June 4, 2020 | Larry Goldman | Senior Director, Product Marketing

Oracle Lifetime Support” for on-premise products is just that: support that lasts for as long as your Oracle product does. Within this framework, Oracle offers its customers three defined stages of support, but let the buyer beware. To paraphrase George Orwell, “Some support stages are more equal than others.”

As any long-time Oracle customer knows, the cost of annual support steadily grows, while the number of the support features and updates shrinks. Sustaining Support, the final and most expensive support stage has little real value to offer to end-users. And yet, while Sustaining Support clearly offers them a bad bargain, a substantial number of IT leaders continue to annually re-purchase this option.

For some, Sustaining Support equates to simple convenience. For others, it’s the necessary price of doing business with Oracle. Still, others may be afraid of change, uneducated of what little Sustaining Support actually offers, or unaware of the existence of Oracle support alternatives.

No matter the reason, it’s time to shed some light on Oracle Sustaining Support. In this post, we’ll explore what it is and isn’t and see what options customers have to improve the quality of their long-term Oracle product support.

The Three Oracle Support Levels

First, some context. Oracle offers a Lifetime Support Policy with three stages:

  1. Premier Support begins with the general availability (GA) date and provides comprehensive maintenance and software upgrades for five years.*
  2. Extended Support is where you can purchase an additional three years of mostly full support prior to the end of Premier Support (like an extended auto warranty). This is not always available for certain versions.
  3. Sustaining Support is indefinite technical support that “maximizes your investment protection by providing maintenance for as long as you use your Oracle software.”

If by the end of Premier or Extended Support you have not upgraded to a later version or migrated to the equivalent Cloud product, Sustaining Support becomes your only option. You lose many benefits, including updates and compatibility testing, but you do retain some as well. It’s fairly easy to run a cost-benefit analysis by breaking the list down into pros and cons.

The Pros of Sustaining Support

  1. You have access to all major product and technology releases. As Oracle says, “Sustaining Support puts you in control of your upgrade strategy.” Many Oracle customers remain on Sustaining Support simply to retain the option to access this technology, even if they do not have a. defined upgrade strategy.
  2. You get access to 24/7 technical support. Customers can log as many tickets as they want under Sustaining Support. They will provide any update or enhancement that already exists for your version. They will not provide any new fixes or certifications across OS or technical components. And if Oracle Support doesn’t have a previously documented or fixed solution, their standard response is always to upgrade to a supported version.
  3. You have access to the My Oracle Support Portal, which includes papers and other solutions. My Oracle Support includes 1000s of white papers and existing solutions that other customers have reported to the knowledge base.

And…that’s it.

The Cons of Sustaining Support

  1. It’s expensive, and more so every year. Oracle Support is never cheap. It starts at 22% of your license fees and adds an additional 2-4% each year. Oracle will rarely if ever negotiate on those terms. That means by year six, with no additional purchases or upgrades, you’ve likely paid more for support than you did for the original licenses.
  2. No new software updates. You can access only the pre-existing ones.
  3. No new security alerts and updates. You can access only the pre-existing ones.
  4. No new critical patch updates. You can access only the pre-existing ones.
  5. No new upgrade tools and scripts. You can access only the pre-existing ones.
  6. No more tax, legal, and regulatory updates. You can access only the pre-existing ones. Unless you have an internal team tracking and resolving these types of updates, your operations may be taking on increased legal risk of non-compliance with national, regional, or local requirements.
  7. No access to Platinum Services. You may have used this enhanced support and performance option while under Premier Support. Now, it’s no longer available.
  8. No new certification with most existing Oracle products/versions. You only have the pre-existing ones.
  9. No new certification with most existing third party products or most new third-party products. You only have the pre-existing ones. Oracle Support generally does not cover interoperability issues under any plan, but now their engineering team has dropped their certifications as well.
  10. Oracle will not fix issues with your custom code. This is true for Premier Support and Extended Support as well.
  11. Self-service through My Oracle Support portal is challenging. Although you retain access to My Oracle Support, locating the specific information you need can be difficult and time-consuming.
  12. The quality of your Oracle Support may suffer. Over time, it’s natural to see a decrease in qualified support engineers and developers who truly know your version of the software. This can increase the time for Service Request (SR) resolution.
  13. You may end up paying for Oracle Support AND an external managed services provider (MSP). To assist with ongoing maintenance or special projects, you may have to also hire an SI or MSP to assist your team.

Then Why Stay on Sustaining Support?

With so many cons, it’s easy to wonder why customers accept the high price and declining level of service. It may be as simple as timing.

After five years, many are comfortable and satisfied with their stable, reliable, and customized enterprise software products. Support tickets are down, and the IT organization has moved on to the next set of “mission-critical” initiatives. No one is pushing for a substantial and costly upgrade, and many products like Oracle Database 11g R2 and E-Business Suite 12.1.3 perform admirably even as they verge on the end of support.

From Oracle’s point of view, Sustaining Support makes perfect business sense, and it will likely never go away. Oracle’s gross profit margins for Oracle from their support business exceed 90% – which should be a red flag to customers who expect Oracle will be reinvesting their fees into the development of the products they own. In fact, those fees are directed to fund the development of new Cloud products. Ongoing support also means that Oracle account managers remain in touch with customers and can continue to press them to upgrade to new products and move back to Premier Support.

And so the cycle begins anew.

To Break the Habit, Ask the Hard Questions

If one or more of your Oracle products are on Sustaining Support, then now is an ideal time to address your support needs and level of satisfaction. Ask yourself – and your team – these questions:

  • If Oracle isn’t enhancing my solution with security and other updates, what is my team doing to compensate when issues arise?
  • If Oracle isn’t developing new versions of a solution, the right to upgrade is meaningless. So why are we staying on Sustaining Support for a version that will never exist?
  • Has my team run a cost-benefit analysis on Sustaining Support versus alternative support models (i.e., third-party Oracle support)?
  • If we could reduce the cost of our Oracle support, which resources and initiatives would we fund with the savings?

It’s Time to Explore Your Alternatives

A majority of our Oracle customers come to Spinnaker Support because they recognize Oracle Sustaining Support for the raw deal that it is. Companies are relieved to find that our third-party Oracle support is built to deliver more responsive, comprehensive, and affordable service for their enterprise applications and technologies.

We are always happy to provide references for other organizations that have left Sustaining Support with no regrets. Contact us today to discuss how we can improve the quality and lower the cost of your support.