Oracle has tapped longtime executive Charles Rozwat to head up oversight of its support organization, a job that now takes on added complexity due to the hardware products gained by the company's purchase of Sun Microsystems.
Rozwat, who was not available for comment Thursday, will report to Oracle co-President Mark Hurd. He used to be executive vice president of product development at Oracle, but that role switched over to Thomas Kurian after Rozwat took a leave of absence last year to attend a graduate program at Harvard.
He enters the job at a time when some Oracle applications customers are not happy with the vendor's support service, according to an ongoing study by research firm Computer Economics.
Some 48 percent of E-Business Suite customers and 41 percent of PeopleSoft users among the roughly 100 respondents are dissatisfied with Oracle support. Moreover, 63 percent of E-Business Suite users and roughly half of PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers complained that Oracle charges too much for support, according to the study, which is still accepting responses.
Many people who have answered the survey cited the length of time and number of calls it takes to support to get problems resolved, said Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics.
Software support revenue is the lifeblood of companies such as Oracle, since that provides steady, high-margin income even as new license sales slow.
Therefore, the survey results would seem to predict a healthy future for companies like Rimini Street, which provides third-party software support for some Oracle applications at discounted prices.
However, three-quarters of respondents expect no change in Oracle's share of their IT spending three years from now. That figure could partly reflect the fact that Oracle is suing Rimini Street as well as former SAP subsidiary TomorrowNow, which provided similar services, claiming intellectual property violations. Both cases have yet to go to trial.
Meanwhile, Rozwat appears to be in a pretty good starting point to support Oracle's hardware customers, according to one observer.
"The interesting thing about both hardware and software support is the vast majority of the activities involved are effectively the same," said IDC analyst Matthew Healey, who specializes in vendor support services. That's because most of the hardware problems customers encounter are actually due to the software running on that machine, he said.
Of course, there are obvious differences with hardware support, namely the cost and operational logistics of providing part replacements, he said.
But Sun had a slew of executive-level and operational staff who were well-versed in these matters, and Oracle has retained many of them, Healey said. "[Rozwat's] got a pretty knowledgeable infrastructure in place. If he pays attention to them, he will do quite well."
Oracle faces less of a threat from third-party hardware maintenance companies because it has made a strategic decision not to compete in commodity servers, Healey added. Instead, Oracle is mostly pushing high-powered, engineered systems like Exadata and Exalogic, which combine software and hardware for data processing and application delivery.