July 02, 2019

July 2, 2019 | Larry Goldman | Senior Director, Product Marketing

Challenging the Legality of Third-Party Support

Our ongoing Roadblock blog series describes several of the tactics favored by SAP and Oracle account managers as they attempt to dissuade unhappy customers from switching to third-party support. This week, we’ll discuss a highly charged issue: whether third-party support is actually legal.

(Spoiler Alert: Third-party software support that respects the IP rights of Oracle and SAP is very much a legal service.)

The Practices of Third-Party Support Model

First, let’s establish what third-party support is: the replacement of SAP- or Oracle-provided support. High-quality third-party software support vendors are staffed by assigned experienced software engineers that respond quickly to general inquiries and support issues. It’s similar to what SAP and Oracle offer (break/fix, configurations, security), but with wider coverage (interoperability, customizations), greater expertise, and far faster service. It’s also about 60% less expensive.

In the same way that your office would rely on a third-party firm to install and support your Cisco business phone system, companies like Spinnaker Support take over the support of select SAP and Oracle products. The one difference is that, because third-party support is in direct competition with the vendors’ own support offering, they will not accept third-party vendors as certified partners.

So Why Does the Question of Legality Arise?

Oracle account managers, and to a lesser extent those at SAP, raise questions about the legality of third-party support for two reasons:

  1. To Cast Aspersions: Many IT leaders are unfamiliar with third-party support providers, so when you are guiding the conversation, it’s easier to question the practices of a lesser-known competitor.
  2. To Highlight Existing Lawsuits: Oracle has spent much of the past 10 years deep in litigation with another third-party support provider (the details of this litigation are easy to research online). Their account managers want you to know this exists.

The causes of action contained in the Oracle lawsuits can appear complex, but much of it revolves around perceived intentional abuse and misuse of Oracle copyrights, not the third-party business model itself.

Why None of This Applies to Spinnaker Support

Suffice it to say, Spinnaker Support has never been subject to litigation from Oracle and SAP. This is largely due to the following reasons:

  1. The actions in the lawsuits do not apply to Spinnaker Support. Oracle’s legal actions alleged various software copyright violations – and they won. The violations – including copying copyright-protected software programs onto its own computer systems in order to provide support, and cross use of copyrighted items among customers – have never been a part of the Spinnaker Support business model. All customer-specific work product and supporting documents are stored in the customer’s controlled infrastructure, and work product is not shared among customers.
  2. Our support methodology follows strict IP policy. Application support is provided to all customers remotely on customer infrastructure. Code fixes or workarounds are developed and tested only in the customer’s licensed environments. No customer-specific information or documentation is permanently retained by Spinnaker Support.
  3. We avoid applications that can’t be profitably supported without taking shortcuts. Spinnaker Support has opted not to support specific Oracle applications, e.g., Peoplesoft Payroll, because such applications can’t be profitably supported without taking unlawful shortcuts (cross-use of developed updates).
  4. Our archiving process is compliant with software publisher policies. For archiving, Spinnaker Support only downloads information that each unique customer is legally entitled to archive. Archiving by Spinnaker Support is a manual process and is completed without the use of the automated crawlers, bots, or scrapers that are expressly prohibited by Oracle.

Spinnaker Support Does Not Violate the IP Rights of Others

To put things in perspective, third-party support is completely legal when delivered the right way. A recent research paper published by Gartner affirms that there is no legal reason why a third-party cannot provide vendor replacement support for Oracle customers. Executives from both Oracle and SAP have publicly acknowledged that third-party support is legally viable, as long as the intellectual property rights of the software publisher are respected and observed.

Spinnaker Support understands precisely what practices and processes have been deemed unlawful and has always taken great precaution to deliver support the right way – to over 1,100 clients since 2008. We have proven that third-party support is a safe, established alternative to Oracle- and SAP-branded support.

Let us prove it to you as well. Contacts us today to discuss our practices and how we can assist your support needs.