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Don Burleson Blog 







Why Oracle will not make the same mistakes as Computer Associates

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

January 22, 2015

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 innovative.

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, practically overnight.

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?

The 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 from Oracle:

CA made money with the following strategy. They would:

  • Pay a pittance for a broken software company (often less than 1x revenues)
  • Fire all the staff, leaving only a skeleton crew|
  • Perform only 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. CEO 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 technical support 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.An 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.

If you like Oracle tuning, you may enjoy my bestselling book Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with over 900 pages of BC's favorite tuning tips & scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.



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