Oracle's software is freely available for personal use but you'll have to pay for access to technical notes, patches, and other specialized content. Plus, there's a technical/legal catch; you can't use My Own Support to find database articles under a different product license. In terms of compliance, you really need a database product. Enter Oracle Database Personal Edition.
We all know that virtually all of Oracle's software is freely available for personal use, particularly along the lines of your own education and training. The software download section at Oracle Technology Network presents at least one version or release of a product. Unlike the try before you buy trial approach at Microsoft (typically with a 180-day license) what you get from Oracle is good until the end of time. However, what you do not get is access to My Oracle Support (MOS). If you want to go beyond what is free and want to have access to technical notes, patches, and other specialized content or information, you have to be willing to pay in order to take the next step.
What is the least expensive Oracle product you can personally license? You can browse through all products at Oracle Store and see some fairly low prices, or at least prices that won't necessarily break the bank. One version of WebLogic Server (Standard Edition) looks like it rings in pretty low, but that pesky minimum number of users (under the Named User Plus license metric) kicks in and the price goes up by about a factor of 10. On the other hand, it depends upon whom you're dealing with. A sales person at Oracle told me the minimum number of users is 10, but upon checkout at Oracle Store, only one user is required. Using the online store, your cost is $200 for the license, $44 for annual support, plus depending where you live, a few extra dollars for state, county, city and district taxes.
Upon providing your credit card and billing address information, you get a Customer Support Identifier (CSI) number right away. Once you have a CSI, the next step in gaining access to My Oracle Support is to register your CSI at MOS. However, you don't gain access right away as it takes around 24 hours for MOS to recognize the CSI. The email you get from Oracle Store suggests that you can contact Oracle Support if you need access sooner rather than later.
In reality, that is practically a myth. Depending upon which path you take in the automated attendant voice system (press "1" if whatever, etc.), you can wind up talking to someone in an accounting department in Australia, or being disconnected while waiting to speak to an engineer via the create a new service request process. Probably not the type of support you were hoping to get, but the process does eventually work.
Logon to My Oracle Support and you will be prompted to acknowledge some terms and conditions, and since this is your own personal account, you also get to be the administrator. Fill out a second page containing your personal information (name, address, phone number) and then submit the form. After that, you are ready to start browsing MOS.
However, here is the technical/legal catch: if you are using MOS to find database articles under a different product license (such as WebLogic Server), you are not in compliance with the terms and conditions of your support contract. To be honest in terms of compliance (and Oracle does state that your use of MOS can be monitored), what you really need is a database product. Enter Oracle Database Personal Edition.
Oracle Store gives the following description of this product:
Oracle Database Personal Edition is designed to provide software developers a cost effective, yet full featured Oracle Database environment on which to develop, test and run custom or packaged applications. Designed without technical limits, time bombs or other "gotchas", the Personal Edition provides all the power of the Oracle Database at a very attractive price point. With its ability to handle virtually any type or size of data, from gigabytes of transactions to terabytes of XML data, the Personal Edition takes you a significant step towards mastery of the Oracle environment.
You get everything that is included in the Enterprise Edition except for RAC. More importantly, you get access to support resources, which includes technical documentation not found in the public domain (what would you look for during a health check of your database?), patches, and help with issues.
It is highly unlikely your issues with the personal edition would ever rise to the stature of an SEV 1 service request, but you should be able to get help above and beyond what you may find on public Q&A forums, including those at OTN.
There are at least three arguments for going down the road of purchasing and licensing this product. First, let's say you want to venture out into the consulting world. Having access to support services (obviously, not submitting SRs on a client's behalf using your account, but you can at least ask questions) adds to your credibility and professionalism. It shows you are invested in your profession.
Second, suppose you become unemployed and are out of work for several months (or more). What are you doing to stay current with Oracle? Those job postings with requirements for having used ASM, Streams, or whatever? Why not browse through the knowledge base and read up on topics such as those, or find best practices notes and the like? Or, read through the more than 120 notes covering a database health check. Ever change employers and lose all your bookmarked notes? Not anymore with your own CSI.
Finally, you have your own private workspace in which to ask questions that may not otherwise be appropriate to ask while using an employer-sponsored CSI. Or, you may not be allowed to create an SR because the administrator or management has capped or limited who can do things like that. With your own account, you can do whatever you'd like in this regard.
So, what does Oracle Database Personal Edition cost? Aside from the minimum number of users (and to state the obvious in case it isn't: very few personal users are going to be licensing anything at the proce$$or level), another issue to consider is the maintenance fee. Are you buying or investing for a limited time, or forever (perpetual)?
If you need access to My Oracle Support at the lowest possible cost, then whatever you buy should be at the one year of support level. If you are looking at this purchase as a long-term investment, then your purchase should be at the perpetual level.
Based on a Named User Plus metric (i.e., you) with a perpetual term, you are looking at $460 plus $101.20 (first year's maintenance fee). You will probably also have to pay city, county, state and district (whatever that is) taxes. My total cost was just over $600. I asked about licensing this edition through the services of a sales rep, but was told that for orders under $3000, you have to use Oracle Store.
Is the cost worth it? I think so. Aside from the up front cost, the annual cost going forward isn't any different when compared to what you'd spend buying a couple of books about Oracle. Documentation is always being added to the knowledge base, and those items typically go beyond what you're likely to find in a third party book. Another way to look at the cost is to consider it an investment in your career. Over the long term, it's really a small price to pay.