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Oracle sounds upgrade ultimatum again

At its conference this week, the software maker again urges customers to install its newest software--or find themselves on their own once the looming upgrade deadline is past.

Software maker Oracle kicked off its annual business applications conference on Monday with a familiar message to customers: Move to a new version of the company's software soon, or lose support.

The push to upgrade was also the theme at last year's AppsWorld conference. But the call is now more urgent: Oracle is planning to discontinue support for previous versions of its business software at the end of June. Customers who haven't switched to either version 11i or version 11.0 will be stranded without technical support for their business systems.

Oracle's business applications package includes software to help companies move many of their processes, from bookkeeping and inventory to human resources and marketing, to a digital format.

At the same conference last April, Oracle reported that only 10 percent of its applications customers were upgrading to 11i. On Monday, the company said 75 percent are either upgrading their software or have already completed the move. Oracle has some 13,000 applications customers.

At the conference in San Diego, Oracle and its partners launched several new programs to entice customers to move to the new version. The company introduced a special pretested, preconfigured bundling of its software with an application called Oracle Business Flow Accelerators. The bundle is designed to help companies upgrade more quickly, or set up Oracle applications for the first time--a project that has taken some customers more than a year to complete.

Many companies on older versions of Oracle's software are migrating from the 10.7 release, which the company will no longer support after June. It has offered support for that version for seven years, far longer than most companies support their software. While software companies routinely discontinue support for old products--forcing their clients to upgrade or go without support--Oracle has had a particularly hard time getting customers to accept 11i.

The June upgrade deadline has drawn criticism because of a confluence of three unusual circumstances: initial problems with the new software, a weakened economy that has crimped information technology budgets and the complexity of upgrading to 11i.

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In other announcements on Monday, Hewlett-Packard, an Oracle technology partner, introduced a set of bundled products and services designed to help Oracle applications customers migrate more quickly to 11i. HP's Oracle Applications Upgrade program offers discounts on select HP hardware running a range of operating system software, including Unix, Linux and Windows.

Most companies require 40 percent to 60 percent more computing capacity after an 11i upgrade, according to HP. The company said it offers 11i consulting services and loans out extra computing capacity for temporary use during an upgrade project.

Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison is scheduled to address AppsWorld attendees in a keynote speech Tuesday afternoon.