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Oracle E-Business Suite support for release 12.1 will expire after December 2021 and some MSPs already advise customers to upgrade, noting that the process could take a year.
Oracle E-Business Suite, or EBS, has been part of the vendor's product portfolio since 2001. The offering provides an integrated set of applications, spanning CRM, ERP and supply chain management among other functions. In April, Oracle extended premier support for Oracle E-Business Suite 12.2 through at least 2031. Moving to that release would keep customers off the upgrade treadmill for quite some time.
Clients already express interest in upgrading, said John Schmottlach, senior vice president of delivery at Apps Associates, an MSP and consulting firm specializing in Oracle and based in Acton, Mass.
"Most customers who are running EBS R12.1.3 or lower versions have had some conversations around whether to upgrade ahead of the end of premier support deadline in December 2021," he said. "Depending on the level of complexity of their EBS footprint, these upgrades can take up to 12 months to complete, so the time to start planning is now. We have seen a significant uptick in requests for proposals to perform the upgrade to EBS R12.2.9."
The situation is similar in the United Kingdom, where Claremont, an Oracle MSP with offices in Guildford and Newcastle, has launched an emergency upgrade center to support R12.2 upgrades. Mark Vivian, CEO at Claremont, said the company's survey of Oracle E-Business customers in the U.K. found 30.6% of the 140 respondents run R12.2, while 69.4% use a previous release. Of the organizations on older releases, 58% said they are either planning to upgrade to R12.2 or in the process of doing so.
Claremont customers embarking on upgrades include the City of Edinburgh Council. The service provider will collaborate with CGI, an IT and business consulting services firm based in Montreal with operations in the U.K., and the council to deliver the business transformation program, which also includes ongoing managed services support for EBS.
For organizations yet to start the upgrade process, the December 2021 deadline is closer than it appears.
John SchmottlachSenior vice president of delivery, Apps Associates
"Sixteen months seems like a long time," Vivian said. "But when you break it down, I don't think it is."
The upgrade, itself, can prove time-consuming, but organizations should consider other steps, such as creating a business case and obtaining a budget. An organization that lacks an incumbent service provider also must take the time to select an upgrade partner.
Selecting a partner will become more difficult the longer a business waits to start an upgrade project. Vivian said he expects the U.K. market to encounter "resource scarcity" regarding EBS upgrade assistance by the end of 2021.
Improve support by cutting customizations
The upgrade process opens an opportunity for partners to help customers weed out customizations that 12.2 have rendered unnecessary.
Vivian said his company is "absolutely looking to streamline wherever we can and get people to use the standard features of the product."
The functionality contained in 12.2 can replace customizations, known as CEMLIs, which stands for configurations, extensions, modifications, localizations and integrations. For example, the Enterprise Command Center (ECC) feature in 12.2 provides real-time data interrogation, starting from a dashboard. This capability is available across 28 Oracle modules, with each ECC focused on a particular module such as receivables, and lets organizations drill down to individual transactions, Vivian noted. The ECC feature could replace custom-built reporting tools.
"I think that the advent of ECCs may well represent the opportunity for some users to retire old reporting solutions," Vivian said. Retiring customizations transitions the customer back to the standard product, a best practice that helps with support going forward, he added.
Schmottlach, on the other hand, doesn't see reducing customization as a big opportunity among his customers.
"There are certainly some functionality gains in R12.2 that customers are interested in," he said. "However, the pace of development and functionality release in R12.2 has slowed dramatically in favor of feature development in Oracle Cloud Applications."
As a result, "we typically see that customers are not able to eliminate customizations as part of an upgrade to R12.2," he said.
Consider a cloud migration
Customers who face the end of Oracle E-Business Suite support have options other than upgrading to a newer release.
"Many customers are evaluating their options to migrate to the Oracle Cloud applications -- Fusion -- instead of upgrading," Schmottlach said. Oracle Fusion Applications is an ERP suite that became generally available in 2011.
A move to Oracle Cloud offers customers the advantage of avoiding "forced" upgrades when an application version is no longer supported, Schmottlach said. "Customers are considering channeling their spending into a SaaS transformation and ridding themselves of the expensive upgrade cycle," he said.
That said, each customer must determine the approach -- upgrade or cloud migration -- that best suits its requirements.
"[Cloud migration is] an option that may not work for every customer," Schmottlach said. " Most customers need help determining the best course of action, and to help determine if the Oracle Cloud is a fit for their organization's business systems' needs."
Oracle MSP Claremont gives customers options in addition to the Oracle Cloud, including Claremont Cloud, a public cloud offering, and Oracle-specific hosting services delivered through a data center provider partner.
Explore tools and service offerings
MSPs have created services to assist clients in moving away from R12.1. Claremont's emergency upgrade center, unveiled in August 2020, offers a fixed-price upgrade assessment, which encompasses project management, CEMLI analysis, infrastructure assessment, and workshops that review business processes and examine the use of R12.2.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is reshaping consulting services, Claremont has performed a number of the assessments remotely, Vivian said.
Apps Associates provides a technical upgrade package for customers preparing to upgrade to R12.2. The organization also offers migration services to shift clients from EBS to Oracle Cloud, Schmottlach said, adding the MSP has a number of accelerator tools for supporting migrations.
Other tools include Apps Associates' Apps Pack products, which customers can use to identify custom objects and configuration data in their Oracle E-Business Suite environments. Using Apps Pack, organizations can extract source code and data elements and migrate them into Oracle Cloud applications, Schmottlach said.
Once the migration is done, Apps Associates offers automated release management services that Schmottlach said help with regression testing Oracle Cloud's quarterly updates. Schmottlach said such testing "is one of the biggest concerns for EBS customers migrating to Oracle Cloud."