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2/1/2010
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Global CIO: IBM Calls Out Oracle's Ellison On Database Claims

Ellison said Oracle-Sun "blew the doors off" IBM's top database system, but IBM says he's blowing hot air.

After taking some pretty wicked body blows last week from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, IBM yesterday laughed off his claim of Oracle-Sun database superiority, dismissed his strategic vision as a tired rehash of IBM's past achievements, and said his lack of advanced business analytics represents a glaring gap in capability.

Offering a coming attraction of the intensified competition that's already begun as Oracle begins to weave Sun's hardware into its product line, an IBM executive painted a very different picture of the IBM-Oracle database battles than Ellison did five days earlier in his overview of how Oracle-Sun will look to disrupt the IT marketplace.

"What Ellison talked about is nothing new—we've been doing all of that for a long time," said IBM director of product strategy for information management Bernie Spang.

"It looks to me like Oracle is just following IBM's lead—we've been tuning DB2 with our hardware and software for well over a decade," Spang said in a phone conversation yesterday. "It's not a new idea—we've been doing processor-tuned databases for multiple decades.

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"Ellison said he admires IBM's business model, and it looks like he's trying to follow our lead with integrated systems. They have their new Exadata, but our Systems E has been a database machine for decades now," combining data warehousing software with optimized systems and processors along with IBM storage, Spang said.

Those details aside, Spang said, Oracle's strategic vulnerability going forward is its lack of products and technologies advanced business analytics, a product segement that's rapidly gaining favor among CIOs and CEOs who want to move from the historical model of traditional financial reporting and into the forward-looking capability of predictive analytics: what's around the corner.

" "Last year, in July, we took the next step forward in our product line because customers were telling us that they loved our data-warehousing software solutions, but could we add business analytics software on top of it so they could make better use of the warehouse," Spang said.

"So we added Cognos onto it and renamed the new product IBM SmartAnalytics System because it lets customers make better decisions. And that's a big problem for Oracle because they don't have that.

"If you need transportation, you want to go out and buy a car—you don't buy just the engine. But Exadata is still just the engine—it' s not the car—you need analytics on top of what they have. So that's another case where we're showing the way."

Speaking of "the way," it's generally not been IBM's way to spar publicly with competitors and their assertions about product capabilities and features. But it appears that Ellison's sharply pointed digs at IBM—which, while providing an interesting tale, were not supported with any proof or details—made IBM want to offer its own thoughts on how its database products stack up against Oracle's.

What sparked Spang's spirits were these comments from Ellison during his characteristically feisty 12-minute unscripted overview of the Oracle-Sun strategy, which we wrote about in a column called Global CIO: Oracle's Ellison Challenges IBM, NetApp And—Well—Everyone:

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