Oracle, Tone Deaf No Longer, Scores a Hit on SAP

Oracle, from the top down, has always been thought of as a take-no-prisoners marketing organization. Feisty, aggressive, even combative – and often tone-deaf when it comes to PR messages. But last week, they made an unexpected decision to waive extended support fees for a series of their products (official release here.) Against the backdrop of a raging software industry debate over maintenance costs, this was a sweet and pleasing note to Oracle’s customers, and stands in stark contrast to, say, SAP’s ongoing battle to defend its price hike for maintenance.

Ray Wang, who has been a passionate advocate for rethinking the value of software maintenance, offers a thoughtful look at the announcement and some of the issues it raises here. Cynics may point to the delays in some of the products’ upgrade or integration schedules, but the fact is, there is nothing unusual about delays in the software industry. What is unusual is that Oracle confronted it, and chose to do something visibly helpful to its customers.

And yes, there’s a little cynic in me too – I can’t help but observe that as SAP’s customers are assembling in Orlando for Sapphire, their biggest gathering of the year, Oracle has grabbed a little press about this. SAP’s news, by contrast, has been about making commitments to SAP User Group Executive Network (Sugen), a global federation of 12 key SAP user groups, about how SAP will be required to meet key performance indicators before it can execute on a planned raising of its maintenance costs to 22%. A quick scan of press coverage shows journalists painting this as a reluctant move, even a defeat, for SAP. And Rimini Street has promptly moved to add SAP support – at lower prices, of course – to its offerings.

Coverage of Oracle’s move, by contrast, features headlines about “giving customers a break,” although cooler heads are beginning to prevail and drill in deeper. Nonetheless, one has to ask: who’s tone deaf now?

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

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