Oracle overhauls support policy for acquired apps

Looking to reassure those of its installed base who are reluctant to migrate from their existing applications, Oracle is overhauling its support policy.

At the Oracle OpenWorld users conference in San Francisco Monday, executives began outlining a new policy that will, to varying degrees, ensure that the company's various families of applications have lifetime support. At the same time, Oracle will continue to develop a best-of-breed set of applications, known as Fusion, which customers will have the option of migrating to at their own pace.

Oracle hopes in this way to help prevent any of its newly acquired installed base, which now includes users of PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards software, from bolting to rivals, such as SAP, who play on their fears of obsolescence.

Some PeopleSoft users in particular are very reluctant to switch platforms, said Juergen Rottler, executive vice president of Oracle On Demand and support services. So Oracle intends to give them more time to decide when they want to upgrade.

There will be two different types of support. One, called premier, provides support for the Oracle database, middleware and applications for five years from general release. This support level includes updates, fixes and security alerts, as well as tax- and regulatory-related patches.

On the sixth year, said Rottler, customers who want extended support at the same level will pay an additional 10 percent fee. For the next two years, that fee increase will be 20 percent; after that it will drop back to its original level. "We're not introducing this to generate incremental revenue," Rottler said, arguing that the program will offer much more simplicity for customers.

For the long term, Oracle will also offer a "sustaining" level of support, which permits customer access to the company's MetaLink technical assistance offering as well as pre-existing fixes. That support option, however, won't include security, tax or legal updates. Customers can, however, purchase specific fixes for an additional fee.

Oracle also said it is extending the EnterpriseOne XE premier support through 2013. It originally planned to halt support in 2007.

That's welcome news to at least one user group.

"One of the ongoing fears of users is desupport," said Pat Dues, president of the independent Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG). Customers have been worried that as Oracle pushes on with Fusion, their applications will be left behind. Dues said more specific information is needed about issues such as what the increased costs might be, and she noted that the cost of maintaining applications on some older hardware platforms is likely to rise.

Dues added that OAUG's customer support council will be working with Oracle on such matters.

One of the outstanding issues to arise from Oracle's announced buyout of rival CRM vendor Siebel Systems Inc. is what will happen to the latter's OnDemand offering. These hosted applications run off an IBM database platform, and there have been fears that Oracle is likely to switch to its own database.

Rottler said that for the user, the infrastructure platform for OnDemand is irrelevant. Customers would still get the same hosted service.

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