Is Oracle’s software support fit for purpose?

Are you one of the big businesses that rely on Oracle software? Perhaps you’ve been using it for a long time now, but that’s ok because you’re paying top dollar for a comprehensive software maintenance support package. After all, you don’t want to jeopardise your Oracle software investment. They are one of the world’s leading software providers, so paying them for support means that you are completely covered, right?

Not necessarily.

Out with the old, in with the new

Once upon a time there lived a large corporation that spent a small fortune on Oracle databases and middleware to be the reliable data workhorses for their operations. Does that sound like somebody you know? When a company has invested significant sums of capital and project time into such ‘systems’, it is understandable therefore that they are not keen to constantly upgrade to the latest version. Oracle does not like this, not one bit. Oracle typically offers Premier Support packages for the first five years, with the option for customers to buy Extended Support for an additional three years. If customers stick with their software after this additional period of 3 years without choosing to upgrade, Oracle then moves them to Sustaining Support for as long as those product versions are supported – essentially, they pay for continuing support from Oracle.

However, Oracle has a reputation for not wanting customers to do this – which is strange as this represents Billions of revenues from support contracts. What Oracle wants to do with customers like these is to wean them off older legacy software versions and support, which reduces Oracle’s support and resources costs. For those companies stubborn enough to swerve the canny sales skills of Oracle by choosing not to migrate to the cloud, they remain assured that all is well in their world because they enjoy the protective umbrella that is Oracle Extended Support. However, they might not be aware that this next stage of support (Sustaining Support) represents continued significant costs and offers customers less features and significantly reduced protection.

(Un)Sustaining Support

Cybersecurity is a number one priority for organisations of all shapes and sizes. So, whilst Oracle customers enjoy access to old fixes and the right to upgrade to the latest version, what they don’t get are security updates or new bugs dealt with. For any large company, this is completely untenable in the face of a tide of cybersecurity threats, especially the likes of ransomware which can be financially crippling for any organisation breached in this way. If you are a customer running older software versions and are affected by even well-known bugs, Oracle chooses to patch only newer versions of software. For example, Oracle is currently pushing organisations to upgrade to its Version 19 database. But if you continue to run an older Version of this database and something goes awry, Oracle’s fallback position is that customers should upgrade. Great for Oracle, not so great for the customer faced with an expensive and time-consuming upgrade, with inconsequential levels of benefit.

So, whilst Oracle is compelling customers to spend millions in upgrading their systems to get around the problem, a potentially messy and long-haul fix that can take years to implement, why are customers’ existing Oracle products not supported and secure? Unsurprising, therefore, to see that Gartner expects the third-party enterprise software support market to grow to $1.05 billion by 2023, a 200% increase from 2019! It’s easy to understand why enterprise executives are increasingly exploring these options.

The bigger picture

By our own calculations and based on our knowledge of the industry, up to 80% of organisations in key UK industry sectors (utilities, energy, retail, banking) are potentially subscribed to Oracle Sustaining Support. It is very worrying to see those vital aspects of the UK’s national infrastructure are therefore weakened in the face of cybersecurity threats. And it begs the question – even though Oracle is providing (un)Sustaining Support for such organisations, who will be held accountable if something does go wrong? The best that they can hope for is that Oracle offers them market-driven support if a high number of customers in any one segment are running older software versions – but this is a scattergun approach and not a robust way to implement corporate cybersecurity strategy. And even though Market-driven Support will only usually provide security patches for the most severe cybersecurity threats, which means businesses could be left exposed elsewhere. This is not the situation businesses want to be in.

Executives from the C-suite, particularly CIOs, are often in the dark when it comes to the detail of their Oracle deployments and are probably happy with this status quo. And whilst technically you can interrogate the Oracle Knowledge Base, it is far from simple for an organisation to extract a full understanding of their likely exposure to cyber threats, without a comprehensive investigation. So, is it Oracle’s way or the highway? Should organisations keep toeing the ad-hoc support line or get jostled into an upgrade. Is there a viable alternative?

There is. Third-party support is a first-rate alternative that delivers an average of 62% cost savings accompanied by comprehensive support delivered by highly skilled senior engineers. And along with high quality service you get peace of mind knowing that security is being properly addressed whilst all along, your investment in Oracle technology continues to be protected.

With all of this in mind, isn’t it time you looked outside of Oracle for your software maintenance support?

Martin Biggs

As Spinnaker Support’s Vice President and General Manager EMEA, Martin Biggs is responsible for driving the sales and operational management of SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce services in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

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