More than one-third of Oracle customers surveyed by SearchDatabase.com have not committed to upgrading their systems to Oracle 9i, even though it was released more than a year ago.
The Oracle Report Card, an exclusive survey of 500 Oracle clients, showed that 18% of survey participants currently have no plans to upgrade. Another 17% were unsure when they might upgrade.
Additionally, 22% said they plan to wait a year or longer before moving to 9i.
One way to interpret those numbers is to say that Oracle customers are already content.
"This is the danger of having a satisfied customer base," suggested Carl Olofson, program director and database analyst for International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. "Some say: 'Why should we upgrade?' That happens."
"If they are uncertain whether they are ever going to upgrade, that would surprise me. The basic reason [for not planning to upgrade now] would be cost and complexity. Really, the money spent on upgrades is dedicated to the staff hours involved."
Licensed customers with a support agreement do not have to pay Oracle for upgrades, but the costs associated with downtime and training do have some SearchDatabase.com survey respondents thinking twice before moving on to Oracle's latest and greatest DBMS offering.
"It's a bloody nightmare," wrote Julie Harris, a manager of online services for South Australia's Department for Transport, Urban Planning and the Arts in Adelaide. Her team is currently running version 8.1.6.
"It's increasingly difficult to work through the upgrade cycle dependencies," said Harris, who was interviewed on the subjects of upgrades and cost as part of the survey. "If you upgrade the database, then you have to upgrade Designer and Developer, then possibly the App Server, then maybe recompile code generated by the old version of Designer."
Some respondents, like Geoff Heaton, a technical consultant for ING Australia, blamed third-party vendors for upgrade headaches, saying that many are too slow to have their software certified. Other respondents said they were holding out to see whether any bugs in 9i would be brought to light, the way they were in 8 and 8i.
Several users complained that they are in a constant state of upgrade, with dated products "de-supported" by Oracle.
About one-third of those sampled have already begun their upgrades to 9i, or plan to complete them within the next six months.
Ian Abramson, author of five Oracle Press books and chief technology officer at IAS Inc. in Toronto, agreed with customers who complained that Oracle forces upgrades by halting support for existing products.
Still, Abramson, who is also a SearchDatabase.com site expert, believes it's likely that many Oracle customers don't yet know the benefits of the 9i release.
The External Tables feature, which allows for flat files that reside outside of the database to be accessed and queried as if they were a table in the database, is one new ETL enhancement in 9i that Abramson described as "awesome."
Abramson thinks any upgrade is worth the effort. One of his clients recently relented and upgraded from 7.3.4 to 8i, he said.
"Without any other changes to the environment, the client saw a performance increase of about 10% on pre-existing queries," Abramson said. "He couldn't believe the performance increase. He never expected it."
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