As the dark days of the economic crisis come to an end, businesses are once again thinking about investing in new technology. According to Gartner’s Worldwide IT Spending Forecast, IT spending is on track to total a little more than $3.8trillion this year highlighting the growth of the market over the past couple of years.
As nearly all businesses rely on database systems to store information, the same report predicts that the global enterprise software market will see a healthy 6.9 per cent growth this year. With databases providing organisations with a central repository of information, which can easily be searched or used to generate reports, they act as the bloodline for most businesses and are fundamental for day-to-day business activity.
The enterprise software market has for decades been dominated by Oracle thanks mainly to its revenue-orientated growth plans. However, many customers, who have experienced Oracle’s support system, complain the giant can put up a barrier on business activity.
Database performance problems are, for some IT managers, a worst nightmare scenario as Oracle’s support can be painstakingly lengthy. Those seeking help are often left to fend from themselves as they endure a complex troubleshoot process. If downtime continues for days (which unfortunately is not that uncommon) it can become detrimental to business activity and have a negative impact on a company’s reputation.
Like most businesses, Oracle understands the importance of good customer service. Back in 2012, the company issued a research report entitled ‘Why Customer satisfaction is no longer good enough’.
Out of 1,300 senior executives, almost all (97%) agreed customer experience to be critical to business success, and 93% said their organisation had made it a top-three priority for the next three years. However, despite this customer service on the whole is not something that is traditionally associated with Oracle; whilst being so dominant in the market is a good thing for Oracle, it is often a bad thing for customers.
With little choice to shop elsewhere, they are left at its mercy. Technical callbacks can often take hours, only then to be passed from department to department. As businesses depend on databases in order to function, IT managers need to feel supported and confident that unexpected issues can be quickly dealt with by round the clock local support.
Software licensing for Oracle customers has also plagued businesses for many years. Using Oracle software means managers face the daunting task of squaring their company’s software estate to avoid the threat of a software audit, and it’s not uncommon for businesses to have thousands of Oracle’s products embedded in layers of infrastructure.
The complexity of this process causes managers to panic and over-licence themselves for protection, wasting budget on unnecessary licences they won’t even use. As Oracle has a long history of acquisitions, its licensing and database metrics have changed several times since the early 2000s – if a contract is ten years or older, it’s highly likely the metrics used to build it are no longer offered for new purchases. This means when it comes to renewing these licences, customers are faced with buying the equivalent under new – and possibly more – expensive licenses.
> See also: Oracle's big data forecast 2014
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as the enterprise software landscape is rapidly changing. There’s a new breed of innovative tech companies on the horizon that are emerging from new markets, such as Asia.
Introducing competition that is offering viable alternative software, which is not only compatible with Oracle databases but also competitively priced, will give customers back the power of choice. This will cause a power shift; instead of having to accommodate to Oracle, customers will be able to make an informed decision of who to buy their software from based on customer feedback, technological solutions, pricing and licensing structures.
Bringing in competition will force Oracle to sit up and take notice of its customers. For too long it has sat on its laurels basking in its position of dominance. Increased competition has to be a good thing for the market generally as it forces Oracle to relook at its current policies, whilst giving customers more choice.
However, if these new companies are to become market leaders, not only must their technology be as good as (if not better) than Oracle’s, but they must ensure their licensing structure and pricing is clear, and their customer service commitment is the very best.