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Moving to a “per employee” pricing model could significantly increase subscription costs.

As of January 23, 2023, Oracle has overhauled its Java SE subscription plan making the use of Java potentially far more expensive for organizations than the previous plan.

Oracle’s 2023 per-employee pricing for standard Java is raising concerns about its potential impact on Java licensing costs for customers. That is because the new pricing is based on total employee counts, not the number of employees using Java.

The Java SE Universal subscription has replaced the legacy Java SE subscription the company first launched in 2018, which was charged per processor for servers and cloud instances, and per user for PCs.

Here’s what the changes mean

The price list, published last week, shows costs starting at $15 per employee for companies with 1-999 employees, and scaling down to a minimum of $5.25 for companies with 40,000+ employees.

Possibly even more troubling is that Oracle has defined Employee very broadly as “(i) all of Your full-time, part-time, temporary employees, and (ii) all of the full-time employees, part-time employees and temporary employees of your agents, contractors, outsourcers, and consultants that support your internal business operations”.

What this means for organizations is that regardless of their number of Java users or server footprint, they must now count every employee, contractor, consultant, and agent to determine their Java subscription bill. Companies could potentially incur a massive subscription fee increase – and one that may have very little actual benefit to the company’s operation.

Oracle puts a positive spin the new pricing model

Oracle’s Java SE Universal Subscription FAQ page does not address the difference in pricing metrics for the new scheme. Instead, under the rubric What is the difference between a Java SE Universal Subscription and the legacy Java SE Subscription and Java SE Desktop Subscription products? Oracle focuses on the positive.

The first difference is that permitted use is universal across desktop, servers, and third party clouds. This change results in “greatly simplifying tracking and management of your licensed environment”, according to Oracle.

In addition, Java SE Universal Subscription Customers get triage support of their entire Java portfolio, including third party libraries and runtimes. “As the stewards of the Java platform, Oracle is uniquely positioned to provide this offering”, the company states.