SAP customers say the debate over the vendor's recent support price hike is far from over. User organisations are now pressing for SAP to back up its claims about the service's added benefits with hard data.

Meanwhile, there is no indication the vendor will change course.

"We continue to be very pleased with the reaction from customers we see in the market," said SAP spokesman Bill Wohl. "While customers are saying they never like to pay more money, they see the additional value."

On 16 July, SAP announced that the enterprise support offering would replace the standard and premium support options. Customers who move to the new system will start receiving some enterprise support features now, but won't see any price increases until Jan. 1, SAP said. The increases will be phased in gradually until 2012, eventually reaching the enterprise support level of 22 percent of maintenance base, compared to 17 percent for standard support.

Wohl repeated SAP's past contention that its move was tied to the fact that customer environments have become increasingly complex - and not to a desire to drive revenue - and that the service's additional benefits could actually lead to efficiencies and cost savings.

SAP customers and user group leaders aren't yet convinced this is the case.

"Supposedly, we're going to get more value. I haven't seen it because I haven't been shown it," said Michael Davidson, CIO of Apotex, a large Canadian pharmaceutical company.

Apotex won't immediately feel the effect of higher costs because it has some time remaining on an existing deal, he said, but added, "we need to look at a longer term of what that level of maintenance is, and ask quite honestly, 'Are we getting business value?'"

Meanwhile, the German-speaking SAP User Group (DSAG) said in a statement on 7 August that it couldn't "support the compulsory replacement of Standard Support with Enterprise Support at this point in time."

"Our impression is and the feedback we got from our members is that the opposition is very significant," group board member Andreas Oczko said. "The feedback, especially from the small-to-medium businesses, is that they have very simple landscapes and are familiar with their systems. They don't see at the moment why they should need enterprise support."

The vendor has agreed to provide evidence for its argument that the enterprise support offering would provide added value and lower costs, especially to medium-size customers.

The group, which includes 2,100 companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has 25,000 registered members, plans to present its initial findings at its convention in September.

The SAP UK & Ireland User Group, which also lodged a strong initial protest, "is continually engaging with SAP regarding the support issue," a spokesman said.

The Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG) said in a statement that it will have time to evaluate the enterprise support offering through customer case studies "of what works and what needs correction - thus, leverage our considerable member base to influence SAP to either change the costs or change the offerings, as appropriate."

In an interview, however, ASUG CEO Steve Strout said the group's advocacy would adopt a strictly diplomatic tone, and noted that the group did manage to convince SAP to phase in the cost increase over time.

"We want to continue to help influence this, but it is not our position to demand a set dollar amount [from SAP]," he said. "We can't go in there and say we're going to demand that prices are only going to be at 17 percent because then we're acting as a collective bargaining organisation and we don't have the legal right to do that."