The good news for Oracle Corp. is it seems to have acquired a happy BEA Systems Inc. customer base. Yet the bad news for Oracle is that it seems to have acquired a happy BEA customer base that isn’t particularly thrilled with the Oracle purchase, according to a SearchSOA.com poll taken last week.
As Oracle prepares to announce its plans for the BEA acquisition tomorrow it may be facing a customer revolt if it’s not careful. What follows is a summary of the survey findings. The raw numbers are available here.
In all, we received 431 responses. Most of the respondents were BEA WebLogic Application Server and Oracle Database customers (94.90% in each case). Respondents also used a a healthy number of other BEA products (WebLogic, AquaLogic, Tuxedo, etc.), while only a small percentage used non-database Oracle products. Part of this is to be expected as the survey was geared toward the BEA user base. This group indicates that Oracle indeed bought itself a customer segment into which it had little penetration. Of particular note is that not many of the BEA customers were using Oracle’s packaged applications (e.g. financial, CRM, human resources).
Most (58.70%) came from IT shops with 250 or more employees.
75.56 of respondents reported they were either somewhat or very satisfied with their BEA products. That confirms something this industry watcher has heard anecdotally over the years, namely that BEA customers, if not teeming in numbers, were a generally contented lot. 61.26% reported they were somewhat or very satisfied with their Oracle products. The main difference is that 24.83% reported they were neutral in regard to their Oracle products, which is perhaps understandable given that most were database customers and almost 75% of the respondents were either architects or developers, not the sort that falls overly in or out of love with a relational database.
87.94% reported they have not yet been contacted by Oracle concerning their BEA products and six months of relative radio silence has seemingly made them nervous. 29.47% reported that they lack confidence that Oracle will continue to support their BEA products and another 44.55% aren’t sure whether that will happen. Oracle has managed to allay similar fears when it has acquired packaged app vendors, but “support” in the development community will mean not only continuing service and support for existing products, but also making sure they keep pace with new advances in the marketplace. This brings us to where Oracle stands to alienate this new customer base if it doesn’t announce and follow through on aggressive plans to move the BEA product set forward (principally WebLogic Application Server).
Potential customer revolt
62.18% of respondents report they will not look to move to comparable Oracle products if their BEA products are discontinued. Another 25.06% report they are unsure on that matter. 77.26% say they do not feel Oracle has a strong offering in the areas where they are using BEA products. Additionally, 70.77% report they will look to replace their BEA installments rather than keep them as legacy if those products are discontinued. It creates a thorny situation for Oracle. It does not have a strong reputation with these, largely, app dev users and they have expressed a clear willingness to jump ship should they not like the course Oracle charts for them. While Oracle surely will look to allay these misgivings in the BEA user base, competitors just as surely will be looking to woo this potential pack of free agents.
Perhaps it can be chalked up to people not liking change or to unhappy customers being more likely to respond to a poll, but 52.43% of those polled reported they have a somewhat or very negative view of Oracle’s BEA acquisition. Another 32.48% voted neutral. The poll indicates that Oracle has a ton of work to do if it wants to win over these BEA customers. This is indeed a new market that Oracle could penetrate in its quest for global software domination, but these users are not rolling out a welcome mat. It may takes years of continuing and advancing key BEA product lines before Oracle can establish itself with these customers, making tomorrow’s announcement only the first step on a political tightrope that stretches beyond the horizon.