Enterprises using SAP R/3 have been given an extra year to decide whether to upgrade to the latest version of the ERP system.

Buried deep in the announcement of last month’s controversial increase in SAP’s maintenance charges, was news that the software giant was prolonging the period of extended maintenance its offers for customers operating R/3 4.6 and 4.7 platforms.

SAP has traditionally offered a “5-1-2” maintenance schedule, five years of normal maintenance at 17 percent of licence fee, followed by one year extended maintenance at a 19 percent and a further two years at 21 percent of the licence fee.

SAP said, “This added period of one year makes the move to SAP Enterprise Support cost-neutral as customers plan their transition to SAP ERP from SAP R/3.”

The move has met a mixed reaction from SAP users, analysts and consulting firms.

Forrester analyst Ray Wang said the move “may appear cost neutral from SAP's point of view, but when you include the relicensing fee to go from R/3 4.X to ERP 6.0, it is definitely not cost neutral for those customers happy with their existing version. Having one extra year is nice for some clients who do not want to make the move yet,” he added.

David Long, chief executive of West Trax, which provides consulting and optimisation services for SAP users, urged organisations to re-assess their upgrade plans in the light of the extension of support for Releases 4.6 and 4.7.

“Increased SAP support charges can be offset by eliminating all unnecessary custom code support costs,” said Long.

West Trax has accumulated data from the analysis of 830 production systems. “The results indicate that over 90 percent of SAP systems have the potential to make major support cost savings by eliminating or replacing custom code,” said Long.

Some UK SAP users are already slowing their plans to upgrade from R/3 to take advantage of the extended maintenance offer from the supplier.