Oracle raised more questions about the viability of third-party application support when it released on Nov. 26 a system that enables customers to tap Oracles own computer systems to manage their installed software configurations.
Unveiled at Oracles massive OpenWorld conference earlier this month, the Software Configuration Manager collects and integrates detailed and dynamic system configuration information from Oracle users. Oracle then uses that information to provide automated—and personalized—support to users.
Even the mention of upgraded application support from Oracle raises the question of whether any third-party support alternatives remain viable, lower-cost options for customers—with Oracle charging that SAPs TomorrowNow division violated Oracles copyrights.
Oracles suit against SAP alleges that TomorrowNow, which provides third-party support for Oracles PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel applications, stole code from Oracles support Web site. Oracle is offering another option to third-party support—at a cost of 50 cents on the dollar, an attractive option for some customers—with its Configuration Manager.
"Theres a lot going on here [with Oracle implementations]. How do you keep track? Oracle Configuration Manager," said Oracle President Charles Phillips during his keynote address at OpenWorld. "We can track all the configurations you have as a customer. We can see the platform distribution and the various flavors of software installed. I as a customer have consented to share this information with Oracle."
Phillips said that using the resulting information pushed out from Configuration Manager provides some "exciting applications." Namely, customers have the ability to look at knowledge items generated by Configuration Manager and, for example, see what patches need to be applied and then drill down to apply the patch.
Chuck Rozwat, head of development at Oracle, said during Phillips keynote address that Oracle has already had thousands of customers load Configuration Manager on Oracles database and have allowed Oracle to use business intelligence capabilities to recommend support items based on customers configurations.
"The more we know about a customers environment, the more we can help rather than the customer repeating the same mistakes," said Phillips.
Based on Oracles Enterprise Manager software, Configuration Manager is the foundation of a new "support experience" the company is providing for customers through a compilation of support tools and services, according to Oracle.
But despite the evolution of support options, the question remains: With the current de-evolution of the third-party support capabilities brought on by Oracles lawsuit against SAP and its subsidiary TomorrowNow, does Oracle—and other software vendors—have customers locked in for life? While its still too early to tell, some customer comments on blogs belie a new wariness in third-party support.
"Could you tell me any major application software excluding open source software that can be supported by other unauthorized third party companies? Maybe SAP?" writes on commenter to a MarketWatch blog. "The answer is none. That is not a legitimate workable business model!"
While other respondents to the MarketWatch blog are in favor of third-party support—and the business model—Oracles allegations of code theft on the part of TomorrowNow (SAP admitted to some improper downloads of support documentation) have clearly spooked customers.
On the flip side, not all customers are turning away from the option. TomorrowNow competitor Rimini Street said that its business has quadrupled since Oracle first launched its suit in April. On Nov. 20 Rimini Street announced support for PeopleSoft Campus Solution—a business the company was pulled into, given the demand from colleges and universities, according to Seth Ravin, the companys CEO.
"Higher education institutions using PeopleSoft Campus Solutions tell us they want more value for their annual maintenance fees in the years ahead," said Ravin, in a statement. "Many institutions operate heavily customized systems, and its cost prohibitive for them to upgrade frequently to new releases they do not need or want."
Ravin said in an interview with eWEEK that he is interested in acquiring TomorrowNow, but that he will have to look at the benefits first.
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