Spot the difference: Oracle’s long-term support vs innovation releases

5 crumpled paper balls, one with chalk drawing under it making it look like a light bulb

We all love a good deal. It’s probably fair to say that value for money typically ranks quite highly for the majority (if not all) of us when we’re considering our next purchase; be that a personal item or a professional requirement.

It’s this logic that Oracle pivots its continuous database release model around. That’s not to say that the vendor actually provides value for money, but that Oracle knows its customers want to be certain in their choice and the value they’re receiving.

So, in a market where the competition is already red hot, Oracle is trying to position itself as a vendor rooted in innovation. To underpin this stance, the mega-vendor has developed a continuous release model for its ERP software, characterised by two release types: long-term support releases and innovation releases.

Oracle’s two-pronged battle plan

The need to be number one is deeply ingrained within Oracle’s own business model, as it is for many organisations in competitive industries.

The mega-vendor has, however, perpetuated the notion that there is an intrinsic link between a competitive edge and “leading edge” technologies which sees the majority of organisations willing to overpay and buy into Oracle’s upgrade cycle.

Oracle’s continuous software updates and upgrades (differentiated by its long-term support releases and innovation releases), therefore, both leverage and capitalise on this demand.

But what exactly is the difference between long-term support releases and innovation releases? And how do you know which – if either – option would better suit your organisation and operational needs?

The tactical terms

Before we delve into the depths of differentiating between the two Oracle product cycles, let’s first consider the terms “upgrade” and “update.”

More often than not, these two words are used interchangeably and are, in this context, understood as the means by which software products are improved. This is, for all intents and purposes, true. However, in this scenario, “upgrades” and “updates” can be clearly differentiated. 

The upgrade prong: Long-term support releases

Upgrades can be marked as the way in which Oracle (supposedly) raises the value of a product. By replacing or removing certain functional elements of the system, Oracle claims to offer a product of a higher standard.

These are what Oracle refers to as its long-term support releases.

Long-term support releases are the final products (essentially, they are innovation bookends) of all the patch sets that have come between the latest release and the previous upgrade, meaning these releases tend to be more stable. (In case you’re wondering, when we refer to system stability we’re talking about the measurement of overall system performance, accessibility, and usability.)

Owing to the steadier database environment of long-term support releases, it is likely you will not need to undertake such frequent updates to work out any remaining kinks.

This, of course, spares you the hassle of trying to stretch your budget, team, and resources on a regular basis to accommodate these necessary works. However, because long-term releases should (ideally) require less support input from the vendor, the cost per ticket raised with Oracle will be higher.

Long-term support releases do offer the longest length of vendor support, with Oracle (typically) providing five years of Premier Support and three years of Extended Support.

But, as you would expect, there is always a trade-off.

In this instance, opting for long-term support releases will mean that your organisation will have to wait longer to secure Oracle’s latest innovations.

And, while you might benefit from longer periods of Oracle Support, this does mean you’ll end up fattening the vendor’s cash cow (support and maintenance fees) for a prolonged time.

There is also the fact you will be subjected to those rising support bills year-on-year, which could see your support fees increase by as much as 24%.

So, as long as your organisation is not the type to suffer with a profound fear of missing out, and is not too bothered about being overcharged for support services, long-term support releases may well be your preferred choice.

The update prong: Innovation releases

Between long-term support releases – like palate cleansers between courses – Oracle offers its customers innovation releases.

These releases encompass more minor updates to modernise the database.

Each innovation release will have a hint of new capability and a dash of system enhancement to keep customers seated at Oracle’s table (whether these are worth the hassle though, we’re not convinced).

At the other end of the spectrum to its long-term support releases, Oracle’s innovation releases have been designed to enable customers to access its leading-edge technologies continuously. These releases are supposed to help organisations to rapidly develop and deploy new applications, or to augment existing applications.

But how much innovation is too much innovation?

Rolling out these new releases puts a lot of pressure on organisations and their upgrade cycles, and could actually see Oracle’s customers forced to upgrade every 12-18 months.

