Trying Out Oracle Cloud Free Tier (Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, aka OCI)


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Dec 12, 2022
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Does anyone here use Oracle Cloud or Oracle Cloud Free Tier?

For the past 15 years or so, I have operated one or two virtual private servers (VPSs) on the internet. They can be so convenient. I sign up for cheap VPSs with minimal specs. They run Linux.

Recently I signed up for an Oracle Cloud Free Tier account. As long as you do not upgrade your account, Oracle will make sure that you stay within the free tier boundaries and will not incur unexpected costs. The free tier offers 6 (?) processor cores and 24 Gbytes RAM total. (You spread them between multiple "Instances". Individual Instances have limits below the total and vary depending on the processor type - AMD, Intel, ARM). That is way more than any VPS I have ever owned.

I am just getting started with Oracle Free Tier. Here are some of the "speed bumps" that I have encountered along the way:
  • Signing up for Oracle Free Tier was time consuming and difficult. It took nearly a week and multiple attempts. The failures were many and varied, but the common thread is that you get to a certain step and then Oracle drops the ball. If anyone cares, I can share the gory details.
    • Hint: If things are not moving in the right direction after waiting 24 hours for the next step to complete, delete all of your Oracle cookies in your browser and start over.
  • OCI is very complex.
    • There are layers upon layers of granularity, which offers great flexibility. It is designed for large scale use.
    • If you are an individual user, you must choose from many options, many of which do not apply to simple, basic configurations.
      • Figuring out which options are required to get a running server is not as easy as you may imagine. There is a learning curve.
  • Documentation:
    • Finding what you need can be an exercise in frustration.
      • You search for the "simple answer" and get a complex document that is spread over multiple links with far more detail than you want or need.
        • It is like trying to set a watch, but the documentation is all about gears, springs, stems, etc. Somewhere in there is the paragraph that tells you. It is titled "chronological configuration." :-(
    • Some (much?) of Oracle's documentation is hidden behind their support wall.
      • You see a document header and know you've found the document you want. Unfortunately, the body of the document with the text is not displayed. There is a login prompt for access.
      • You need a separate account and password to view those documents.
        • I did not feel like creating yet another account with Oracle (at least not yet).
        • It wasn't obvious to me whether anyone can access the information, or only those with paid support services from Oracle.
  • Terminology:
    • You start with a Compute Instance (or just "Instance") that defines processor, RAM, OS, networking, etc.. Operating system choices are "Images". The combination of processor type, number of cores, and RAM is a "Shape". You can save your favorite configurations as "Stacks". ... etc., etc., etc.
    • You get the point.
  • Creating an "Instance" usually fails with "Out of capacity" errors.
    • Oracle cannot keep up with demand.
      • I have read that many people lose their instances or accounts if they are idle too much, so that Oracle can reclaim the resources for others.
      • Some people try to trick Oracle Cloud by setting up cron jobs that run periodically, stuff like that. I am not sure if they work.
    • I have never been able to get an "AMD" instance. My one and only success so far was an "Intel" instance.
    • Oracle defaults to an ARM processor.
      • I avoided ARM, not wanting to contend with unexpected processor software compatibility issues.
      • I am not afraid of ARM, but reducing the number of failure sources helps troubleshooting.
    • The free tier offers only the "Virtual machine" option.
      • You do not have access to the boot loader, grub, etc. You cannot perform an OS installation from a live boot.
        • (You have the option to create it externally and load it as a custom operating system image, see below.)
      • A "Bare metal machine" is available, but not in the free tier.
  • There are many operating system choices ("Images"):
    • Default Choices: Oracle Linux, Ubuntu, CentOS, Windows (additional license fee), SUSE, AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux
      • Some of them are not available for ARM. No surprise there.
      • I chose Oracle Linux 9.
    • There is also Marketplace. Marketplace offers many OS options from Oracle partners. There is a separate section with additional offerings from "the community."
    • In addition, you have the option to upload your own custom operating system images, which I did not try.
  • Networking is far more complex than a basic VPS.
    • (A typical VPS gets a public IP address, which is exposed to the internet. Attackers are banging on that VPS all the time from everywhere on the internet. It is a fact of life. Your Linux security skills are the only thing that protects your VPS from attackers.)
    • In Oracle Cloud, an OCI instance has a virtual NIC ("VNIC") that is attached to a "virtual cloud network" which may have multiple "subnets" to choose from.
      • In typical use, you get a private address space that is tied to a public IP address.
      • It operates like a firewall/router with NAT, but add complexity, layers, and options that I did not need for basic operations.
    • To enable access to a service from the internet, you must open the port on both the VLAN firewall AND the firewall on your running Instance.
      • Yes, the firewall on my Oracle Linux instance was enabled and blocking nearly everything but SSH.
    • It took time to figure out how to move SSH to an alternate port and close port 22. ... without cutting myself off from the instance.
  • Free 30 Day Trial and $300 Credit
    • Oracle gives you $300 credit for a free 30 day trial.
      • You can run Oracle features that are excluded from the free tier to try them out.
    • When the Free Trial is over, any remaining credit disappears, and you are limited to "Always Free" resources. That's fine with me.
    • To my surprise, the $300 balance is slowly dropping with my one Intel instance.
      • After a week, the balance is now $296.02.
      • -> I have not yet figured out what is causing the small charges. I haven't even figured out HOW to figure it out.
        • I am working on it, but have not found it. I get an error with one Oracle web page that may have the information.
      • If I continue, that would be equivalent to over $16 per month, which is way more than I have ever spent on a VPS. (I typically aim for $3 a month VPSs. You don't get much at that low cost.)
    • I am trusting that Oracle won't charge me real money once the 30 day trial is ended.
      • I wonder whether Oracle deletes Instances that cause charges, or just reduces its configuration to whatever makes it free tier.
        • I am betting on delete. :)
  • Connecting over SSH Using the Provided Default "opc" Account on Server
    • You connect to your new server (instance) with SSH using public key authentication.
      • You can have the system create a keypair for you, or (better!) create the keypair locally yourself and paste in the public key. I created and pasted my own public key.
    • Oracle does not give you a password for the opc account, which may be confusing to some people, including me. ...
    • -> ... Until I discovered that running "sudo" from the opc account does not prompt for a password.
      • It is the default configuration for the Oracle 9 "image" that I chose.
      • This is the first time I have seen "sudo" configured without a password prompt by default.
      • With sudo, you can do anything, including setting a password for the opc account.
  • (Personal Comment): I am rusty with Red Hat type distros, but I chose Oracle Linux 9 for my first Instance.
    • I have been running Debian 10 and 11 on my VPSs lately, and mostly Debian derivatives on my Linux virtual machines at home.
    • I used to run CentOS on VPSs, but that was years ago.
    • nftables was new to me. It wasn't hard to figure out the basics.

