Oracle is set to offer support and maintenance for rival SAPs R/3 applications. Together with its partner Systime Computers, Oracle is to extend its support programme to include partners that support SAP's R/3 software. SAP is in the middle of moving its customers away from R/3 to its newer mySAP ERP applications and, according to Oracle, may stop supporting R/3.

Applications vendors are trying to lure away each other's customers by offering those users on older software versions cheap deals on support. Given the complexity of the software, users tend to move slowly from one business application release to the next, with the upgrade cycle as long as five years.

SAP applications run on a number of different databases, with Oracle's one of the most popular. Oracle is keen to encourage those SAP users, some of whom are already also using Oracle's Fusion middleware, to switch over to Oracle applications, offering a 100 percent license credit as a sweetener.

Oracle plans to set up a Solution Support Center for providers of R/3 support to help them run the SAP applications on Oracle databases. The company claims the support services its partner Systime will offer could cost 55 percent less than what SAP charges customers.

Last week, SAP's TomorrowNow subsidiary announced that it will start supporting Oracle's Siebel products at half the cost of what customers are currently paying Oracle for support. TomorrowNow already offers third-party support for older versions of the PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards applications Oracle gained through acquisitions.

A new breed of third-party support companies has grown up over the last few years, including TomorrowNow, which SAP purchased last year, and independent players like Rimini Street and netCustomer.