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Oracle extends support for aging product

The company quietly decides to continue technical support for a popular version of its business-management software that it had planned to stop supporting at the end of June.

Oracle has quietly decided to extend technical support for a popular version of its business-management software, a company representative confirmed Wednesday.

The company had planned to stop supporting version 10.7 of its business applications software at the end of June of this year. Oracle's decision to continue providing a limited level of support until June 30, 2004 came just days before thousands of customers gathered in San Diego this week for the company's annual AppsWorld conference.

Before the extension, thousands of companies still using the 10.7 version faced an ultimatum of either rushing to upgrade to version 11i, the most recent release of the product, or losing support for their Oracle business systems.

Those companies should be breathing a bit easier now. Under the special "extended support" program for 10.7, Oracle has agreed to continue providing online technical documentation and current patches for the product and respond to technical requests for nearly another year and a half. The details of the program are posted on Oracle's Web site.

Extended support is, however, more limited than Oracle's standard level of support. For instance, it does not include patches to correct newly discovered bugs or annual updates for payroll and taxes for its accounting software.

"Because extended support programs or versions are no longer fully supported, information and skills regarding those releases may be limited," Oracle stated on the site.

There is no additional charge for extended support beyond Oracle's regular maintenance fees.

Although Oracle has supported 10.7 for seven years and has extended support for the version before, the impending upgrade deadline had drawn criticism because of a confluence of three unusual circumstances: initial problems with the newer version, a weakened economy that has crimped information technology budgets, and the complexity of upgrading to 11i.

On Monday, the company said 75 percent of its applications customers are either upgrading to the 11i version or have already completed the move. Oracle has some 13,000 applications customers.

Members of the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG), which lobbied Oracle for extended support, are still assessing the program but said it is a positive development, according to John Stouffer, a database administrator at IT services company Solution Beacon in Langley, Wash. Stouffer is a member of the OAUG--an independent support group with more than 2,000 member companies--and is the leader of an upgrade support group run by OAUG.

Oracle's set of business applications helps companies with critical processes such as bookkeeping, human resources and inventory tracking.