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Oracle must move quickly and decisively to customers’ anxiety and restore confidence in the database maker’s technical service and support organization – particularly with respect to the company’s Sun Microsystems’ software and hardware assets. The latest independent ITIC/ GFI Software (formerly Sunbelt Software) 2011 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability Survey, polled 468 businesses worldwide found It found that Oracle products received the lowest ratings for the quality of its service and support of any of the major vendors. Users gave Oracle products, service and support mixed ratings.

Three out of 10 organizations rated Oracle products, technical service and support as Excellent or Very Good. A nearly equal number of survey participants – 26 percent gave Oracle’s offerings a Good rating, while 25 percent graded it as just Satisfactory. Nearly two out of 10 of the organizations polled, gave Oracle’s products, services and support a negative rating; with 13 percent judging it Poor and the remaining six percent giving it an Unsatisfactory rating.

Oracle Reliability, Service and Support by the Numbers

The reliability of Oracle’s Solaris operating system and the company’s x86 and SPARC servers remains fairly strong and competitive, though their uptime and reliability do not match the leaders in those categories.

Specifically, 71 percent of customers running Oracle Solaris 10 on SPARC servers reported they experienced one or fewer minor unplanned Tier 1 outages per server, per annum; while 79 percent of users running Oracle Solaris on x86 based server hardware recorded one or fewer Tier 1 per server annual unplanned outages.

While those reliability figures are very respectable they lag well behind the 85 percent of IBM AIX 7.1; 84 percent of Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise 11 users; 84 percent of Debian GNU Linux 4.0 and 5.0 users; 82 percent of HP UX 11i v.3 and Ubuntu Server 9 and 10 users who reported one or fewer unanticipated per server, per annum minor Tier one incidents.

Oracle Solaris 10 (on x86 servers) and Oracle Solaris 10 (on SPARC servers) logged similarly respectable statistics for the most severe Tier 3 outages, with 85 percent of x86 based Solaris users and 80 percent of Solaris SPARC based users indicating they had experienced one or fewer per server, per annum Tier 3 outages of four hours or longer duration.

However, once again the Oracle Solaris OS Tier 3 performance trailed rivals HP UX 11i v3 (86 percent), IBM (all versions of AIX – v5.3, v6.1 and v7.1 – 88 percent), Microsoft (Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – 90 and 92 percent), Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise 11 (86 percent); and Ubuntu Server 9 and 10 (87 percent).

Even Apple Mac OS X 10.6, a recent entrant into the corporate server OS market, managed roughly equivalent Tier 3 server outage statistics (83 percent of users reporting one or less than one per server, per annum outage) to the Oracle Solaris server operating system platforms.

The survey participants were in accord that the majority of their unplanned Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 server outages were due to integration, interoperability and technical service and support issues rather than any inherent flaws in the underlying platforms themselves, the vendors’ ability to respond quickly and efficiently when problems arise becomes a crucial component that positively or negatively impacts the length and severity of a server OS or server hardware outage.

It was clear both in customers’ responses to the Web-based multiple choice questions, as well as the anecdotal essay comments and first person customer interviews, that many enterprise customers are unhappy with Oracle service and support.

Users Say Oracle Service and Support Slips

Satisfaction with Oracle’s technical service and support in its Oracle database core competency, the former Sun Solaris operating system and x86-based and SPARC hardware lagged far behind longtime rivals like IBM, Microsoft and HP.
Only 31 percent of the respondents gave Oracle an “excellent” or “very good” rating for product performance, service and support. This is in sharp contrast to the over 75 percent of survey participants who gave rivals HP and IBM and 70 percent of Dell users who gave those vendors “excellent” and “very good” marks for their hardware product performance, service and support.

And in Oracle’s core competency databases, both IBM’s DB2 and Microsoft’s SQL Server scored significantly higher satisfaction ratings among survey respondents. Over 80 percent of those polled gave IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server “excellent” or “very good” ratings compared to the 43 percent of respondents who gave the Oracle DB an “excellent” or “very good” rating.

Some of the anecdotal user comments about Oracle support were scathing by any measure: “Our Sun support has become even more abysmal since crazy Larry purchased them; it’s hard to believe,” remarked an IT manager at a large healthcare organization with over 100 servers.

The VP of IT at a large insurance company was equally critical. “We’re paying top dollar for Oracle Premier Service and support – which keeps going up – and we have little or nothing to show for it other than a big bill,” he said.
Such comments unfortunately were not the exception.

Oracle also registered the highest percentage of dissatisfied users: 20 percent or one-in-five respondents judge Oracle (Sun) hardware products, service and support to be “poor” or “unsatisfactory.” By contrast only a small five percent minority of HP users, four percent of Dell customers and less than two percent of IBM users rated those companies’ hardware offerings to be “poor” or “unsatisfactory.”

Another factor playing a pivotal part in 2011 market dynamics is how Oracle will manage, support and integrate the Sun Microsystems’ offerings into its own product portfolio. This includes the aforementioned Sun Solaris OS, x86-based and SPARC server hardware and the open source MySQL database. Despite repeated public assurances from Oracle executives that it will continue to support and develop MySQL and even provide integration with other Oracle offerings, users are still wary. The Solaris and SPARC installed base of customers are equally restive and frankly skeptical based as much on what they haven’t seen in last 12 months since Oracle completed the Sun acquisition.

Conclusions

Oracle must act quickly and decisively to shore up and improve service and support for all its major products. Otherwise, customers – particularly the already ravaged and diminished Sun Microsystems Solaris, MySQL, and SPARC and x 86 server installed base will continue to decline and defect. They will be encouraged by rival vendors, particularly IBM, HP and Microsoft, who will continue to aggressively capitalize on user confusion and dissatisfaction to entice corporations to their respective platforms.

IBM and Microsoft are very well positioned at present and over the next 12 months. IBM’s AIX server operating system, DB2 database platform and System x and Power Systems communities are solid, stable and very loyal. The fact that 72% of survey respondents to ITIC’s January 2010 Database survey said they hadn’t switched DB platforms in the last three years and the fact that it’s harder for very large enterprises in market segments like banking, financial and insurance (traditional IBM strongholds) to switch because of the legacy investment, bodes well for the company. Many of these enterprises have mature DB environments that are likely to remain stable for many years to come.

In Microsoft’s case the ongoing, tangible improvements to both the Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2 platforms make them extremely robust, reliable enterprise ready solutions. Microsoft’s close partnership with server hardware vendors Dell and HP provides Windows Server with a solid foundation that bolsters the overall reliability of the OS. Microsoft also has a very strong developer community, combined with a vibrant reseller channel, puts Microsoft in a good position to expand its presence into SME and enterprise organizations.

By contrast the Oracle customer base and associated developer communities – particularly Open Source developers – remain extremely skeptical and wary. 

Oracle also faces other challenges that could hamper its efforts to ameliorate its all-important technical service and support issues. The company’s myriad acquisitions over the last five years could continue to be an unwelcome distraction and hamper efforts to rapidly respond to customers and developers.  That said, on the plus side, Oracle’s financials continue strong.  The company continues to see strong demand for new software license renewals and maintenance plans. Oracle posted has quarterly earnings growth of 28.30 percent and quarterly revenue growth of 46.50 percent in its latest financials. It’s profit margins are a healthy 21.18 percent and return on assets stand at 21.88 percent.

The key to Oracle and any vendor’s continued success is to put customers first. According to the findings in our survey, Oracle would be wise to fix its service and support problems fully and quickly.

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