knowledge & insights

Report Concerning NASA’s Software Deployments Reveals Agency Grounded by Fear of An Oracle Audit

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a glorious history of fearless space exploration. But when the stars foretold a possible audit by Oracle of its software deployments, NASA failed to achieve liftoff, thereby wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.

In The Register piece regarding a recent report published by NASA’s Office of Inspector General, we learned remarkable details regarding how an atmosphere of fear and trepidation impacted NASA’s management of its Oracle software deployments. Indeed, the remarkable facts set forth in the report hit directly on the tenets that shaped the formation of Beeman & Muchmore: namely, the waste of unmanaged software entitlements and the justified (but manageable) fear of Oracle’s auditing machine.

In the recent report, NASA’s Office of Inspector General observed that the agency has exposed itself to several risks as a result of poor Software Asset Management (SAM), rating NASA’s SAM capabilities as ‘basic’ (the lowest ranking) with “management of the software life cycle largely decentralized and ad hoc." Among other things, the report calls for NASA to immediately set its SAM straight.

NASA is currently analyzing where it went wrong and how it can vastly improve. From The Register:

The report uses the example of NASA's Oracle deal to demonstrate the issues, detailing how the agency was "unwilling to risk a license audit by Oracle because of the lack of solid, centralized visibility into deployment and use of the software."

Officials in NASA's office of the CIO told the Office of Inspector General they "knew better than to try our luck with an audit."

"Simply put, merely the potential threat of being audited by the vendor encouraged overbuying when the accuracy of Agency Software Asset Management was suspect," the report states.

Here is a rundown of the most striking statements from the report:

  • NASA spent $15 million on Oracle software it didn't use.
  • Overspend on Oracle licenses has been an issue for over ten years.
  • The costs of licensing have not been adequately tracked, so full costs are unknown.
  • It is estimated that NASA overspent around $35 million in five years on fines and overpayments.
  • “Funding and staffing shortfalls” are a large part of NASA’s SAM shortcomings.
  • Oracle licensing terms on products NASA purchased to support Space Shuttle processing have “made transitioning to a competitor difficult due to proprietary technologies.”
  • True Oracle costs are being quantified as current/excessive licensing vs. desired/appropriate licensing is being reviewed.
  • During FY 2021 alone, NASA paid $4.36 million in software license violation penalties with a suspicion that “other payments may have been made over the last five years – probably to the tune of $20 million.”
  • Implementing SAM would likely cost $3 million and $2.5 million a year to operate.
  • NASA has plans for the commencement of a SAM pilot in October 2023 but does not expect an agency-wide implementation to be complete until 2027.

While NASA’s visibility and marquee value resulted in its Oracle software deployment problems receiving significant media coverage, Beeman & Muchmore knows that these issues go far beyond the travails of the space agency. Indeed, fear of Oracle’s predatory licensing practices permeates all corners of the world of commerce, and we intend to maintain our gaze on Oracle to better serve our clients.

Published on January 23, 2023

Software licensors are known for vague contracts—they’ve made a business of it. 

Read the latest industry news.

Recommended Reading