Oracle users' gripes about support portal going unheeded

The vendor is apparently still retiring its MetaLink site in exchange for a flashier replacement, despite complaints

Despite complaints from many users, Oracle is showing no signs it will reverse course on plans to shut down the venerable MetaLink support portal, long used by thousands of IT professionals around the world.

The software vendor is planning to replace MetaLink with My Oracle Support (MOS), a Web 2.0 and social-networking infused portal with a dynamic, Flash-based look.

Oracle has offered users an option of logging into "Classic MetaLink" or the new site, but it will soon be no more, despite outcry from many users who prefer the tried-and-true.

More than nostalgia is behind the complaints. Many Oracle users say the MOS interface's use of Flash, which is not installed on many corporate sites and client machines, makes it difficult for them to do their jobs and has resulted in sluggish performance.

The gripes have been rolling in for weeks on both Oracle's official forums and listservs.

A poll started by Oracle DBA Jared Still has received more than 600 responses, with about 62 percent, or two-thirds, saying they preferred Classic MetaLink over MOS.

"So far I'm very disappointed," one respondent said in a comment. "It's certainly not 'My' support, it's 100% 'Their' support (everything is centered around an idea how to cut as much as possible their support expenses.)"

One European Oracle user said via e-mail that the MOS site struggles to perform over lower-bandwidth lines, and the redesign overall was unnecessary and even counterproductive.

"Who cares...the phone works," said the user, a long-time Oracle projects consultant who preferred anonymity. "And I think that some customers will use the phone even more [now]."

Oracle is going to make sure large customers are taken care of, but that may be a moot point since those users probably have a dedicated support worker anyway, the user added.

"I think that if there are enough complaints from a large number of small customers, so revenue is influenced, then Oracle will listen," he said. "If Oracle does not listen to the customer base as a whole, they are in trouble."

In a recent message to users posted on an official support blog, Oracle framed its decision as one of expedience, given the company's long chain of acquisitions.

"Oracle has acquired 50+ companies in the past 5 years. In order to provide a common, consistent support experience we are in the process of moving all of our customers onto a single, integrated support platform, My Oracle Support," it reads.

MOS is also integrated with Oracle's configuration manager, meaning it can use information about a customer's systems to find the answers to problems faster, the message adds.

Oracle is now working to upgrade the MOS and improve the user experience, according to the note.

But is unclear whether users' complaints are prompting Oracle to reconsider its decision to retire MetaLink, and at least continue providing it as an option. An Oracle spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Not every Oracle user is upset about the coming change. In a blog post made last year after MOS was first announced, one calledMetaLink "possibly the worst Web site I've ever used in my life."

And another respondent to the ongoing poll said MOS' unified approach should be helpful.

"It will bring together support for the database and support for other applications (such as PeopleSoft). When you have a problem which is on the dividing line between the two, this will be very useful."

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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