In rare bout of generosity, Oracle extends free support for Database 19c

Big Red says it wants to give customers time to upgrade to 23c, which only exists in the cloud for now

Oracle watchers are scratching their heads trying to figure out what seems like an uncharacteristic act of generosity from the enterprise tech behemoth.

In late September, Big Red announced a release schedule for its supported database systems. Among the details was news that 19c, the most recent long-term release that is available on all platforms, would get two years of waived Extended Support (ES) fees will be in effect from May 1, 2024, until April 30, 2026.

It piqued the interest of commentators because Oracle usually only offers a single year of waived Extended Support fees for databases on their way out.

Martin Biggs, vice president and general manager of third-party support specialist Spinnaker, said that Oracle had been telling users for a while that the first year of Extended Support for 19c would be free, but the second year was a surprise.

"It is a very strange thing. Oracle doesn't like just giving money away for free. So there must be a motivation for that," he said.

It also leaves Oracle users with only one long-term release of the database in mainstream support, whereas as recently as 2020 three long-term releases have been in Premier Support or free Extended Support.

Users tend to run a mixed portfolio of Oracle databases, with perhaps the minority on 19c. It might be as low as 5 percent in some conservative organizations, Biggs said.

Oracle's next option for a longer-supported database is 23c, but that only became available in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in September last year. It is set to become available on other platforms in the first half of next year, according to Oracle.

The decision to waive two years of support could be to give other users time to migrate to 19c, or so 19c users can plan their future path. "You've got nothing else to do," Biggs said. "You cannot deploy any other version of the database which is going to be supported any longer than [19c] because it doesn't exist yet."

An Oracle spokesperson told The Register it is offering two years of free Extended Support because it wanted "to ensure customers have additional time to plan and upgrade from 19c to 23c."

The spokesperson argued that Oracle Database 23c had been available on OCI Base Database Service from September 2022.

"Customers see several new capabilities in 23c that would warrant an upgrade," they said. "These include AI Vector Search, JSON Relational Duality views, Operational Property Graph views, Raft-based replication for distributed databases, self-managing data cache with True Cache, in-database firewall."

Jonathan Stuart, delivery director for Oracle managed service at support company Claremont, said few companies would want to be the first to move to 23c. Most would want to see a few case studies, and make sure bugs were fixed, before they made the leap.

"Most customers don't want to be the first to go to a new product," he said. "They'll want their suppliers to be familiar with the product. Most of our customers will want to hear that we've upgraded to 23c with another customer before they do it."

Oracle would want to get 23c available on all platforms as soon as possible to avoid customers making the argument for more free Extended Support on 19c, he said. ®

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