Early rollouts of the 11i applications were often problematic, and Oracle had trouble persuading many existing users to upgrade. But at the company's AppsWorld conference last week, eight users said their 11i installations had improved internal business processes and, in some cases, are providing returns on their investments.
Building on earlier promises to make installation of the software less complex, Oracle chief executive officer Larry Ellison said during his keynote speech that his company is working to give users a firm idea of 11i costs up front.
"One thing we focused on is reducing the cost of the implementation and trying to make it predictable [so we can] tell you before we begin how much it will cost to run it every day."
Enterprise Applications Consulting analyst Joshua Greenbaum said Ellison's vow marks a change for Oracle - and, potentially, for its rivals.
"Providing complete total-cost-of-ownership [numbers] for all new deals will be hard to do, but it's doable," he said. "And I think it's going to be an important competitive advantage that will force other vendors into promoting better understanding of the lifetime costs of their software."
Hosted versions of Oracle's call centre, finance and other applications saved telecommunications services provider United Asset Coverage more than $3m during the first 12 months it used the software, said Brad Snook, vice-president of client relationship management.
Technology product company ViewSonic has also seen a payback on its investment in 11i, claimed chief information officer CIO Robert Moon. But it took the company two attempts to install Oracle's software before it succeeded.
At AppsWorld, Oracle detailed several initiatives that company executives hope will entice new users into the 11i fold. But the software vendor also made another concession to customers that are still running its older 10.7 software.
Oracle was scheduled to end its support for that release in June. But Mark Jarvis, Oracle's chief marketing officer, said 10.7 users will still be able to get access to some support services after the deadline. "We're not solving new bugs, but all information on current patches, and the knowledge base, will still be available to those customers," Jarvis said.
A document posted on Oracle's website said the "extended support" for 10.7 will last until mid-2004. Oracle will continue to provide telephone support to users who call about previously identified problems with the software, and it will also help 10.7 users plan migrations to 11i.
The ending of support for 10.7 has been a bone of contention between Oracle and its users since 1999. The company initially wanted to stop at the end of 2000, but it made a series of extensions in response to complaints from users who said they weren't ready to upgrade. Even now, according to Oracle, more than 20 percent of its application users haven't started migrating to 11i.
As expected, Oracle used AppsWorld to showcase a new line of bundled applications and consulting services designed to help users install specific 11i applications more quickly.
Oracle also announced that it will offer 11i via a hosted subscription service priced at about $5,000 per month. The service is aimed primarily at companies with up to 25 end users and annual revenues of up to $25 million, Jarvis said. He added that Oracle won't customize the software for individual users.