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Business Management

After Oracle trial, Rimini Street CEO offers CIOs support

When the judge tells you to stump up tens of millions of dollars, it’s usually going to be deemed A Bad Day In Court. But for third-party software maintenance firm Rimini Street, the 13 October decision in a long-running trial could be the beginning of an interesting new chapter.

Rimini Street, which provides discounted support services primarily for Oracle and SAP customers, will pay $50m for “innocent” infringement of Oracle copyright after it asked customers to download Oracle software to Rimini Street servers. But the penalty was little over a fifth of the $246m Oracle wanted, leaving both firms to claim a victory of sorts.

I spoke by phone to Seth Ravin, CEO of the Las Vegas-headquartered company, and he was surprisingly upbeat about what happens next.

“Fifty million dollars is a lot of money, don’t get me wrong,” he tells me. “You wince, write a cheque and move on.”

But the upside is that, unless Oracle protests the decision, Rimini Street might be able to attract more customers that don’t want to pay hefty charges to their software providers.

Ravin founded a similar company, TomorrowNow, and sold it to SAP 10 years ago. SAP executive Shai Agassi, once seen as a likely CEO of the German giant, had wanted TomorrowNow in order to help to create a “street-fighting culture” that took the battle to Oracle, he says. When that didn’t happen, TomorrowNow was effectively sidelined and both Agassi and Ravin walked, the latter after just three months and saying he had quickly become “bored out of my mind with all the bureaucracy”.

TomorrowNow could have been the “tip of the spear” of a very different SAP, he laments, but the company was conservative and distracted, for example by efforts to win over the midmarket with its Business By Design product that Ravin dubs “Business By Disaster”.

He founded Rimini (pronounced Ri-MEE-nee) Street in 2005, again targeting the enormous software maintenance market that exists for SAP and Oracle. Today, Rimini Street has about $120m in annual revenues and employs 700 staff around the world, serving over 1,150 customers across sectors.

Has the market changed? Ravin says certainly.

“It was considered something only a pretty bold CIO would get into,” he says, whereas today research suggests about four in five CIOs will consider independent maintenance. “Today there’s critical mass and we have enough of a track record.”

Oracle, predictably enough, doesn’t like this and treats Rimini Street staff as “thieves and crooks”. Customers switching maintenance provider have phones “ringing off the hook”, Ravin claims.

“To say they use a little bit of FUD would be an understatement,” he says. “It’s hand-to-hand combat.”

Now Ravin believes he has a better chance of winning over customers who didn’t want to get caught up in the middle of a legal suit. As for the future, he says that there’s plenty of work left in Oracle and SAP worlds with their extensive software lines – Rimini Street billings on Oracle programs are up 57% year on year. But Microsoft could perhaps be more of a source of work and Ravin is toying with the idea of providing broader IT support services.

He likens Rimini Street’s progress to a Steve Wynn hotel in Vegas: the construction evolves and the building gets better over time. TomorrowNow is yesterday and so, he hopes, is the worst of the legal hassles.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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