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I was fascinated by a recent article by Chris Kanaracus entitled “Official document reveals the rules of Oracle’s cloud”  in which analysts Ray Wang and Frank Scavo examine an official Oracle document entitled “Oracle Cloud-SaaS Hosting and Delivery Policies“ and suggest that the included policies are mostly in line with industry standards with the exception of a few policies which pose some potential problems for customers. Reading the article, I had the feeling that Kanaracus had discovered something top-secret – almost as if it was the Coca Cola formula.

To exacerbate things, Oracle initially removed the document in response to Kanaracus’ article.

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In the meantime, the document has been reinstated at the original URL.

What is even more curious is that there are already a variety of other Oracle cloud-related contracts which are also publicly available. A very similar document entitled Oracle Cloud-SaaS Enterprise Hosting and Delivery Policies was on the same page but wasn’t deleted (as seen in the Yahoo search cache). Other cloud vendors also make such legal documents publicly available – Salesforce provides a great number of contracts on their customer agreements page. Other cloud vendors (such as Workday) fail to make such documents available or at least I failed to find them after a search on their sites.

SAP has also publicly posted similar legal documents (for example, here is the SAP NetWeaver Cloud Supplemental Terms and Conditions that includes details on its SLA) on most of its cloud offerings. Despite the fact that most people ignore such documents, I’ve blogged about these documents numerous times and find them full of important details.

From my experience analyzing at SAP’s cloud strategy, the availability of such documents is just a given – their existence is critical for customers to make correct purchasing decisions.  For example, they allow customers to make comparisons (NetWeaver Cloud SLA 99,9% vs Oracle Cloud SLA 99,5%) between various vendors.  As Wang describes “cloud contracts require all the rigor and due diligence of on-premise licensed software” and the availability of such legal agreements is critical for such choices.  The whole purpose of such documentation is to define the relationship between customer and cloud vendor so that later claim management and disputes aren’t as prevalent or vociferous. If customers don’t read such legal documents, then that is their own fault.

The media buzz around this one particular document from Oracle was, in my opinion, a biased witch hunt, because a comparison with the related legal documents of other cloud vendors was missing in the article. For example, the clause in the Oracle documenation regarding customer monitoring of Oracle SaaS applications might be a problem for customers but has anyone looked at the TOCs for other vendors to see if a similar clause exists?

I’m not going to comment on Oracle’s decision to play hide-seek with the document in question but rather complement SAP and other cloud vendors on making such important legal documents publicly available.  Now – if you didn’t need a Harvard Law degree to understand many of these legal documents created with such love and enthusiasm by the respective legal teams, I would be doing cartwheels of joy but there is a still a week until Christmas – maybe we’ll get lucky and there will be a HANA-based legal document decoder under the tree.

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