Database wars: IBM, Oracle's Ellison trade zingers

Ellison targets IBM's DB2 database while outlining plans for Sun Microsystems

Oracle Corp.'s media event yesterday may have lacked the gadget-y pizzazz of Apple Inc.'s iPad launch, but it had CEO Larry Ellison, who was his usual merry, brazen self and had attendees guffawing.

Oracle held the webcast to outline its plans for Sun Microsystems Inc.

As someone tweeted afterward: "One hour of Larry Ellison Q&A more entertaining than the Jay Leno show."

Rather than attack Microsoft Corp., Ellison aimed his verbal arrows at IBM, particularly its flagship database offering, DB2.

Some of Ellison's statements on IBM follow, each with a response from IBM's director of product strategy, Bernie Spang.

Ellison: "Take IBM's DB2 database for Unix, what they used to call UDB. For OLTP applications, how many can they group together? Um, one. So when you're attacking a really big job, that's all they can do, one server. It can't scale out, it can't do cloud, it can't do clusters."

Spang: "We announced DB2 PureScale last fall and delivered it in December. Our lab tests show that even over 64 nodes [servers], we maintain 90% efficiency. We can go beyond 100 servers while keeping 80% efficiency. That's important because if you are growing a cluster to handle bigger workloads, you want your hardware to be doing productive work, not handling system overhead. Oracle RAC [Real Application Clusters] has a 100-node limit. And to my knowledge, Oracle has yet to publish any efficiency numbers. I'd assert that's because they are afraid to."

Ellison: "You would've thought IBM, because they do hardware and software, would've come out with a database machine many years ago, it's so obvious."

Spang: "He's conveniently forgotten that we've had the InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse that's tuned for data warehouse workloads since 2008. And our original IMS systems have been integrated and tuned on our System z platform for decades."

Ellison: "IBM is so far behind, they don't have any chance at all. In databases, they are a decade or so behind us. I'm serious."

Spang: "Methinks he doth protest too much. DB2 and DB2 on Power systems have been besting Oracle databases on Sun systems. We won over 100 new clients on DB2 who swapped out Oracle for their SAP systems and got better performance and lower costs."

Ellison: "They are not competitive in the database business except on the mainframe. I will grant you that the two best databases in the world are IBM on mainframes and Oracle. It's just that Oracle runs on modern computing hardware."

Spang: "Well, he's half right. The System z and Power hardware are among the most advanced server hardware on the planet. No systems can match the System z for performance, throughput and scalability. Anyone who knows anything about those systems would get a chuckle out of Larry's comments."

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericylai, send e-mail to elai@computerworld.com or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

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