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分类: Oracle

2013-05-14 15:36:57

For decades the enterprise software industry has grown fat on outsized, upfront license fees coupled with ongoing, high-margin maintenance streams. Cracks in the model have threatened  to dismantle the system for years, as reported by The Wall Street Journal back in 2009, with CIOs chafing at paying for low-value, high-cost maintenance.

But if Oracle's big earnings miss last week is any indication, one of three disappointing quarters over the past two years, the cracks have widened to a chasm. As bellwether for the enterprise software incumbents, Oracle's miss suggests that the legacy vendors may struggle to adapt to the world of open-source software and Software as a Service (SaaS) and, in particular, the subscription revenue models that drive both.

It isn't going to be pretty.

Changing How Vendors Get Paid

This isn't just a matter of improving legacy software products. It's a matter of fundamentally changing how these legacy vendors deploy and charge for software. For example, Oracle's entire cost structure is built around the premise of a hefty upfront license and high-margin maintenance (Over 20% of the license fee). Ever read The Innovator's Dilemma? Clayton Christensen's classic addresses just this sort of inability for established companies to change. It turns out to be brutally hard, and often impossible.

Small wonder, then, that SAP has been raising its maintenance fees, trying to milk more money from its customer base as it faces serious headwinds maintaining its license model against upstart competitors like Workday:

Such actions basically force customers to start looking elsewhere, if they weren't already.

If this were just a matter of technology, Oracle, Microsoft et al. would likely weather the storm quite well. Oracle makes great software. There's a reason it's the enterprise database leader, and by a wide margin (though smaller rivals are gaining in popularity).

But building great technology is not enough. Oracle's peers, from SAP to IBM to Microsoft, also charge for software in this way, and across the industry they've been taking a beating as enterprises look to the improved productivity and OpEx of open source and SaaS. Oracle, for its part, blamed its miss on "sales execution," but as Cowen & Co. analyst Peter Goldmacher points out oracle 10g

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