What does the term "support" mean to you in context of vendors such as Oracle giving your organization support with our products? Over the last few weeks I'm taken a straw poll to discuss this very question with customers, and I've received a wide array of answers much to my surprise (which I've paraphrased):
"Support means my staff can access dedicated resources to assist them solve problems"
"Support means I can call Oracle at anytime to request assistance"
"Support means we can expect fixes and patches to bugs in Oracle software"
The last expectation is the one I'd like to focus on in this post, keep it in mind while reading this blog.
From Oracle's perspective as we're in the business of support, we in fact offer numerous services which are captured on the table in the following page.
As the text under the table indicates, you should consult the relevant Oracle Lifetime Support brochures to understand the length of time Oracle will support Oracle products. As I'm a product manager for ADF that sits under the FMW tree of Oracle products, let's consider ADF in particular. The FMW brochure is found here.
On page 8 and 9 you'll see the current "Application Development Framework 11gR1 (11.1.1.x)" and "Application Development Framework 11gR2 (11.1.2)" releases are supported out to 2017 for Extended Support. This timeframe is pretty standard for Oracle's current released products, though as new releases roll in we should see those dates extended.
On page 8 of the PDF note the comment at the end of this page that refers to the Oracle Support document 209768.1:
For more-detailed information on bug fix and patch release policies, please refer to the “Error Correction Support Policy” on MyOracle Support.
This policy document is important as it introduces Oracle's Error Correction Support Policy which addresses "patches and fixes". You can find it attached the previous Oracle Support document 209768.1.
Broadly speaking while Oracle does provide "generalized support" up to 2017 for ADF, the Error Correction Support Policy dictates when Oracle will provide "patches and fixes" for Oracle software, and this is where the concept of the "grace period" comes in.
As Oracle releases different versions of Oracle software, say 188.8.131.52.0, you are fully supported for patches and fixes for that specific version. However when we release the next version, say 184.108.40.206.0, Oracle provides at minimum of 3 months to a maximum of 1 year "grace period" where we'll continue to provide patches and fixes for the previous version. This gives you time to move from 220.127.116.11.0 to 18.104.22.168.0 without being unsupported for patches and fixes.
The last paragraph does generalize as I've attempted to highlight the concept of the grace period rather than the specific dates for any version. For specific ADF and FMW versions and their respective grace periods and when they terminated you must visit Oracle Support Note 1290894.1. I'd like to include a screenshot here of the relevant table from that Oracle Support Note but as it is will be frequently updated it's better I force you to visit that note.
Be careful to heed the comment in the note:
According to policy, the Grace Period has passed because a newer Patch Set has been released for more than a year. Its important to note that the Lifetime Support Policy and Error Correction Support Policy documents are the single source of truth, subject to change, and will provide exceptions when required. This My Oracle Support document is providing a summary of the Grace Period dates and time lines for planning purposes.
So remember to return to the policy document for all definitions, note 1290894.1 is a summary only and not guaranteed to be up to date or correct.
A last point from Oracle's perspective. Why doesn't Oracle provide patches and fixes for all releases as long as they're supported? Amongst other reasons, it's a matter of practicality. Consider JDeveloper 10.1.3 released in 2005. JDeveloper 10.1.3 is still currently supported to 2017, but since that version was released there has been just under 20 newer releases of JDeveloper. Now multiply that across all Oracle's products and imagine the number of releases Oracle would have to provide fixes and patches for, and maintain environments to test them, build them, staff to write them and more, it's simple beyond the capabilities of even a large software vendor like Oracle. So the "grace period" restricts that patches and fixes window to something manageable.
In conclusion does the concept of the "grace period" matter to you? If you define support as "getting assistance from Oracle" then maybe not. But if patches and fixes are important to you, then you need to understand the "grace period" and operate within the bounds of Oracle's Error Correction Support Policy.
Disclaimer: this blog post was written July 2012. Oracle Support policies do change from time to time so the emphasis is on you to double check the facts presented in this blog.