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Is Oracle technology too darn expensive?

A large number of Oracle users say they'll consider switching to lower-cost alternatives this year, a new survey finds. Experts and Oracle customers weigh in.

Nearly half of all respondents to a new member survey say they'll at least consider lower-cost alternatives to Oracle technology this year -- and the main reason they cite for doing so is  

But those words are of little consolation to people who find Oracle's support offering to be less than satisfactory -- people like Rob Guest, a senior database analyst with the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), a Canadian polytechnic school.

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BCIT is currently in the process of upgrading from Oracle Database 9.2 to Oracle Database 10g, the latest version of Oracle's flagship DBMS, but dealing with Oracle support during the transition has been "terrible," Guest said.

"Communicating with Oracle support has probably been our largest issue. They're just not a good vendor to deal with as far as support," Guest said. "We've had Oracle since 1994 and they're making strides to get better -- and I would say they've become better in the last year or so -- but there are still many cases where you phone support and they don't seem to know anything more than you do."

Guest, who uses Oracle Database to back up BCIT's SunGard Student Information application implementation, said the most frustrating aspect of Oracle support is that support technicians tend to rush through support calls and close tickets too quickly. He said it has gotten to the point where he now believes that Oracle technicians are given incentives based on how many support tickets they close.

"They're trying to give you the quick answer and trying to close the contact as quick as they can," he said. "They don't really seem to listen to what the problem is."

Guest said it's equally frustrating when the support person they're dealing with on a particular problem gets sick, is transferred or goes on vacation and a new person is assigned to the issue -- a frequent occurrence which results in redundancy and wasted time, he said.

"I've had contacts where somebody new takes over and they'll tell us to do something that we've already done four or five days earlier," Guest said.

How to get a good deal on Oracle systems

One of the main reasons that Oracle is able to stay in business despite its high list prices is the fact that, like other major technology vendors, it often gives steep discounts to qualified customers.

As with any seller of goods, the best way to get a discount from Oracle is to buy in bulk whenever possible, says Noel Yuhanna, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"If you're looking at acquiring new licenses, you have to group the licenses together," Yuhanna said. "Typically you don't get higher discounts on lower contract prices, so you want to group them together maybe over three years."

Ray Wang, another analyst with Forrester, adds that smaller organizations may be able to get a discount on Oracle business applications by taking part in Oracle's Accelerate program or by purchasing the technology from a reseller that offers its own small and midsized business (SMB) discounts.

"There are some great programs that are out there that are designed to help Oracle SMB customers acquire Oracle products at a reasonable price," Wang said.

A unique approach?

While Oracle may be just too darn expensive for some users, at least its list prices are easily accessible. That's more than can be said for some DBMS vendors, said Jason Bloomberg, a senior Web services analyst with ZapThink LLC, headquartered in Baltimore.


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