I had not planned to write the outline for a small book, but it feels good to share the information. I hope this helps someone. Let's see if anyone else here is using Oracle Cloud.

(Edit/Update, one day later: Added section about SSH and the opc account.)
Last edited:

Okay. I didn't expect 350 comments in a week, but I didn't expect "crickets" either. :)
-> Is anyone else here using Oracle Cloud, free tier or not?
-> Is this the wrong website for this thread? Can you recommend a better one?

Here are a few things I learned this week:

I did not mention it before, but I received two email messages from a "Cloud Trials Platform Specialist" at Oracle. I ignored the first email because I was just getting started. I figured that most of those emails are ignored anyway, and the sender would not notice or care. I replied to the second email. The response was quick and helpful - they are good people!

Here are some of the things I learned between the email reply and my own further explorations:

The Specialist commented that there is overwhelming demand, and Free Tier accounts get a lower priority than paid accounts (no surprise there). Their advice: Be patient and keep trying; eventually you will get a working instance.

My one working instance (Intel) is not in the free tier and the small charges against the 30 day $300 trial stem from that. You can see what is causing charges by looking here:
MENU(top left) ->
"Billing & Cost Management -> Subscriptions -> Click your active Subscription (XXXXXXXX – Universal Credits) -> Usage and configure the filters -> Click Apply -> On the bottom chart next to the ‘Download as CSV’ button, switch from Timeframe view to Services View and you should be able to view what service is consuming credits."

It worked for me, and that was my first clue that I had created a non-free-tier instance. I will delete the Intel instance before the 30 day $300 trial expires.

You can see a list of what is in the Oracle Free Tier here:
Additional helpful descriptions of the Compute Shapes:

You can see in the links above that the free tier ARM instances offer more cores and RAM compared with the only free AMD instance, which offers a paltry 1 Gbyte RAM. You can find a low cost VPS at that level for under $15 a year without having to fight the availability and complexity issues of Oracle Cloud Free Tier. Most vendors at that price are unreliable, but there are a few good ones.

The ARM instances offer more cores and RAM than the one available free AMD instance, which offers only a dual core CPU and 1 Gbyte RAM. The Intel instances are not free.

