non-included products are managed and supervised. There’s a concern over the handling of information related to these products and the possibility that discrepancies in compliance might unintentionally be communicated to Oracle. Such a situation highlights the urgent need for a holistic strategy that encompasses effective license management for the entire Oracle portfolio, aiming to prevent disjointed license monitoring and the risk of accidental compliance alerts.

🚩 🚩Two-Faced, Potential for Conflict of Interests

The structure of Oracle’s VSAM Program, which assigns partners the dual role of advising on and enforcing Oracle’s licensing policies, inherently carries a risk of conflict of interest. This arrangement might lead to situations where the guidance offered is more aligned with Oracle’s financial interests rather than focusing on what’s best for the customer, particularly in matters related to license optimization and remediation strategies. Furthermore, Oracle’s partnership agreements include clauses that prevent partners from engaging in actions detrimental to Oracle’s interests. Oracle policies are not contractual, but partners that choose not to follow them, would be negatively impacting Oracle revenue and could find themselves in legal trouble with Oracle. To circumvent such conflicts, engaging with a fully independent entity, devoid of any affiliations with Oracle, is advisable. This ensures that the advice and support provided are impartial, prioritizing the customer’s needs above all.

Related: How to Avoid Conflicts of Interest in Software Asset Management

🚩 🚩 🚩Read the Fine Print, Non-Contractual Policies

Oracle’s approach to enforcing non-contractual policies during audits, such as the Partitioning Policy, raises questions about the prerequisites for obtaining an audit exemption. Specifically, if compliance with such non-contractual policies is a condition for audit exemption eligibility, participants might inadvertently commit to expenditures that exceed their contractual obligations. This scenario underscores the importance of understanding the distinction between Oracle’s stated policies and the legally binding terms of a contract. Engaging with Verified SAM (VSAM) Partner could offer audit exemptions, but it’s crucial to ascertain whether this benefit necessitates adherence to Oracle’s broader policy framework, potentially leading to unnecessary financial commitments.

🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩Trust Issues, Audit Exemption

The allure of an audit exemption from Oracle, at first glance, seems straightforward and highly beneficial. However, a deeper examination reveals a more complex reality. Such exemptions are closely tied to the continuous compliance with Oracle’s licensing terms, establishing an ongoing oversight mechanism. This scenario essentially places customers under a perpetual audit-like observation. The exemptions are conditional, hinging not only on strict adherence to licensing agreements but also on obtaining Oracle’s explicit approval. This conditional love affair introduces a layer of opacity, potentially leaving customers in the dark about the specific criteria for eligibility and the process for obtaining these exemptions. The promise of audit exemption, rather than presenting a clear advantage, unfolds a nuanced landscape where exemption comes intertwined with a series of obligations and persistent scrutiny.

🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩Privacy, Please? Confidentiality Agreement

The confidentiality agreement within the VSAM program warrants a more detailed examination. This tri-party agreement between Oracle, the SAM partner, and the customer is pivotal, as it underpins the entire framework of information sharing. It’s crucial that this agreement is robust, ensuring that sensitive data shared by the customer is protected and only used within the confines of the program’s intent. Customers should demand clear language that outlines the specific circumstances under which their information can be shared, including stringent controls over how Oracle and SAM partners can use this data. This agreement should also detail the rights of the customers regarding their own data, including transparency reports on data usage and the ability to revoke data-sharing permissions under certain conditions. Strengthening this section is like setting boundaries in a relationship — vital to safeguard customer interests and maintain trust in the program.

Audit Exemptions are an Emerging Trend in SAM

Following our recent visit to an industry conference, it’s clear that audit exemptions are becoming a significant trend within the realm of Oracle’s software asset management. Notably, we encountered a new independent Oracle audit exemption program that’s stirring quite the conversation, reminiscent of the VSAM Partner program but with its own nuances.

The pitch is intriguing: they claim, “No data is shared with Oracle,” yet also assert that “Oracle trusts us to carry out this work.” This dual claim is like saying, “We are exclusive, but it’s complicated.” When has Oracle ever extended such trust without expecting something in return? This situation raises red flags, suggesting that while the offer of an audit exemption might seem appealing, it could come with strings attached.

The broader conversation around audit exemptions suggests a trade-off: to secure an exemption, you might find yourself agreeing to overpay or adhere to Oracle’s non-contractual policies—practices that Oracle has long promoted. Essentially, if you’re enjoying the peace of mind that comes with an exemption, it’s likely at a premium.

Oracle is no stranger to offering a “no audit’ clause when customers are willing to overpay for licenses. This is particularly evident with Oracle Unlimited License Agreements (ULAs). In more than 80% of instances, customers would benefit financially from either certifying their current use or exiting these ULAs, as they often end up significantly overpaying for the licenses they actually require. This suggests that Oracle is willing to forego audit rights if customers are willing to pay a premium for their licenses, indicating a strategic trade-off between cost and compliance peace of mind. Such a strategy underscores the importance of carefully evaluating the cost-benefit of audit exemptions and considering the long-term financial implications under the VSAM program.


Engaging in an Oracle-endorsed audit exemption program essentially means you’re appointing a Software Asset Management (SAM) provider to echo Oracle’s potential audit findings. This arrangement doesn’t just risk you paying more than necessary for your licenses; it also involves compensating a third party to recommend that you keep overpaying. Essentially, you’re investing extra to get advice on maintaining your expenditure at elevated levels, without introducing substantial benefits or enhancements to your license management approach. This scenario is like paying for a VIP concert ticket only to watch the show on a screen outside the venue — underscores a significant lack of value proposition. It amplifies your expenses without delivering corresponding advantages or insights that could justify the additional outlay.

In contrast, LicenseFortress presents a value proposition that cuts through this cycle of overpayment. Unlike the potentially costly advice under the VSAM program, LicenseFortress stands by the accuracy of its recommendations with a financial guarantee. If their guidance results in a need for additional licenses, they cover the costs, offering an exemption from overpaying that truly makes a difference. This commitment ensures that organizations not only avoid unnecessary expenses but also receive genuinely independent, value-driven advice tailored to their specific needs.

Choose a partner that offers real value, not just promises.

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