Oracle 12.1 users warned as mainstream support ends in July

12.1 friends without benefits as database pros question LTR with Oracle 12.2

Users of Oracle 12.1 database will move off mainstream support at the end of the month, ending access to bug fixes and security patches for the popular system.

Although Big Red has warned of the system's effective retirement, swaths of users remain reliant on the database, while some who have made the upgrade leap are wondering how they benefit beyond maintenance.

Oracle offered Extended Support for Database 12.1.0.2 for the period August 2021 through July 2022 which, for the technical support fee, includes updates, fixes, security alerts, and critical patch updates; tax, legal and regulatory updates; upgrade scripts and other updates. It was available on Linux x86-64, Linux on IBM Z, IBM AIX on POWER Systems (64-bit), HP-UX Itanium, Fujitsu BS2000, Oracle Solaris on SPARC, Oracle Solaris on x86-64, and Microsoft Windows x64.

Enterprise Edition 12.1 and Standard Edition 2 (SE2) 12.1 move to sustaining support after July 2022, meaning users can access any updates available before that date, but Oracle will not build new program updates, fixes, security alerts, critical patch updates, and so on but these users still pay Oracle support fees.

Standard Edition (SE) 12.1 and Standard Edition One (SE1) 12.1 left Premier Support in 2016 and were not offered Extended Support.

Speaking to The Register, Mark Vivian, CEO of Oracle managed services and support specialist Claremont, said: "There will still be lots of people who are on early releases of the database. When you talk to customers, the 12.1 database is very much linked to the use of EBS, that being the compatible release. But also you see people out there on a much earlier version of the database and just carrying on but, obviously, we're always recommending that people get up to that latest release.”

Introduced in March 2017, Oracle database 12.2 was only ever a short-term release. It went out of Premier Support in March 2022. Oracle database 12.1 customers are left with the upgrade path to the next long-term release, 19c, currently available on Premier Support until April 2024 and Extended Support until April 2027.

But Martin Biggs, vice president and general manager of third-party support specialist Spinnaker, told us users found it difficult to see the benefits of upgrading just to stay in support.

"We've talked to a large UK retailer and something like 90 percent of their environment would be in sustaining support [if they had not upgraded]. The adoption of 19 has been reasonable but it's a huge amount of effort. On the whole, while it does give new functionality, a lot of the time people are only upgrading because they need to be supported, not because they're going to take advantage of that functionality," he said.

Oracle says 19c offers the advantage of automatic indexing, hybrid partitioned tables, security and performance enhancements, and SQL/JSON syntax simplifications.

One of the problems, however, was that users were upgrading their databases but not necessarily their applications, meaning little benefit in end-user performance. The approach could also introduce problems, Biggs argued. "Upgrading from 12 to 19 is like a car, taking the engine out and putting a jet engine inside. If you've got an old car — or any car — it's not going to handle that. Things will break," he said.

Research from Oracle support firm Rimini Street found in 2020 found 68 percent of users were struggling to stay current with the latest Oracle releases. As a result, 73 percent had database instances that would be no longer fully supported by Oracle as of December 2020. Since 12.1 is a popular database release, this percentage may well increase after July 2022, the study predicted.

The cost of Oracle Database was one of the top challenges for 97 percent of respondents while 83 percent felt that support costs were excessive or that they were paying too much for Oracle Database maintenance.

Frank Reneke, Oracle Services group vice president and general manager at Rimini Street, said: "Our view is that vendor-imposed deadlines should not dictate database or enterprise application strategies. You should be looking to create a smart path to transformation, which includes using support services to enable you to maintain and optimize existing applications while you prioritize modernizing those applications that are most important to your competitive advantage.

"Over time, if you want to migrate your databases you can, but deadlines imposed by vendors should not rush you to make decisions." ®

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