Oracle Support Change for E-Business

Review of the recent Oracle support change for E-Business and the introduction of the “Exception” sustaining support period.

by Stephen Graham, Senior Principal Consultant


The terminal release of E-Business Suite 11i, 11.5.10, moved into its 3-year extended support phase in November 2010. As extended support normally runs for 3 years then that phase is due for completion in November 2013, after which the product moves to Oracle’s lowest support level of sustaining support.

Sustaining support normally includes the following:

• Updates, fixes and patches (including security patches) created during the Premier & Extended Support periods
• Legislation, tax and regulatory updates created during the Premier and Extended Support periods
• Upgrade scripts created during the Premier Support period
• Assistance with service requests and access to My Oracle Support
• Non-technical customer service during normal business hours

Sustaining support normally excludes the following:

• New updates, fixes, security alerts and security patches
• New legislation, tax or regulatory updates
• New upgrade scripts
• Certification with new third party products/versions
• 24 hour commitment and response for severity 1 issues
• Previously released fixes or updates that Oracle no longer supports

In addition to the normal sustaining support that would typically be available Oracle have included what they are calling an Exception sustaining support period where, in addition to the normal Sustaining Support components the following will also be available for the first 13 months (i.e. to the end of December 2014):

• New fixes for severity 1 production support issues
• Critical patch updates (i.e. security patches) up to and including the October 2014 CPU release
• Payroll regulatory updates for the US, Canada, UK and Australia for each countries fiscal year ending in 2014 (i.e. for the UK that means the legislation updates will be available for the March/April 2014 year-end)

It’s worth noting that in order to qualify for that support then the system has to be patched to at least the Extended Support minimums. Most customers will already have done that in order to qualify for the extended support period. If it’s not been done and the intention is to rely on the provisions of the Exception sustaining support period then it’s essential that this work be done as soon as possible.

What does it mean for an customer?

Most 11i customers had decided to upgrade to release 12.1 before the end of the extended support period in November 2013, however this announcement from Oracle complicates the issue and some are now re-thinking their plans. In order for an informed decision to be made it’s essential that each customer fully understands what support would be available to them during the Exception sustaining support period so that they can take an educated assessment of the risks. As the situation with the Critical Patch Updates/Security patches is clear that leaves two areas that need to be clarified:

Legislation updates

• If your system uses Payroll legislations other than the ones Oracle have included – U.S., Canada U.K. and Australia then the exception period is not of benefit
• If you system is dependent on any other legislation or regulatory functionality other than for Payroll (or for the US Form 1099 updates which Oracle have also included) then there is a risk that if the government makes changes that can’t be implemented by you (as Oracle wouldn’t necessarily assist) using the system as it was at the end of the Extended Support period then you may have a problem. For UK customers there aren’t that many other legislation requirements other than Payroll that are widely used but there are some – for example the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

Changes to such legislation haven’t been a regular occurrence but it’s important to understand that if changes did occur then you’re probably on your own.

New Severity 1 fixes

It’s important that you understand Oracle’s definition of Severity 1 which is:

Your production use of the supported programs is stopped or so severely impacted that you cannot reasonably continue work. You experience a complete loss of service. The operation is mission critical to the business and the situation is an emergency. A Severity 1 service request has one or more of the following characteristics:

• Data corrupted
• A critical documented function is not available
• System hangs indefinitely, causing unacceptable or indefinite delays for resources or response
• System crashes, and crashes repeatedly after restart attempts

It’s perhaps even more important to understand what Oracle’s definition of Severity 2 is, to be clear what you won’t have support for during the Exception period:

You experience a severe loss of service. Important features are unavailable with no acceptable workaround; however, operations can continue in a restricted fashion.

So based on Oracle’s own definitions, during the Exception report period you’d have access to Oracle support if your database was corrupted, if a critical function of the system stopped working or if the system crashes and can’t be brought up. If however you have what they class as a “severe loss of service” and other parts of the system still work then you’re likely to have to rely on either fixes or patches that were already available or on your own efforts to resolve. There are grey areas as well:

• What parts of the E-Business Suite system will Oracle view as “critical documented functions”?
• What level of assistance will Oracle give in finding pre-existing fixes for non-Severity 1 issues you encounter? Oracle support analysts have a high workload and need to prioritise the calls they deal with, so it’s quite possible that customers with lower priority issues will find themselves well down the list.

Summary and Rocela Opinion

Having reviewed the implications of the change in detail it’s my opinion that what Oracle have done is to put together a support package in the Exception sustaining support period to assist customers who’re upgrading from 11i to R12 but may struggle to get the upgrade completed before the end of November 2013. What they’ve done is particularly relevant for U.K. Payroll customers because prior to the Exception period being introduced they’d be in a lot of trouble if their R12 upgrade ran on past March 2014 as they’d no longer be able to process their payrolls to meet the legislation beyond that date.

It’s also my view is that Oracle don’t want the Exception sustaining support period to be used by customers as an excuse to not get moving with upgrading onto a better supported version. If that had been their intention then surely they’d have lengthened the Extended Support period – as they’ve just done with the support for R12.1.

If you were already willing to continue using E-Business Suite with only sustaining support available then this change may give you a little extra security. If however you view E-Business Suite as a key or critical system then you should make sure that all relevant parties in your business understand and accept the implications. The drop from Extended to Sustaining Support is softened slightly by the introduction of this Exception sustaining support period but it’s important that you’re aware that Oracle have excluded support for any new fixes, what they class “a severe loss of service” and the potential implications on that for your own business – perhaps at your own year-end, when trying to get a payment batch out to your suppliers or trying to receive cash from your customers.

If you were planning your upgrade and had concerns about the impact of it slipping beyond November 2013 then Oracle have helped by slightly alleviated those concerns. If however you’re using the support change to re-schedule or delay your upgrade then I’d urge you to fully consider the implications first – and at the very least ensure that your key business users are aware of the risks.

I hope this has clarified this sometimes confusing area and if you have any questions on this topic, then please do not hesitate to ask by creating a comment.

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