Are older releases of the database really unsupported?
I see posts on Oracle related forums about various releases (anything that isn't 11.x or 12.x) being "unsupported". This is wrong. Of course you should upgrade any 9i or 10g databases, but you don't have to.
Oracle Corporation's lifetime support policy is documented here,
Lifetime Support Policy
take a look, and you'll see that release 10.2 was in premier support until end July 2010 when it went into extended support. At end July 2013, it goes into sustaining support. Sustaining support will continue indefinitely. Even release 8.1.7 will have sustaining support indefinitely.
So what is sustaining support? That is documented here,
Lifetime support benefits
To summarize, extended support gives you everything you are likely to need. What you do not get is certification against new Oracle products or new third party products (principally, operating systems). But does that matter? I don't think so. For example, release 188.8.131.52 (still in premier support) is not certified against Windows 8, but it works fine.
Sustaining support has a more significant problem: no more patches. Not even patches for security holes, or changes in regulatory requirements. The security patch issue may of course be serious, but regulatory issues are unlikely to matter (this is a database, not a tax management system.) Think about it: 10g has been around for many years. It is pretty well de-bugged by now. If you hit a problem with no work around, you are pretty unlucky. Sustaining support gives you access to technical support, available patches, software, and documentation. That is all most sites will ever need.
Right now, I am working on a 184.108.40.206 database. It cannot be upgraded because the application software is written by a company that does not permit a database upgrade. Why not? Well, the reason may be commercial: they have a replacement product that is supported on newer databases. But that is nothing to do with me. The database works, the software works. Making it work better is a challenge - but that is what a DBA is paid to do. Don't just write it off as "unsupported".
Of course I am not suggesting that users should not upgrade to current releases - but upgrades are a huge project, and can have major implications. Running out dated software is silly, unless you have an irrefutable reason for so doing. The lack of security patches make you vulnerable to data loss. The lack of regulatory patches may make it illegal. The lack of newer facilities will be restricting the utility of the system. You may be losing money by not taking of advantage of changes of newer technology that can better exploit your hardware.
If anyone is looking for consulting support to upgrade their database - my boss will be happy to give you a quote. But I won't refuse to support you in the meantime.
Oracle Certified Master DBA