​From Oracle to Rimini Street: TransGrid to reap rewards from the vendor dual

There's a strategic advantage in going away and coming back, TransGrid ICT planning and architecture manager has said.

Around four years ago, New South Wales-based high voltage electricity transmission network provider TransGrid took the maintenance and support contract from the care of Oracle and handed it to Rimini Street.

According to TransGrid ICT planning and architecture manager Michael Milne, Rimini Street, which provides third party enterprise software support, was a good fit for the organisation that was not long ago sold by the NSW government for AU$10.5 billion to a consortium of mainly foreign owners.

"We've traditionally been an outsourced environment, running Eclipse ERP system with an Oracle back-end, and we have about 100 or-so applications. Oracle's not a big footprint for us, nor is it a strategic direction," Milne told the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.

"We did an upgrade to the ERP system about five years ago which saw the removal of the Oracle eBusiness suite and the consolidation of capex and project financials into the Eclipse ERP system."

It was around a year later, Milne said, that the CIO at the time decided to look into what Rimini Street could provide the organisation.

"We took a look at what Rimini Street were doing, and their extensive legal history with Oracle -- which was colourful," Milne said.

Back in 2016, Rimini Street was ordered to pay nearly $100 million to Oracle after a jury found that Rimini infringed 93 Oracle copyrights.

"To cut a long story short, we decided we were getting rid of Oracle eBiz and Oracle wasn't a strategic direction for us. We had just done the ERP application upgrade, so we weren't going to be driven into a database version upgrade any time soon, so we thought this was a good fit for us," he explained.

TransGrid boasts four major Oracle workloads outside ERP, which is also where Milne said its telecommunications asset database runs.

"Those physical Oracle database appliances ... five years ago -- they're coming into end-of-life," he said. "Oracle are keen for us to replace those physical appliances with brand new physical appliances and the associated software ... they're also keen for us to come back into the fold and out from the dark.

"When we first went to Rimini Street, Oracle's attitude was if you want to come back, we'll charge you back maintenance and charge you penalties."

Milne said Oracle will now match or beat Rimini Street's pricing.

"There's a strategic advantage in going away and coming back -- or staying out as well -- because essentially you've got competition in a market where there was no competition for many years," he continued.

TransGrid boasts 103 enterprise applications and is approaching 100 Siebel databases.

"We're largely a Microsoft shop -- Windows servers, virtualised on VMware, just in our non-production environment, it's on hyperconverged infrastructure, so moving to Nutanix," Milne said.

"Originally I wanted to put the Oracle workloads into the VMware environment, then I talked to one of the licensing consultant specialists, I sat through a one-day course on Oracle licensing -- which was a day of my life I'll never get back -- and the conclusion from all that five years ago was that virtualising an Oracle workload was a high risk approach."

TransGrid's licensing agreement with Rimini Street is a perpetual one and Milne said one of Oracle's recent negotiating tactics has been to ask for the licensing agreements to be revoked.

"We bought the physical appliances to avoid the risk from Oracle of running a virtualised environment," Milne said. "The situation has changed a little bit, but I'm not going to spend another day of my life in a licensing course to find that out ... and we are looking at the possibility of virtualising that environment.

"We're at the decision point and we're talking to both Rimini Street and Oracle about where we go from here and about whether we stay in a physical environment with third-party support arrangement, or we go back under a support agreement with Oracle."

Disclosure: Asha McLean travelled to Gartner Symposium/ITxpo as a guest of Gartner.

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