Oracle Corp. attempted to reassure thousands of customers that its aggressive acquisition strategy would not disrupt their businesses by promising lifetime support on its entire product line.Speaking to an estimated 35,000 attendees at this year’s OpenWorld conference, Oracle co-president Charles Phillips announced an expanded support program that would be made up of three tiers. The first tier, called Premier Support, would cover the first five years after a product had been purchased. Extended Support would go eight years or more, while the Sustaining Support module would carry on indefinitely, Phillips said. Oracle also announced an Integrated Support Program for its global independent software vendor partners that will improve multi-vendor support for Oracle software, speed up problem resolution and offer more training for Oracle certified partners.
Having successfully completed its hostile takeover of PeopleSoft/J.D. Edwards earlier this year and with its recent decision to purchase Siebel Systems for US$5.85 billion, Phillips said this year’s OpenWorld would serve as an introduction to Oracle for many attendees.
He emphasized that many of Oracle’s other recent acquisitions, including retail software maker Retek, TimesTen and i-Flex, are small relative to Oracle’s overall size and would not lead to changes in service for customers.
“We’ve never left a customer behind,” Phillips said, adding that user feedback would continue to drive Oracle’s development efforts.
Phillips promised that Oracle would focus on protecting customers’ existing technology investments, extending them with features inherited through its acquisitions and then evolving its platform so customers can adopt it at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
Partners will be a key part of this strategy, he said, adding half of Oracle’s revenue come through the channel today, up from only about 10 to 20 per cent a few years ago.
While the battle for PeopleSoft raised many questions about Oracle’s ability to support new users, Phillips said many of them have been pleasantly surprised. Later in his keynote, he called on Jesse Schaudies, global vice-president of e-commerce at staffing firm Manpower Inc., which started as a J.D. Edwards client before moving onto Oracle.
“One of our first questions was, is Oracle credible? Are its people credible?” he said, adding that Manpower has since rolled out Oracle’s service procurement tool to about two dozen customers. “We like the sense of participation we’ve been feeling, and the chance to add our domain expertise to the applications development process.”
Juice company Welch Foods Inc., whose vice-president and CIO Larry Rencken was also called on stage, chose Oracle over SAP through a 15-week process involving a decision-making team of 24 people more than a year ago. Rencken said Welch’s has already rolled out Oracle’s iSupplier tool and is in the process of deploying Oracle iProcurement and Compensation Workbench.
“We’ve been very impressed with the quality of the XML products,” he told the keynote audience, adding that the project has already helped to standardize processes and integrate disparate Welch systems. “Our people have been calling it the Larry Benefit.”
Phillips never referred to the Siebel deal by name, but said the acquisition of the customer relationship management vendor would be another arrow in its quiver as it moves beyond traditional enterprise resource planning. Oracle has started a project called Fusion which Phillips said will bring together the best features of Siebel, PeopleSoft, JDE and Retek products by 2007, but in an interview last week IDC Canada software analyst Joel Martin said time is of the essence.
“They need to be up front with what’s happening around Siebel and how that’s going to work,” he said. “They can’t afford to wait like they did with PeopleSoft.”
Oracle will use OpenWorld to discuss the second release of its 10g database, the growth of its application server business and its middleware software, called Fusion. Phillips said a “hot-pluggable” capability in Fusion would allow Oracle applications to more easily interoperate with databases, developer tools and applications from other vendors, including IBM’s WebSphere.

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