Eye on Oracle

Jul 21 2010   4:09PM GMT

Could Gartner be the key to an Oracle maintenance policy overhaul?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Oracle customers have long lamented the software giant’s 22% annual fees for maintenance and support.  But even as users move to third-party support, pursue negotiations and opt out of paying maintenance entirely, Oracle has stood its ground on what CEO Larry Ellison calls its most profitable business.

Ray Wang has voiced his concern about these “all or nothing” maintenance agreements that require customers to put every license on an upgrade track. Wang released his own Enterprise Software Licensee’s Bill of Rights, which he recommended enterprises use when negotiating contracts. Now, Gartner is following suit with its own maintenance guidelines for software vendors.

This week, it issued a document and formed a new advocacy council, Gartner Global IT Council for IT Maintenance, around the issue.  Its new code of conduct will serve to correct imbalances between the value customers receive for maintenance fees and the revenue they provide vendors, Gartner said.

Some clauses of the code include a right to regular, predictable updates to software products; fair percentage ranges for annual maintenance fee hikes; and clearly spelled-out support time lines for older releases.

The council hopes the code of conduct will act as a starting point for discussion and later become an industry standard.

But would vendors like Oracle – who have gone as far to sue third party support providers – really follow something like this? And as others in the know have questioned – what stick does Gartner have to make them do so?

This is a question analyst Vinnie Mirchandani addressed in a recent blog post on the global IT council.

“I would love to see Gartner put some teeth behind this code. Have the guts to call out IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and others as they violate those principles,” he wrote.

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