The two basic questions I am working on now are:
  • Which operating system would be better for a 1 Gbyte RAM AMD instance, Oracle Linux or Ubuntu? ... and why isn't Debian offered there?
  • Can you change the operating system on a given instance without deleting it and creating another?
-> Help and hints from the other members of would appreciated, or perhaps you could suggest a better website for this topic.
Okay. I didn't expect 350 comments in a week, but I didn't expect "crickets" either. :)
-> Is anyone else here using Oracle Cloud, free tier or not?
-> Is this the wrong website for this thread? Can you recommend a better one?
No I don't use it because I rent a vps else where, also Oracle can't be trusted when it comes to licensing. One day it will be free and month later they will change their licensing and you will be paying for it plus some extra bonuses.
Okay. I didn't expect 350 comments in a week, but I didn't expect "crickets" either.

We use Microsoft Azure, and AWS. However we are getting away from Azure and will probably be 100%
AWS within a few months. I have used Oracle Linux, but not the Oracle cloud.
We don't use any of the "free" stuff. You don't want to know our monthly bill.

We do have a lot of VM's, but we also have some PaaS/SaaS systems as well. We are running a couple of
Podman/Kubernetes clusters as well.
Commenting on the two posts above:
-> Thanks for the feedback, and for sharing that I am not alone here as a VPS user and "cloud tester".

@dos2unix is right - nobody should be using the free cloud services for more than hobby or testing purposes. Nothing that a business or individual depends on for reliability and availability. The same is true for the low cost VPSs that I use. If you want quality and reliability, do not rely on free clouds or low cost VPSs.
  • I currently have two AMD instances. They are small, with a single core, only 1 Gbyte RAM, and 45 Gbytes disk space.
    • One is running Oracle Linux 8
    • The other is running Ubuntu 22.04
  • I have already received a warning that I am underutilizing one of my instances. Oracle warned me that the instance will be recovered by Oracle if it does not get heavier use in the next 7 days.
  • I was unable to acquire or test an ARM instance.
    • In theory, you can get them with more RAM and cores
      • If you can actually get one.
      • I tried every day for a month.
      • After over a month of trying, I had no luck.
      • I have been told that you must switch to a paid account to actually get one.
  • Oracle Cloud was a good learning experience.
    • Mostly negative lessons.
  • I am giving up on Oracle Cloud Free Tier. Like every other "free" VPS I have tried, the value received was not worth the effort invested. Not nearly.
  • Oracle Cloud offers a lot of features and flexibility, but those features add significant complexity, especially when compared with basic VPSs.
  • The low cost VPSs that I use give a good value for very little money. They do not require constant attention; if once sits idle for a month, it will still be there. Not Oracle Cloud Free Tier.
  • You get what you pay for.
Interesting read. I worked with Oracle products for years (but not cloud, it was just coming out at the time), so I can commiserate.

Just some comments if you try out AWS Free Tier instead (fyi: I am an AWS certified Developer, Solutions Architect and Security Specialist):

-For AWS you can SSH into instances with a security key-pair, but you can also just use a CloudShell which precludes the need to configure any port access. Just hit connect and go to the command line
-For configuring security groups, NACLs, subnets, ports, etc Oracle doesn't sound much different than AWS, or probably Google. But with these big cloud companies your are basically running a virtual data center in the cloud, so that can come with complexity if you dig down to the network and security layer
-Cost for dev/sandbox stuff:

Note the 12 Month Free and Always Free check boxes to narrow your search. You can create a new 12 Month Free trial account. Email warnings are automatically sent if you approach limits in the free tier. If your year or limits are up, cancel the account and create another one (with a different email). If you keep your account after a year, Always Free covers very limited services (and not EC2 compute or storage)
-You can set up a billing alarm in AWS CloudWatch with email alerts
-If you want to play with something temporarily, just delete it when you're done. Or in the case of EC2, Stop or Hibernate your instances. You can play around with a lot of cool stuff in free tier.
-Some things will cost you even in the free tier if you leave them running by accident (like NAT gateways, or unused Elastic IP addresses)
-The Billing console gives you a clear breakdown of charges. So even though your 12 months will probably be $0 you can still see what charges and current rates would have been applied if you had a normal account
(fyi: I am an AWS certified Developer, Solutions Architect and Security Specialist):

I hope you stick around. We don't get a ton of AWS questions but they pop up now and then. None of us regulars seem to be all that versed in the matter.

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