Traditionally, Oracle software is sold “forever,” i.e. on a perpetual license. However, it is also available on what is called a term license – for a limited number of years at some fraction of the cost of a perpetual license.
The Oracle price list states:
Term licensing available for all Oracle Products. The list price for a term license is based on a specific percentage of the perpetual license price. Annual terms licenses are available from 1 to 5 years: 1 year – 20% of list; 2 year – 35% of list, 3 year – 50% of list, 4 year 60% of list and 5 year 70% of list. Support for all term licenses is 22% of net perpetual fee.
Plotting cost vs. years used gives the following graph. (The example is Oracle WebCenter Suite, but that only affects the dollar amounts, not the trend.)
Obviously, if you intend to use the software for 10 years or more, a perpetual license is cheapest. That might be a good idea for the database, but there are many other Oracle products in areas where the technology is not quite settled yet. In these areas, you can minimize your risk by purchasing short-term licenses.