That’s A LOT of upgrades, with very little respite in between. Where’s the time to rest and recuperate?

Given the brevity of the innovation release cycle, Oracle only offers two years of Premier Support to customers, with no option for Extended Support thereafter. This means you’ll be punted straight into Sustaining Support after those first two years of Premier Support. (If you’re wondering what the difference is between Premier and Sustaining Support, give our blog a read).

So, you either scrape together the resources to pull off that next upgrade, or you’ll find yourself enduring Sustaining Support (so much money, so little support) and, possibly, with a less stable environment to maintain.

And, it doesn’t end with whatever the next innovation release is, or the one after that. You’ll then find yourself in the very same predicament less than two years down the line. Yes, we’re talking about the Oracle upgrade cycle, relentless as it is.

Generally speaking, though, there are no new features in these innovation releases worth citing, and this misleads customers to believe the mega-vendor is innovating when, in fact, the opposite is true. With each release, our suspicions of the continuous innovation model being only a guise to make Oracle appear both current and relevant in an ever-evolving marketplace are affirmed.  

Caught between a rock and a hard place

This leaves customers in a precarious situation with two (lacklustre) options:

  1. Opt for modern database versions with the latest features and innovations, but subject yourself to frequent and costly upgrades; or
  2. Upgrade less frequently to more stable versions, and benefit from prolonged (albeit pricey) support at the cost of having access to new features.

No matter which release cycle customers follow, it will have to undergo a complete testing sequence to ensure that Oracle can continue adapting advanced technologies.

With organisations like yours, trapped between a rock and a hard place, it can be hard to determine the best choice to suit your organisation’s needs, and which option provides you with the best value for money.

Breaking free from Oracle’s binary business

Well, we’d like to interject here and suggest that those aren’t your only options.

With third-party support, you could be afforded a much greater level of flexibility so you can be certain that the choice you’re making is in the best interests of your organisation, and not Oracle’s.

Third-party support has the expertise to support older versions of Oracle databases which means you can opt to stick with the current version of your system, with its tried and tested functionality.

Not only will this enable you to avoid yet another upgrade (and all the costs and bother associated with such a project), but you can also regain control of your IT roadmap.

This means that third-party support services will set you free from the Oracle binary of the rock and the hard place, and will, instead, enable you to take a breather and accumulate the savings to adopt a database release on your terms.

In addition, if value for money is what you’re looking for and is of the utmost importance to your organisation and its IT roadmap, then third-party support could be a cost-effective alternative for you.

For example, should you have just completed an Oracle upgrade, a move to Support Revolution would save you a minimum of 50% on your support and maintenance. After a few years, the initial cost of the upgrade could be reclaimed in support and maintenance savings.

These savings could then help your organisation work towards the next (or any future) upgrade where you see the value in the added functionality. Alternatively, any savings, rather than funding Oracle’s development, could then be reinvested into developing and pushing forward your own organisation.

With this recovered IT budget, you could pursue other leading-edge technologies, or major growth projects with better ROI, that have perhaps been put on ice as a result of continuously chasing the latest Oracle release.

Why not keep your options open?

So, in summary, long-term support releases are less frequent, more stable, and offer longer periods of Oracle Support. Innovation releases are more frequent, less stable, and encompass the latest database features with shorter periods of support.

It is worth remembering that Oracle, driven by its incessant need to be number one in the marketplace, uses this twin-release approach to appear as a vendor that is rooted in innovation.

While we would like to think that this continuous release model is primarily to benefit its loyal customers (as the vendor would have you believe), it’s more that it positions the vendor to ensnare a much broader market.

This twin-track approach enables Oracle to appeal to the organisations that seek fast-paced innovation to remain at the forefront of the market, as well as those that want value for money with a stable database environment and longer support periods.

The reality is that, either way, these customers will be drawn into, and trapped by, the Oracle upgrade cycle. 

If you’re ready to explore a different option, why not get in touch and find out more about how third-party support can help you break free from the Oracle-defined upgrade cycle?

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