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.
Back in April when Oracle announced its intention to acquire Sun—ironically, shortly after IBM dropped its bid to make that deal—Ellison said he pushed his team to "look at Sun's current Sparc and Solaris technology, and our current database technology, and marry them up and see how we compared to IBM's largest and fastest servers. IBM was then the record-holder in TCP database performance." The result, Ellison said, was that "we blew the doors off of IBM. We crushed them. In a machine that takes up less than 10% of the floor space of IBM's record-setting computer, we ran faster—a lot faster—using only a tiny fraction of the floor space, a tiny fraction of the power, and it costs less."

IBM's not buying that story, however, and Spang said a lot of CIOs as well are failing to buy it. In the second half of 2009, he said, more than 100 companies running SAP applications on top of Oracle databases replaced those databases with DB2.

"The reason why is part of a broader trend of better performance and lower costs—we've done a lot with improved automation of tasks built into DB2, particularly with SAP optimizations," he said. "So I thought [Ellison's assertion] was amusing."

One customer that checked out databases from both companies for use in medical research is BJC Healthcare, which runs 13 hospitals and needed to build a 3-terabyte database of patient treatment and histories to allow trends and patterns to be spotted so that diagnoses and treatment could be more effective.

BJC ended up choosing IBM for a number of reasons, said lead architect Tom Holdener, and the organization's been very happy with its choice after giving each company an equal chance at winning its business.

"The IBM installation was easy to do, they gave us lots of help, and answered all of our questions in a very timely fashion," Holdener said. "We had it up quickly and within a week had data flowing into it. With Oracle, they were slow in response to our questions, and it took longer to set up, and after it was set up we found that only about 90% of the data was accepted—we weren't sure what was going on with the other 10%."

Calls to Oracle were not returned, he said, until two weeks later, and BJC chose IBM. The new system, which lets researchers see only the relevant portions of patients' charts and protects confidentiality, has collapsed the time required for some queries from weeks or even months to 10-15 minutes for most inquiries, or just less than a day for the most complex.

It's not the first scrap between IBM and Oracle and it sure won't be the last, and as a result CIOs should be able to play these aggressive and capable adversaries against each other to gain terms and levels of service that might not have been available before. Isn't competition a great thing?


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

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