Market Driven Support – beware Oracle bearing gifts

We’re familiar with Oracle’s ever rising support prices. We know the vendor uses audits to increase its profits. We’ve seen the imprisoning trap of Oracle’s Unlimited Licence Agreements (ULAs). Next, in a long line of dubious sales tactics, comes Oracle’s latest strategy for increasing its profits: Oracle Market Driven Support (MDS).

What is Oracle Market Driven Support?

Oracle MDS is a less common and limited support option. It’s separate from Oracle’s usual tiers of Premier, Extended, and Sustaining Support. MDS is, in broad terms, a bespoke support offering. It enables organisations to remain supported, even past the Premier Support cut-off dates.

On the face of it, MDS sounds positive. It’s almost a reversal of Oracle’s usual methods. Historically, the vendor forces its customers to upgrade to the latest versions by gradually lowering support for older ones. Meanwhile, MDS is an alternative to upgrading, if only for a specific period of time (usually one or two years, as agreed by Oracle).

It seems then that Oracle has devised a way of actually helping its customers.

But as always, we must beware of vendors bearing gifts.

Full support (if Oracle feels like it)

On Oracle Market Driven Support, the vendor will provide support for priority one fixes and security updates – but only if the vendor deems them “commercially viable” and “appropriate.”

Roughly translated: Oracle decides when it will support customers on MDS, or whether it will fix your issue at all. What’s important to the customers may not be of importance to Oracle; the vendor may be more inclined to resolve an issue already raised by a number of customers, rather than a one-off incident.

However, that still isn’t a guarantee. Nothing about MDS is guaranteed. It is entirely Oracle’s decision.

How much does Oracle Market Driven Support cost?

Market Driven Support isn’t properly defined: no guarantees, no commitment. So, Oracle can charge whatever it wants. The vendor isn’t openly advertising the price of MDS, or which customers, products, or versions can be supported, or even for how long it lasts. All of which in itself is a troubling sign.

Extended Support already sees annual price increases of 10%, 20% and another 20% in years one, two and three respectively. The prices of MDS are unlikely to be ideal. We’ve already seen organisations receive a 20% increase on their usual support fees with MDS. We’ve also seen much higher.

This is more in line with Oracle’s typical approach of providing less support for more money.

So, what DO you get with MDS?

Oracle advises that Market Driven Support can provide support for an organisation’s critical systems. By agreeing to MDS, the organisation will therefore remain compliant without needing to upgrade.

However, this is an effort that we’ve seen from the vendor before. Oracle wants its customers to believe that they can only be supported by the software provider. But the requirement for organisations – even largescale organisations such as banks, with vast amounts of legislation to consider – is that the software must be supported. That’s all. The vendor doesn’t have to be the one supporting it. It could be supported by a third-party provider, such as Support Revolution.

Naturally, Oracle omits this detail, generating uncertainty amongst the departments of organisations. The vendor relies on this uncertainty to keep customers on Oracle Support.

Already, we start to see the true nature of MDS. MDS appears to be an example of Oracle showing a little bit of compassion, providing support on older software, and giving organisations a bit more breathing room. But there is much more at play here.

Market Driven Support is, essentially, Oracle’s Trojan Horse. The vendor comes bearing gifts: a way of staying supported (and “compliant”) even outside Premier Support. However, the organisations that let Oracle in will pay for it, and find it very difficult to get the vendor out again.

Oracle is back in control

Market Driven Support can present a significant business risk. The customer is effectively handing control of their roadmap back to the vendor.

Say, for example, your organisation runs Oracle Database 11g, a version due to fall into Sustaining Support in December 2020. Oracle approaches and offers Market Driven Support on a one-year term. The vendor will charge you extra for MDS, on top of whatever you’re already paying in support. But you still won’t be fully supported. There is every possibility of an issue arising that falls outside Oracle’s jurisdiction of “appropriate” or “commercially viable” for the vendor. Remember, there are no guarantees with MDS.

When the one-year period ends, Oracle could then whisk Market Driven Support away. You’d be left completely unsupported, while Oracle advises that Market Driven Support was only meant to help your organisation until you joined Oracle’s Cloud. The vendor might give you another three to six months additional MDS. There’ll still be the expectation that you move to its Cloud.

Without realising it (and without wanting it), you are back in Oracle’s endless upgrade cycle. In short, Oracle is defining your IT roadmap, not you.

Oracle won’t let you go easily

Market Driven Support is an interesting (if concerning) change in direction, in terms of Oracle’s usual methods. Typically, the vendor focuses on ways of keeping its customers from leaving in the first place: ULAs, audit threats, and so on. Oracle doesn’t really try to mask its ruthless tactics.

MDS looks further afield, targeting customers that are not so easily swayed. Oracle can use Market Driven Support to appeal to customers already on their way to leaving, and bring them back in.

Customers planning to leave, or letting older software fall out of support, have once more become viable targets. With MDS, Oracle has a reason to approach them and engage with them again. All in the name of “helping” organisations.

All the while, Oracle is the one in control. The vendor decides what it will fix, when the MDS ends, and what it will charge for the service. It can also use MDS to force organisations towards an upgrade or Cloud purchase. 

Oracle Market Driven Support vs third-party support

Due to underwhelming Cloud revenues, Oracle’s Market Driven Support seems to be a last-minute attempt to retain customers wherever possible. It’s also a strategy to combat third-party support, which has become one of the biggest threats to the vendor’s profits.

With MDS, Oracle can appear generous while charging customers more and providing less. There are no guarantees on support, no SLAs, no identifiable commercial commitment at all, and absolutely nothing long term. On the (dubious) promises of staying “supported,” Oracle can use MDS to stop its customers from leaving. Then, force them into a very Oracle-focused future.

If you want out, don’t let Oracle stop you

Even if Oracle Market Driven Support wasn’t a cunning plan to sneak back onto an organisation’s roadmap, it could only ever be a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Eventually, every organisation will be pressured to upgrade again. Agreeing to MDS won’t change that inevitability, only delay it (while costing a lot for the privilege).

Fortunately, despite Oracle’s best efforts, third-party support remains a viable option for any organisation. Our third-party support can provide an enhanced level of service, and for a greatly reduced price.

Like MDS, we are an alternative to upgrading. But unlike MDS, our third-party support:

  • Can save you at least 50% on your vendor support bills
  • Commits to SLAs, ITIL processes, and ISO quality guidelines
  • Won’t force you to upgrade or towards an unwanted Cloud solution

So, don’t fall for Oracle’s Trojan Horse and overpay for additional support services that provide less than you had before. Instead, make savings on your support costs, and receive an even better service than before.

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