Oracle's new support policy on Sun Microsystems customers has made itself felt -- painfully -- among customer accounts.
Posted to the company's website in mid-March, Oracle Corp.'s support changes have raised hackles at IT shops that were accustomed to Sun's more flexible -- and lower-cost -- hardware support offerings.
One of the biggest changes is Oracle's mandate that support be purchased on each piece of hardware and not be allowed to lapse. Customers whose support lapses must pay a premium -- 150% of their last support bill-- to get in compliance.
In addition, Oracle will start the clock running on each support contract the minute Oracle (or manufacturing partner) ships the gear to a customer. Previously, big customers tended to have umbrella agreements covering lots of hardware, so the support clock would start only as each server or storage unit was deployed. They did not pay for support on warehoused hardware.Sun shops blast 'inflexibility' of Oracle support
The price hikes are a significant departure from Sun previous practices. "Support is [now] 12% of the server price, and the support period starts the day of purchase," said a longtime East Coast Sun storage and server partner. In the past, "Sun had a different percentage multiplier based on the size of the server or storage. So a very small server might have cost more than 12% to support, but a very large server, would cost considerably less than 12%.
"Any large organization like Wells Fargo or Bank of America in the past might buy a couple thousand servers, and the traditional approach was to have all-encompassing service contracts with Sun. They would take old servers off and put new ones on and turn on the support," he continued.
Bill Bradford, a senior systems administrator at a large Houston-based energy services firm, has had enough.
"Oracle's across-the-board price increases, sudden changes in support policy structure and availability and lack of responsiveness to the current Sun user base will do nothing but hurt what's left of the company they just bought," he said via email.
"As a company, Oracle needs to get the Sun support offerings organized and the reason for any changes clearly documented and communicated instead of just changing working on a Web page and then not answering questions about the changes."
The CTO of a large Chicago-based financial services firm said his company moved away from Sun servers some time ago but still runs StorageTek tape libraries and "Sun-badged" Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) storage arrays. "We have already moved the support for those arrays to HDS," he said.
No IT executive in a sizable company would accept the support conditions Oracle has tried to impose, he noted. "We never accept the 'Maintenance starts when we ship' approach. Maintenance starts when we accept the equipment as installed and working to specifications. Vendors who do not accept that don't get our business."
Several Sun partners said that large companies with clout will no doubt drive their own terms with Oracle, but smaller shops will have no choice but to pay up or consider other options, said a Western state Sun integrator.
"Our customers are still in shock. They're in the 'You're kidding me' stage, but they're starting to realize what's going on," he said.IBM, HP try to reap benefits from Sun angst
The angst among Sun shops may end up as a windfall for IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., both of which have targeted accounts as well as the Sun partners serving those accounts. IBM's P-Series servers have gotten hard looks from Sun shops, several partners said.
Other shops running lower-end Sun gear with Linux are more likely to consider HP servers, he said. "A move to IBM AIX is fairly straightforward for a Sun Sparc Solaris shop, while HP makes more sense for accounts running Linux on Sun hardware."
Oracle would not comment for this story.