Oracle Hints At 'Lifetime Support,' More Acquisitions

First, the company will offer a lifetime support option for its many products. Second, its buying spree, which in the past two years includes PeopleSoft, Oblix, TimesTen, Retek, I-flex, and now Siebel Systems, is not over yet.

The company will announce "lifetime support" for its products on Monday, said co-president Charles Phillips. Presumably that would cover the acquired PeopleSoft and JD Edwards lineups as well as the Siebel Systems stable, should that deal close as planned later this year.

"We've already talked about premium support for the next five years [and till 2013]. There will be versions of support that last forever. We want people to feel protected," Phillips told a few hundred partners gathered at San Francisco's Moscone Center for the partner kickoff for Oracle OpenWorld.

He provided no details and took no questions, but the overall idea builds on past indications from Phillips and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison that the company will not dead-end users on acquired products . When Oracle launched its surprise bid for PeopleSoft in June 2003, its statements sounded as if the company were going to nuke PeopleSoft applications and move people to its own. Since then it has tried to allay those concerns. Ellison has subsequently and repeatedly pledged to "over support" PeopleSoft applications for whatever time is necessary.

Sponsored post

This does not mean a freebie. Typically, customers of Oracle, PeopleSoft and other enterprise application vendors pay for yearly maintenance and support in agreements that cost usually 22 to 24 percent of the licensed software cost. That is not, typically, a trivial amount.

Phillips also wanted partners to help reassure customers that there will be no forced mass migration to Oracle's next-gen "Fusion" product line.

"We'll enable you to isolate changes in the personalization, in the meta data, so as you upgrade over time, those changes are isolated and will carry forward to Fusion," he said.

"We'll provide middleware around the apps to extend them to portals, XML publishing. We'll Web service-enable apps to allow them to participate in composite applications without any rip and replace. And last we will evolve to the Fusion architecture which is model-based. But there's no rush. They can use what they have with lifetime support and there's an option."

Phillips reiterated the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company's commitment to open standards. "There was a reason we changed the name of this conference back to Oracle OpenWorld," he noted. For a time the show was called just Oracle World. Oracle's stance there is similar to IBM and some other players in the J2EE world.

Intriguingly, several sales executives told partners to stay tuned for more on the acquisition front. Ted Bereswill, senior vice president of North America Technology Sales cited partner opportunities in "new stuff like Oblix, TimesTen and there's more to come. Kurian is committed to picking off best-of-breed products and putting them into the middleware," he said. Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware Development, drove the TimesTen, Oblix and other acquisitions in that sphere. .

The continuing-acquisition theme sounded again later. Randy Runk, senior vice president of North American Strategic Accounts said the PeopleSoft, Siebel and other buys have completely changed the company's vertical strategy.

"Before this year, we were largely positioning ERP/back office with most customers. With the advent of an aggressive vertical strategy and backing it up with acquisitions to support verticals, it's changed our relationship with many customers. We're not just a supplier of back office software but of things like student admin systems in higher ed," Runk said.

"That means Oracle needs ISVs to supply the parts of the vertical it does not have and to challenge ISVs to build out capabilities for the solutions for both new and existing markets."

"On the system integrator side, as we go deeper vertically, we pull intellectual capital of best practices, we desperately need it. The game is completely different this year with the acquisitions we're doing and continue to do," Runk noted.

One attending partner said acquiring companies is one way for Oracle to keep buying market share and customers and to keep its price/earnings ratio in line.

He and other attendees debated whether BEA Systems will be the next acquisition. An Oracle-BEA buy has long been rumored. BEA remains a leader in J2EE application servers, although it has seen its share eroded by Oracle and IBM and is trying to build out its own middleware stack. Informatica, the ETL vendor, has also been a rumored target.