Oracle vs IBM

As the database software war escalates, resellers look set to reap the benefits of improved functionality and features.

The worldwide launch of the Oracle9i database last week has upped the ante in database integration and vendors are keen to emphasise the importance of the channel in winning the database race.

The key to Oracle's new software is Real Application Clusters, which will allow end users to scale up more easily without having to invest in expensive server infrastructure.

"It means people will be buying a larger volume of smaller servers which is good news for resellers," Oracle's director of Internet technologies, Roland Slee, told ARN. "If organisations need to expand, they can simply add another box to the cluster."

Oracle continues to lead the worldwide database management systems software market, according to the latest figures from Gartner's Dataquest. But IBM is snapping at its heels, recently launching the latest version of DB2, which not only integrates seamlessly with Internet offerings such as Websphere, but can also be used with other software.

"The technology is open, and we can work to help deliver a full range of solutions," said IBM Australia's DB2 business unit manager, Peter Graham. "One of the major areas of opportunity is integration; being an open and robust platform gives resellers the opportunity to embrace other products."

Both IBM and Oracle have a history of dealing directly with large clients. However, keen to win the market-share war, both have begun touting the important role the channel will play in its new offerings. Microsoft is also clawing its way up the market-share ladder, particularly in small to medium enterprise (SME) sales.

Oracle distributor Cognicase Australia has given the 9i release the thumbs up, saying the added functionality of the software will maintain Oracle's pre-eminence in the database world.

"They need to push down into the SME market and to do that they require resellers to help find the opportunity," said Cognicase sales manager, Robin Habgood. "The hardest thing in any sale is finding a qualified client."

Enter the reseller. As a "mentor" distributor, Cognicase provides resellers with the expertise needed to roll out Oracle solutions. Resellers can bring in Cognicase, safe in the knowledge they still own the customer.

Oracle has great plans for the reseller channel, according to Habgood.

"Up until now a lot of resellers have simply said, "you will need a database with that" and have let the client find it. The problem is the potential of the company's competitors being introduced into the sale."

IBM is also keen to talk up the importance of the channel.

Oracle also foresees opportunity within the ASP (application service provider) market, with features such as virtual private database technology allowing providers to securely host applications for competing clients.

The application programming interfaces (APIs) for Oracle's 9i software are now identical. This means standard editions of its software can easily be upgraded to the enterprise offering. On the other hand, IBM's DB2 scales from a Palm top to a mainframe.

"Customers can scale up their infrastructure without having to reinvest in technology, and that makes it easier for our partners," Graham said.