I’ve been a DBA since 1983,
and I’ve seen many database products come-and-go. Frankly, I’m
surprised that any database company has been able to hang-on to a huge
market share for two decades, but Oracle is not a typical database vendor.
They never become complacent and they always work hard to remain fresh and
Nothing is new under the Sun, and some people have
expressed concern about Oracle’s possible demise, but they cite invalid
arguments and complaints from inept Oracle users.
Let’s start with a quick history lesson and examine the
death of the IDMS database, to see if any parallels exist between the
behavior of Oracle Corporation and Computer Associates.
The death of a database: the end of IDMS
Back in the days before Oracle and DB2, IDMS was the
industrial-strength database, the database of choice for large corporations
to manage their mission-critical systems.
Oracle’s recent buying spree and complaints about
lackluster technical support
is similar to what happened when Computer Associates bought the IDMS database
from John Cullinane. But unlike Oracle, CA left IDMS to rot on the vine, using
support revenue as a cash cow to bilk those shops who embraced IDMS
technology and did not have quick migration path away from IDMS.
People who used to love IDMS became livid beyond words.
They wore t-shirts with the slogan “Friend’s don’t let friends buy from
CA”, and they swore cross oaths, pledging their perpetual hatred against
IDMS and CA.
George Wang and CA have never recovered from this damage,
and IDMS went from being the number one database to a has-been database,
Ironically, this urgency to drop CA products was one of
the initial reasons that Oracle became popular.
I remember my VP telling me that they wanted to dump IDMS
as fast as possible, and I was tasked with choosing a replacement. I
picked Oracle, and we worked feverishly day-and-night to migrate our systems
off of all CA software. Now the question that we have to ask ourselves
if Oracle might become the next Computer Associates?
Is Oracle becoming the next Computer Associates?
Mark Logic CEO blog suggests that “Oracle has become Computer
Associates”, but his complaints are true about almost every major database
vendor. Dave Kellogg notes the CA strategy, and it's quite different
CA made money with the following strategy. They'd:
Pay a pittance
for a broken software company (often less than 1x revenues)
Fire all the
staff, leaving only a skeleton crew
basic maintenance on the acquired software
Crank up the
maintenance fees on the largely helpless installed base
This is exactly what CA did with the IDMS database, the
leading database before Oracle became popular.
Marc Benioff also suggests some ominous parallels to the death
of CA, but I don't think that his argument is valid:
“Client/Server software is being consolidated by Oracle
just as mainframe software was consolidated by Computer Associates.
Oracle’s strategy is simple, instead of innovating, buy
as much installed software as possible, call it all Oracle Fusion, and make
sure it all uses Oracle’s database.”
Oracle’s customer support issues
Another issue appeared in late 2009 when Oracle’s already
services underwent a major enhancement from a 1990's text-based interface to
a shiny new flash interface named My Oracle Support
Community (MOSC) pronounced like “Mosque”.
However, the bulk of the complaints were from clients in developing
countries who did not have personal computers that could support flash, more
a problem with them than with Oracle.
This Oak Table member survey shows that Oracle
customers were unhappy with MOSC, with a whopping 83% of customers
rating Oracle support as “poor” or “unacceptable”. When we look at
these comments we must remember that the Oracle community varies widely,
from experienced professionals to trade school dropouts, and the squeaky
wheel gets the grease. Remember, anybody can download a copy of Oracle
for learning purposes, and many of the people complaining about Oracle
support are not typical of the U. S. Oracle community, both in terms of
experience and training.
- Oracle has shown extreme arrogance and disregard for their customers
with MOS and this "upgrade".
- For the first time in my career, I'm wondering whether Oracle is
really the technology I wish to be associated with.
- I find it very shocking that they have not had the decency to
apologize for the disaster. It is like they don't care about customers.
- I thought Oracle's support was very good until this. But now I wonder
where all that money we paid for support is going.
I love Oracle, but I also like other databases, and
I'm glad to see that Oracle is taking major steps not to alienate their customer
base. I witnessed the CA-IDMS
fiasco, and I know that once the IT managers get burned and decide to bail,
it’s all over, even for an industry giant like Oracle.
But Oracle is not CA, and I do not hear any of my customers
expressing any hatred for Oracle. Sure, Oracle technical support is
not perfect, but many Oracle customers have unreasonable expectations about
Oracle technical support.