When I last wrote about Oracle, I was a bit confused about why the companys code name for Oracle9i was the "last database." Im no more clear on the subject, but I do have some insight on where Oracle is heading with its next database.
The buzz term around Oracle now is "total cost of ownership." Yes, the same viral words that just a few years ago got everyone thinking that each PC costs some $40,000 per year to maintain is now infecting one of the biggest enterprise software vendors around. This time, its different, though.
For one thing, in tough economic times, the people who pay for software actually care a lot about how much it costs. They tend to forgo bells and whistles and focus on core needs. Oracle officials said theyve always been concerned about TCO, but its taken on a larger importance now.
So whats a company that charges $40,000 per processor for its software to do? Basically, