Loose Lips Sink Ships

If I were to sort my inbox into groups, the biggest -- by far -- would be the one for emails that start with, "When will _____ be certified with the E-Business Suite?"  I answer these dutifully but know that my replies can sometimes be maddening, for two reasons:  technical uncertainty, and Oracle's rules for such communications.

On the Spiral Model of Certifications

Technology stack certifications tend to be highly iterative in nature.  As a result, statements about certification dates tend to be accurate only when made in hindsight.  Laypeople are horrified to hear this, but it's the ugly truth.  Uncertainty is simply inherent to the process.  I've become inured to it over the years, but it might come as a surprise to you that it can take many cycles to get fully-released software to work together. 

Take this scenario:
  1. We test a particular combination of Component A and B.
  2. If we encounter a problem, say, with Component A, we log a bug.
  3. We receive a new version of Component A.
  4. The process iterates again.
The reality is this: until a certification is completed and released, there's no accurate way of telling how many iterations are yet to come.  This is true regardless of the number of iterations that have already been completed

Our Lips Are Sealed


Generally, people understand that things are subject to change, so the second reason I can't say anything specific is actually much more important than the first.  "Loose lips might sink ships" was coined in World War II in an effort to remind people that careless talk can have serious consequences.  Curiously, this applies to Oracle's communications about upcoming features, configurations, and releases, too.  As a publicly traded company, we have very strict policies that prohibit us from linking specific releases to specific dates. 

If you've ever listened to an earnings call with analysts, you'll often hear them asking, "Can you add a little more color to that statement?"  For certifications, color is usually the only thing that I have.  Sometimes I can provide a bit more information about the technical nature of the certification in question, such as expected footprints or version levels.  I can occasionally share technical issues that we've found, too, to convey the degree of risk or complexity involved in the certification. 

Aside from that, there's little additional information about specific dates, date ranges, or even speculation about dates that I can provide... that is, without having one of those uncomfortable conversations with Oracle Legal.  So, as much as it pains me to do so, when it comes to dates, I'm always forced to conclude with a generic reply that blandly states one of the following:
  • We're working on that certification right now
  • That certification is in the pipeline but hasn't been started yet
  • We don't have plans for that certification
Don't Shoot the Messenger

Thankfully, I've developed a thick skin over the years -- which is a good thing, considering the colorful and energetic responses I've received over the years after answering these questions.  However, on behalf of my Oracle colleagues who are faced with these questions every day in the field, I urge you to remember that they're required to follow these same corporate rules about date disclosures.  It never hurts to ask, but don't be too disappointed if we can't provide you with a detailed answer.  The Go-Go's had it right, after all. 

Comments:

I suspect some of your more colorful comments come from customer frustration. Here's an example from my shop. We were told that 11.5.10.1 with ATG4 rpresented an Oracle approved baseline. We found out just the other day that we can't upgrade to database 10g 10.2.0.2 because we are not on 11.5.10.2 or 11.5.9.2. Hmmmmm.....weirdness in the certification strategy. Not 11.5.9.2 or above but specifically skipping the heavily advertised baseline. What are we to think?

Posted by Allan Nelson on March 21, 2007 at 12:59 AM PDT #

Steven,

I've always found you to be a good source for accurate and timely information. However, I also realize your hands are often tied due to legal and competitive considerations.

I think it's also important to realize that the user frustration over the lack of info is reaching critical mass in some segments. The lack of info regarding progress on Fusion Apps is a good example. While I do understand the need for protection from both competitor disinformation and the risk of detrimental reliance, the lack of info is starting to translate into a lack of credibility with a substantial portion of the user community.

The bottom line is it is very tough to strike the appropriate balance between disclosing and withholding. I don't envy the position in which you often find yourself.

Posted by Floyd Teter on March 21, 2007 at 09:51 AM PDT #

Allan,I hear you, loud and clear.  I wish we were able to make elegantly straightforward certification statements like that, too.  It'd sure make my job easier.  Such weirdness is hard to explain, sometimes.The fundamental challenge that we constantly struggle with is picking specific configurations to be certified from a much larger set of possible permutations.  I've alluded to that ongoing challenge in this article:The Blue Bridge of DeathOur general strategy is to certify the subset of upgrade paths that covers the largest portion of our install base.  Given that it's always a subset, we're bound to make some folks unhappy about the need to do cascading upgrades.  It's always a source of great debate internally.Regards,Steven 

Posted by Steven Chan on March 21, 2007 at 09:57 AM PDT #

Thanks for your candor, Floyd.  I know that there are a lot of things about Fusion Apps that folks internally would love to be able to share with the user community.  I'll pass on your comments to our Fusion executives verbatim.Regards,Steven 

Posted by Steven Chan on March 21, 2007 at 10:02 AM PDT #

We are in the process of looking at replacing our current hardware (Sun Sparc based) and one of the options we have been looking at is Sun x86 based systems and this is where we hit an issue. The various components (Application Server and Database) seem to be certified but EBusiness Suite itself (11i and above) doesn't. Are there plans to certify against that platform (x86 and/or x86-64)?

Posted by Ian Neal on April 02, 2007 at 12:19 AM PDT #

Ian, We plan to certify both Release 11i and 12 with Sun Solaris x64 on AMD64 for the database tier only.  I don't have a firm schedule for that certification date yet, but you can monitor both this blog as well as Metalink Note 343917.1 for updates.Regards,Steven

Posted by Steven Chan on April 02, 2007 at 04:01 AM PDT #

Even more frustrating is that from the home page and from a search I cannot get an answer to what the release / end of life dates are for current products, let alone those which have been announced... Very frustrating when we are trying to carry out strategic planning and need to know that, for example, v10 will go out of support in year N.

Posted by Mary Freeman on January 23, 2008 at 03:31 AM PST #

Mary,I share your frustration with our CERTIFY database.  There are times where I have difficulty finding a certification listing for a configuration that I've personally worked on.  It is of likely small comfort to know that even our CERTIFY administrators struggle with this system, themselves.  There are efforts underway to upgrade that database, but those are far outside of my ken, alas.As a brute force workaround, I am working on a simple spreadsheet summary of past and current certifications for technology stack components for the E-Business Suite.  Based on your suggestion, I will include desupport dates as part of this summary.You're welcome to monitor or subscribe to this blog for updates, which I'll post as soon as soon as they're available.  Regards,Steven 

Posted by Steven Chan on January 24, 2008 at 04:29 AM PST #

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