Oracle pushes 11i upgrade

Currently, only about 10 per cent of Oracle’s install base uses the company’s 11i E-Business Suite. But the company will end support for its Application Suite 10.7 sometime next year, and pushing customers to upgrade was a big theme at the company’s user conference, Oracle AppsWorld, held in San Diego last month.

But, although 11i runs on the 8i

Database, customers aren’t likely to upgrade to 11i until they are ready to upgrade to the 9i Database, which is bug-ridden and unstable, said Warren Shiau, a research analyst at Toronto-based IDC Canada’s software division.

Oracle’s 8i database is ahead of IBM in the market and has a lot of functionality, he said. “Version 1 (of 9i) really is bug ridden,” Shiau said. He stressed, however, that this is normal fare for the first version of a product, and that, in the end, Oracle will come out of this with its business unscathed.

If Version 2 does have the stability that Oracle is claiming, customers will likely begin migrating to it, he said. “It’s not a question of 9i being a cruddy product, it’s a question of getting code stability.”

Although Oracle Corp. has in the past made claims that the database is “unbreakable,” security specialists in the U.K. have since found flaws.

The company also received a lot of flack recently for its pricing model. Both Gartner Inc. and Meta Group Inc. said customers were complaining about being forced to use more costly named-user or process-based pricing models. Oracle’s pricing model is consistent throughout, and also applies in Canada.

“I’d like to see Oracle look at their pricing,” said one Oracle customer, Perry Cozzone of Colorcon in West Point, Penn., during a customer panel held at the conference. He said named-pricing doesn’t make much sense for corporations with offices around the globe. A concurrent pricing model would make more sense to him, he said.

Woody Muth, director of IT at Charlotte, N.C.-based Kvaerner Pulp and Paper, who also spoke on the panel, said his company upgraded to 11i because of the integration it offered.

Kvaerner had been using Oracle since ’94 as a standalone product for order taking, and has now been able to integrate the system with its invoicing and billing system, allowing the company to cut down its shipping process by 14 days. This, Muth said, has significant benefits.

Kyle Lambert, the vice-president of information systems at John I. Haas in Washington said that outsourcing 11i to Oracle has allowed his IT staff to increase its productivity by 100 per cent because his staff no longer has to worry about applying patches.

MONTAGE.DMC eBusiness Services Inc. was also able to reap a lot of benefit from the 11i suite, according to Ottawa-based Sylvain St. Pierre, VP of e-business.

The company, a division of AT&T Canada, implemented 11i some 15 months ago because the product they were using wasn’t able to grow quickly enough with the company. Oracle’s suite, it seems, was the right decision.

The company was able to cut down the time it took to process information in several procedures, such as invoicing, and as a result was able to flatten out its overhead while at the same time growing its business.

“It really introduced a lot of efficiencies in our organization from an operational standpoint,” St. Pierre said in an interview.

The company, which is using a lot of the suite’s back office modules and is planing to increase the footprint of the product, decided not to customize the software.

The decision not to customize was made so that MONTAGE.DMC could maintain the benefits of owning the product. Customizing would have lengthened the company’s four-month deployment time. It will be easier now, as well, for the company to upgrade the product and benefit from point releases as they come out, St. Pierre said.

Where the product didn’t fit MONTAGE.DMC’s business processes, the company decided to change the business processes rather than the software, St. Pierre said.