Open source databases have helped Oracle as they give users their first exposure to relational databases, according to Robert Shimp, vice president of technology marketing, Robert Shimp.
Shimp spoke to IDG recently while he was in Mumba, India, for Oracle OpenWorld Mumbai, the first Oracle OpenWorld event in that country. He talked about a variety of issues including Oracle's strategy for small and medium-size business, its concept of a centralised customer data hub for systems integration and a forthcoming version of its Collaboration Suite.
CA has released the Ingres database under an open-source license, and Sybase (Inc.) has also been offering its database free to Linux users. Does Oracle feel the need to do something similar for the open source user?
Robert Shimp (RS): We have no plans to either open source or make our products available for free.
Oracle has been quoted as saying that open-source users are not the type of people who can afford Oracle products, as they are price sensitive.
RS: We have extremely competitive pricing on our entry-level products, such as Standard Edition One product, that are at a list price of $US149 per user. I would say that this price is highly competitive with virtually anybody in the industry, including open source databases, which charge a great deal more for their support services.
Yet companies like MySQL have been cutting into your market at the low end.
RS: MySQL does not claim the same database market as Oracle, and its product is used for completely different purposes. It is used typically in the middle tier for storing data such as catalogs or websites and things like that. In fact, open source database products are a good thing for Oracle, because they give a lot of users their first exposure to relational databases, and gives them an opportunity to learn about the technologies. Ultimately, when customers choose to build business critical applications, and to run their business on a relational database, they inevitably choose commercial products, primarily Oracle. So what we have found is quite a few of MySQL and PostgreSQL customers moving up to Oracle over time.
Why do you think the other companies such as CA are open sourcing databases?
RS: There are more than two dozen different database companies out there. Some of those companies are open sourcing very old technologies in an effort to rejuvenate their business and grow the shrinking market share. I don't see that as a very viable business plan.
Now that Red Hat has released Sistina Global File System (GFS) under GNU General Public License (GPL), do you still see the need to continue development on your own cluster file system?
RS: We believe that by providing the complete technology infrastructure, including the cluster file system, we make it easier to install and maintain our own products. The cluster file system is an important component of our overall clustering technology, and in order to make it easier and simpler for our customers to install their products and maintain them, we want to provide them with a complete technology stack.
Would you offer Sistina GFS to customers who want to use it?
RS: We have no intention of original equipment manufacturering or relicensing Sistina or any other product of that sort. We developed our own cluster file system technologies, we bundled that as part of our Real Application Clusters product, and we are going to offer that complete technology stack.
What are the challenges in the Collaboration Suite market place, and how do you plan to deliver on that?
RS: The big challenge for most customers is that they have a tremendous amount of unstructured data or content such as files, spreadsheets, (Microsoft) Word documents, things of that sort, that need to be managed every bit as effectively as the traditional transaction processing and decision support applications. Especially today in a highly regulated environment, it is important to know where your information is and how it is being used.
Oracle believes that unstructured data needs to be managed centrally in a single repository, where it can be effectively cross-tabulated with the transactional data and decision support data. So we are very focused on bringing all that content management and real-time collaboration directly into the database, where it can be shared among any users, and properly managed and tracked. Future releases of Collaboration Suite will continually refine and improve on this vision.
Coming to your strategy for small and medium-size businesses, it has been primarily to take an existing product and address this market with lower licensing costs, and quicker configurations and installations. Do you think the market may require products more specific to their needs?
RS: This market place is no different than the larger enterprises in the kind of business challenges they face. They want to be able to have access to all the same kinds of information, the same kind of analysis tools, the same kind of management capabilities.
The challenge for them is that they need to be able to do this at a cost-effective price, with a lower total cost of ownership. Oracle sees that as certainly a similar challenge for the large enterprises, so we are focused on innovating our products to make them easier to install and maintain.