Third Party Software Support: Yes or No?

Saving 50% could cost you 100%

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In January, Oracle sued third party "software maintenance" provider Rimini Street for allegedly stealing Oracle's software and related support materials.

Rimini Street charges customers about 50% of what Oracle or SAP charge for what it calls "software support services." The idea is that you get your software support from them instead of from Oracle or SAP. Their target customers are companies that are very happy with the version of software they are running, have no plans to upgrade the software, and just want to have the minimal level of support to cover tax and regulatory changes. Software maintenance from SAP and Oracle range from 18-22% of the license fee per year, which means that you effectively re-buy the software every four to five years. A company that is happy with their version and who does not want to upgrade, or who expects to phase out the package in several years, could see third party support as a good bargain. I disagree.

Going to a third party for support has its own costs and risks. TomorrowNow, another third party support company, closed its doors in 2008 after they were caught with their hands in Oracle's cookie jar (they had unauthorized access to Oracle's support information, which is what Oracle alleges Rimini Street is doing). TomorrowNow's customers were left in the cold, scrambling to get their software compliant to the latest tax regulations.

It seems to me that you either pay for maintenance or you don't. Really, the owner of the software, the company with rights to the source code, should be the company that supports the software. Yes, you can hire third party consultants to help you configure and deploy the software, but ultimately, it is the vendor that has the deep skills and the incentive to support their software. The cost of maintenance at whatever percentage is a cost of business. If you did your due diligence when selecting the package, then the maintenance cost should not prove to be a burden compared to the benefit of having the software installed and running correctly. If you chose the wrong package, that is a whole other bucket of problems, and going third-party on support is not the answer.

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