Some Oracle customers face looming support fee rise

A number of major Oracle releases will soon enter extended and sustaining support, leading to higher costs

Oracle customers on a range of significant releases have a choice to make this year: Upgrade, or potentially pay more for support.

While Oracle provides five years of Premier Support after a product's general availability, after that period comes extended and sustaining support, which cost more and provide fewer benefits.

Extended Support will end later this year for PeopleSoft FMS/ESA 8.8, as well as for ELS 8.81 and HRMS 8.8, according to a document on Oracle's website.

JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.12 and JD Edwards CRM Mobile Sales 8.12 go into Extended Support next month. E-Business Suite 12 and Siebel CRM 8.0.x enter Extended Support in January 2012.

Oracle has made concessions to users regarding support windows, citing the global economic downturn. In 2009, it announced that first-year extended support fees on some releases would be waived.

Oracle has no plans to provide any general extensions to those waivers, according to a spokeswoman. However, it has since announced a number of platform-specific Extended Support fee waivers for Database 10gR2, as well as a first-year waiver of Extended Support fees for PeopleSoft Enterprise 9, she said.

A number of PeopleSoft Enterprise 9 modules are set to enter Extended Support this year, according to Oracle's site.

Under Extended Support, which lasts for three years, customers get the benefits of Premier Support, save for the fact that certifications may not be available for new versions of third-party applications.

Sustaining Support comes next and is available indefinitely, but omits key services such as new tax and regulatory updates; new critical patches; and new certifications with both Oracle and third-party products.

Support deadlines have been a hot topic among members of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG), and will surely also be at the group's Collaborate 11 conference in April, said John Schmitz, who serves on the organization's Customer Support Council.

Users have "a lot of concern" about the cost and complexity of upgrades, said Schmitz, who is also an E-Business Suite project leader at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's IT department. "I think they'd welcome all the help they can get."

Oracle recently made a "big step forward" in this direction with the release of a number of detailed guides that walk customers through specific upgrade processes, Schmitz said.

UW-Madison is going through an E-Business Suite upgrade, and is finding a related document to be a great help. "We're using it as a single source for shopping for information regarding the project," he said. However, the team is still evaluating whether it wants to closely follow the entire methodology laid out in the guide, he said.

Meanwhile, expiring Oracle support windows have third-party support companies like Rimini Street eager to offer another choice.

"We present an alternative to having to go through an upgrade," said David Rowe, senior vice president of global marketing and alliances.

Rimini Street's service provides ongoing technical support as well as tax and regulatory upgrades; the company says customers will save at least 50 percent on their existing support bills.

But Rimini Street and the third-party software market in general have been clouded somewhat by litigation. Oracle sued a former SAP subsidiary, TomorrowNow, which also sold third-party support services, claiming intellectual property theft. SAP admitted liability for TomorrowNow's actions and a jury awarded Oracle US$1.3 billion last year.

Oracle subsequently sued Rimini Street, which is led by TomorrowNow co-founder Seth Ravin, lodging similar charges. Rimini Street has vigorously denied any wrongdoing.

Schmitz hasn't heard much buzz among OAUG members regarding third-party support, but imagines that sentiment "runs the whole range" from embarking on upgrades to considering a break with Oracle support, he said.

While Oracle executives have been responsive to OAUG, the group is hoping to work more closely with other user organizations such as IOUG (Independent Oracle Users Group) and Quest, to present a broader front on support issues, according to Schmitz.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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