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Trade group SIA plots next move in Oracle maintenance fight

Microscope contributor

The Service Industry Association is meeting next month to determine its next plan of action in tackling issues with Oracle's hardware maintenance policies, which could include enlisting the support of customers impacted by them.

As revealed by MicroScope last week, the main bone of contention voiced by the trade body, centres on restrictions Oracle has slapped on hardware support when a customer does not buy maintenance contracts directly.

Oracle instigated the policy overhaul last spring following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems and reinforced it again in January.

It refuses to support or repair Sun/StorageTek kit on a 'time and materials' basis, denies security patches or firmware updates and penalise customers that return to buy maintenance from Oracle so as to deter them from leaving the fold in the first instance.

Claudio Betzner, executive director at the SIA, said it will meet with its 144-strong membership on 4 April at the annual summit in Las Vegas and will hold an "anti-competitive special interest group".

Asked if members may launch legal action against Oracle, she told MicroScope: "We will be developing additional strategy which could also include end-users who are most hurt by these actions".

In April 2010, Oracle removed free access to Sun Solve, an online diagnostic tool, for customers not buying support from it and determined that Sun customers could no longer buy OS support for Sun alone but had to include hardware in the equation.

One SIA member who agreed to talk on the proviso that he remained anonymous, accused the vendor of "spreading fear, doubt and uncertainty" in the third party maintenance community and end-user customers that are prevented from self maintaining.

"This is Oracle trying to clamp down on the $2.4bn maintenance market for Sun hardware," he added, "if there is only one place where customers can get support that is anti-competitive."
 
Eric Guyer, Oracle architect at US-based integrator Forsythe Solutions Group, said the vendor had operated under an "all-or-nothing, one-size-fits-all, Oracle-only software support model for decades".

"Oracle's business model and the financial success of acquiring Sun depend on applying software-based maintenance policies to hundreds of thousands of Sun servers that remain operational.

"Unfortunately for the SIA, Oracle would likely throw any and all resources at defending their business practices. Worse yet, thus far, the courts have sided with Oracle as demonstrated by the $1.3B settlement with SAP," he added.

However, the courts do not always side with Oracle, the firm lost a trademark infringement battle against M-Tech Data last year and is appealing against the ruling.

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