Oracle Embraces the Customer

Touting his company's commmitment to service, Larry Ellison in his AppsWorld keynote says Oracle will help customers upgrade to Version 11i of its E-Business software suite.

Oracle Corp.s message to its customers is clear: The company is here to help.

The implication is that customers need it.

With the resounding message at last years Oracle AppsWorld of Come to us for everything, and well get you most of what you need when we get to it, Oracles Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison has changed his tune.

In an about-face message to Oracle users Tuesday during his keynote speech at this years AppsWorld, Ellison stressed that Oracle is available to help customers upgrade--in some cases at no cost.

Oracle released its 11i E-Business software suite last spring with a plethora of bugs and glitches. Now in its sixth iteration, only about 10 percent of the companys 12,000 customers have upgraded.

Using subdued tones in a lighted auditorium, the typically flamboyant Ellison detailed a number of upgrade paths customers can take, from a newly announced your place or our place outsourcing model to a free, dedicated virtual private network line to Oracle consultants.

"Were pretty confident--even though the process is fairly complicated and has lots of steps--that we can get you from 10.7 to 11i predictably and safely," said Ellison. "We think its something you should look at."

In a furious battle for market share against rivals SAP AG and PeopleSoft Inc., Ellison said that the level of service Oracle is providing to customers is the single biggest change the company has made this past year.

Despite the comforting overtones, customers remain wary. During the question and answer period of the keynote address, one IT professional wanted to know if Oracle would purchase his companys software and hardware, pay for his WAN investment and rehire his staff should he go to the full outsource model Oracle has touted this week in San Diego.

"We will pick up your entire IT spend," said Ellison. "We will guarantee that what you currently spend for technology will decline 5 percent every year for the next five years.

"At the same time, we will replace all of your hardware, your WAN contracts, your desktops. Well take over your entire IT shop, well hire your people and take over your existing contracts, your existing hardware and migrate you to the Oracle suite. Thats a seven-year contract with us, and we guarantee youll get the entire e-business suite."

Standing by his message from previous keynotes that customers should look to standardize on vanilla implementations of 11i, Ellison said it is a "terrible mistake" to change Oracles code.

"Its OK to add to our code; modifications should be necessary, and it should be easy for you to extend and add a simple custom system thats unique for your company, but it should be absolutely unnecessary for you to change the code we provide to you."

When asked what Oracle is doing to support legacy integration, Ellison sidestepped the question by saying his is the only company with the majority of new development utilizing Java and XML, which allows users to put Web services interfaces on applications.

In respect to Web services, Ellison said users are being duped.

"[The concept that] any application can talk to any application is just nonsense," said Ellison. "How many of these things do we need in this industry before people figure out that there is no magic?"