Is Oracle Beating the Linux Pants Off of IBM?

Opinion: The company's whopping 361 percent Linux RDBMS market growth in 2003 will "look more like 100 percent" next year, according to one analyst, leaving room for other contenders such as IBM to catch up.

The Oracle-IBM feud over Linux will ratchet a notch higher at LinuxWorld next week, what with the lethal anti-IBM weaponry Mike Rocha will be packing.

When the Oracle executive vice president takes the stage for his keynote in San Francisco, hell point to Oracles whopping 361 percent Linux RDBMS market growth in 2003, according to numbers released by Gartner Inc. in June.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here for more details on RDBMS market growth in 2003.

That compares with total market growth of 158 percent, and it dwarfs IBMs total market-share growth of 28 percent. At this point, Oracle owns 69 percent of the market for relational databases on Linux, compared with IBMs 29 percent share.

Those numbers are impressive, but what do they mean to the future of enterprise databases on Linux?

Not much. Gartner analyst Colleen Graham pointed out that Oracles 361 percent year-to-year growth is based on a "tiny" revenue pool of $45 million. "Its just the nature of the numbers that when youve got small numbers like that, any growth looks exaggerated," said Graham, in Tucson, Ariz.

While Linux is indeed a growth market for Oracle, those growth numbers wont look anything like that 361 percent figure next year, Graham said. "It will look more like 100 percent growth," she said. "Theyre at a $200 million base. As they get bigger, [market growth numbers] get smaller and smaller and smaller."

Why are Oracle and IBM so hot for the Linux market? The fact that Linux cuts the Microsoft cord is of course paramount. But analysts say that for Oracle in particular, the lower TCO (total cost of ownership) offered by Linux is a crucial part of its current message.

"Oracle is perceived as being the high-cost database vendor," Graham said. "[Theyre] presenting a TCO picture that says, Yes, the Oracle database is expensive, but you can put it on low-cost hardware, and TCO is so much lower, why wouldnt you want to do this?

"Theyre looking at the bigger picture, saying, Hardware and software, were a very competitively priced solution when you look at it that way," she said.

Dont count IBM out, though, analysts say. The database/Linux market is so small, so new and so cutting-edge, anything could happen. "IBMs Linux message [has been] a little unfocused," Graham said.

"They didnt really have the references in line. They kind of got caught a little flat-footed on this. But Im certainly not counting them out. The fact that Oracle has 70 percent and IBM has less than 30 percent, this market is so small, I dont take that to mean this is Oracles market altogether."

Next page: Oracles RAC is a major selling point for running Oracle on Linux.