HP, Microsoft take joint aim at Oracle

Hewlett-Packard, which has a lot of Oracle customers, is trying to sell them on Microsoft. Welcome to the vendor wars.

LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett-Packard says that its customers run more databases and applications from Oracle on its hardware than any other vendor out there does. But if you are at HP's big user conference this week and interested in talking to Oracle, you won't find the company listed as an exhibitor on the expo floor.

But a couple of HP attendees did report seeing a truck with Oracle advertising on it outside the conference. And Oracle is nonetheless on the agenda at the conference. On Wednesday, one conference session was titled "Oracle database migrations to Microsoft SQL Server with HP services."

Welcome to the vendor wars.

Microsoft has had a major presence at this year's conference, the result of a joint $250 million, three-year investment that HP and Microsoft announced last year to improve the integration of their products.

The fruits of that investment include newly announced products optimized for Microsoft SQL Server, including the HP Business Data Warehouse Appliance and the HP Database Consolidation Solution for Microsoft SQL, used for consolidating transactional databases.

As HP officials try to encourage migrations from Oracle to Microsoft on HP hardware, HP is also saying that its Oracle customers have nothing to be concerned about, even as it touts the Microsoft platform.

"They are speaking out of both sides of their mouths," said Allen Allison, chief security officer at NaviSite, a co-location and managed hosting provider with 12 data centers in the U.S. and overseas, who was at the conference.

His firm runs Oracle on HP x86 platforms and its Itanium systems. "I think they realize that, at the end of the day, as much as [HP] loves being partnered with Microsoft, they do have a significant installed base with Oracle," Allison said

Paul Miller, HP's vice president of systems and solutions, enterprise servers, storage and networking, said, "We're going to have the best-performing solutions on Oracle for customers who choose that.

"Oracle does not own the networking technology," said Miller, who added that as networking becomes "more key to scale out architectures, we're going to continue to take their code and outperform them and outrun them."

Oracle said this week that its 11g database running on Sparc Enterprise M8000 Server beats HP and IBM in one benchmark.

HP is also trying to ensure that Oracle users running Itanium have options. In March, Oracle announced that it was stopping development of all future versions of Oracle products on Itanium but said that it would continue to provide support for existing versions of Oracle products running on Itanium.

"To be clear, there is still five to six years of support for Oracle on Itanium, so customers don't need to jump now -- most customers are looking at this as long term," Miller said.

Miller said HP is nonetheless responding to customers who are looking for choices, something it does for other platforms as well, such as IBM.

Allison said Oracle's decision on Itanium "does put us in an awkward spot," but he added, "I'm sure we've got very talented engineers that can fix whatever breaks."

John Belliveau, a senior systems engineer for a financial services firm he requested not be identified, said he was interested in HP and Microsoft's data warehouse offering, particularly because of its licensing and costs.

But Belliveau cautioned that in terms of data warehousing, "it is one thing to announce at a conference that you are taking [Oracle] on, but it's another thing to prove that you really belong in the same ring, the same space."

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said he sees little for HP's Oracle customers to sweat over. "The real question to consider is how far and how deeply this schism between the companies goes," King said. "As an undying optimist, I hope Oracle and HP work things out, but if that proves impossible, users have numerous other options," including shifting to other platforms.

"Migrating to an entirely new hardware and software stack is far less onerous today than it ever was in the past," King said. "HP and Oracle would be wise to keep that in mind."

HP and Microsoft are also putting a lot of effort into the development of appliances, systems that are preconfigured and sized for workloads. The advantage to this approach, say vendors, is rapid deployment and little to no integration.

Doug Leland, general manager of product management in Microsoft's Business Platform Marketing Group, said, "There is no question that the growth in terms of database technologies is shifting to appliances and is shifting to cloud," primarily because of the economics and rates of growth on these platforms.

But not every user is ready to move to appliances. Daryl Butler, a network engineer for a telecommunications firm he asked not be identified, said that he likes Microsoft's direction but that when it comes to deployment, "I'm more old school -- I really don't like all-in-one," referring to an appliance. "For a larger enterprise, it's easier to scale it outside of an appliance."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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