Oracle Users Take Aim at High Costs, Security Silence

While Oracle gets high marks for its technology, customers rate it "significantly lower" than IBM in five categories, and fewer than half of IT professionals surveyed say they trust Oracle.

A growing number of Oracle users are not happy with what theyre getting.

Why? The products cost too much. The products are suddenly springing security leaks. DBAs now have a god-awful amount of patches to install, and nobody told them they were coming or what they meant. Technical support has been outsourced and automated, meaning you cant talk to a human being unless you pay ample money for the privilege.

Those are just some of the details behind Oracle Corp.s sagging customer reputation, which is now at a 12-year low, according to a report put out earlier this month by Techtel Corp.

Techtel measured the database giant against competitors such as Microsoft Corp. and IBM by surveying about 650 U.S. businesspeople with buying influence or purchase authority for IT and communications products and services.

According to Mike Kelly, author of the report and CEO of the Emeryville, Calif., market analysis firm, those surveyed were asked to rate Oracle on product features and functions, service and support, standards and compatibility, vendor reliability and accountability, and pricing and licensing. Oracle came out "significantly lower" on all five ratings when compared with IBM, Kelly said.

The report offered tantalizing facts but no specifics behind the numbers. For example, the report found that one in four potential Oracle customers has a negative opinion of Oracle. That compares with about one in 10 potential IBM customers who has a negative opinion.

The report also found that fewer than half of IT professionals surveyed trust Oracle, compared with 80 percent who trust IBM. A large portion of those distrusting professionals work for organizations that employ more than 5,000 employees, making the lack of trust a serious threat to Oracles future revenue, the report postulated.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Oracles most recent earnings report.

The researchers didnt ask why customers are losing trust and respect for Oracle, but users contacted for this story were happy to supply specifics.

Mike Wessler, a contractor for Indianapolis-based Perpetual Technologies Inc., said there are two basic veins of enterprise unhappiness with Oracle: managerial and technical. "The people who have to pay the Oracle licenses, which have never been cheap," are unhappy with Oracle because of high costs, he said.

On the technical side, unhappiness is growing because of two convergent causes, Wessler said: new products with features that dont always work as promised, and the outsourcing of support.

"[Oracle has] a lot of new products out, with a lot of new features that dont always work as promised," he said. "Then, when youre forced to use them, you have to go through Oracle support services. The change has been [coming about] over the past couple of years, with a lot of outsourcing to India. In many cases, its difficult to communicate effectively and to close trouble tickets effectively, and thats a frustration many people have suffered, both with the database and on the Applications Server."

But Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif., said Forrester hasnt come across any major complaints regarding Oracles customer support —at least not from those who can afford to pay for higher levels. "Oracle does have depth in support, and there are multiple levels," he said. "If youre a [small to midsized business], you might not be getting the best support."

And not all users are unhappy with support, by any means. Rich Niemiec, CEO and principal of TUSC (The Ultimate Software Consultants) and past president of the International Oracle Users Group, said support, via MetaLink, is better than ever.

"Most people who talk to me do self-support, because all the information repository is there online," said Niemiec, in Chicago. "Since MetaLink went up, we have never had a support question. We dont have one thats not answered there."

Yuhanna said pricing and licensing are primary—and somewhat traditional—concerns for the Oracle users he deals with. "Thats the No. 1 concern weve seen over the past two to three years," he said.

Next Page: Users say Oracle didnt tell them about its new patch set.