SAP will extend maintenance for its ERP 6.0 platform and other products until 2017, and in a partial olive branch to angry customers, has sweetened the feature set of its Enterprise Support service, the company said Thursday.
The maintenance announcement, which includes ERP 6.0 and any new core applications from SAP Business Suite, is an expansion of SAP's "5-1-2" plan. That system guaranteed regular maintenance on a product for five years, after which customers could opt to pay another 2 percent for an additional year, and following that another 4 percent for another two years. The new plan boosts the five-year period to seven years and adds an optional two-year extension.
Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman said that since ERP 6.0 has already been on the market for a number of years, some customers are starting to be concerned about the 5-1-2 window, and therefore, the extension should be welcome.
SAP is trying to ensure that customers can make long-term plans around ERP 6.0, and the move was not made in the hopes of locking down extended maintenance contracts, said SAP spokesman Bill Wohl.
"I don't think there's any other company in the industry that can give customers this kind of planning horizon," he said. Wohl added that even after SAP's maintenance windows close, customers on older platforms can contract for support from SAP on a one-off basis.
SAP had already made it clear that ERP 6.0 would be its strategic platform through at least 2010, announcing in 2006 that all new features during that time frame would come through optional, add-on "enhancement packages." The extended maintenance window for ERP 6.0 could mean the company intends to keep this strategy in place even longer.
"This is where we expect to be for some time," Wohl said. But the company will continue innovating aggressively through the enhancement packages, he said.
SAP could also be looking to free up customer dollars for the rest of its portfolio, said Bruce Richardson, an analyst with AMR Research: "Maybe they're hoping by extending the maintenance period on the core stuff, people won't feel they've got to devote money for [a future] upgrade, and they'll say, 'Why don't we do more with Business Objects, or move to the CRM.'"
As for the changes to Enterprise Support, SAP is seeking to appease users who have protested loudly since July, when SAP announced that all customers would be transitioned to the richer-featured but more expensive offering.
But SAP is making no concessions on cost. Instead, the company is adding new wrinkles to the support offering, such as up to five days of remote advice from software architects each year regarding the potential value of enhancement packages and how they could be deployed.