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Oracle Moves to Upgrade Support for Database Users

Expands support windows, adds online tools

By Marc L. Songini
May 9, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - ORLANDO -- Looking to keep its installed base happy, Oracle Corp. has quietly begun a number of educational and technical initiatives in recent months to beef up its database and application server support offerings.
At last week's International Oracle Users Group Live 2005 database user conference here, newly installed Oracle CIO David Thompson highlighted updates to maintenance policies that have been added gradually since late last year.
He also detailed new features that the company has added to its MetaLink online support system, such as live Web conferencing.
Users at the IOUG event were generally upbeat about the support changes, although some said they have found the way Oracle distributes its software patches and security fixes to be troublesome.
For example, the quarterly schedule for releasing security updates that Oracle adopted last fall is a sore spot for Arup Nanda, director of database engineering and operations at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. in White Plains, N.Y. The company runs Oracle Database 10g in a Real Application Clusters configuration, and Nanda said large software patch kits can be challenging to install. He would rather be sent patches as they become available.
Thompson said users can, in fact, access patches themselves from MetaLink whenever they want, though only quarterly patches are automatically sent to users.
Other users said they prefer the regular patch distributions, which include best practices information and are more standardized than one-offs, said Ari Kaplan, incoming president of the IOUG and president of Expand Beyond Corp., a wireless management software vendor in Chicago.
Thompson, who delivered a keynote at the conference, had served as CIO at PeopleSoft Inc. until Oracle acquired it in January .
Responding to customer demand, Oracle will now support each release of its database and Oracle Application Server for five years, starting with Version 9.2 of the database and Version 10.1.2 of the application server, Thompson said. Oracle previously provided three years of service.
Thompson said the new MetaLink content has been available since January. The offering now includes live product demonstrations, hundreds of tips for users and an enhanced search engine to help direct customers looking for specific information or work-arounds.
Since late last year, Oracle has also been offering Web collaboration technology to help customers directly link up with a technician to troubleshoot problems, Thompson said. The sessions allow Oracle technicians to more quickly diagnose problems, speeding up resolution times by 30%, or about 20 minutes per diagnostic session.
Oracle expects the improved support tools will help users cut administrative costs and thus ease its reputation as a costly database supplier, said RebeccaWetteman, an analyst at Wellesley, Mass.-based Nucleus Research Inc. The improved support should help users get by with fewer administrators, she said.
John Matelski, deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, had expressed concern about support when the Oracle-Peoplesoft deal closed. But he said Oracle is "clearly making significant strides to continue to support, sustain and educate their customers." The city runs financial applications that were developed by J.D. Edwards & Co., which Oracle acquired when it bought PeopleSoft.

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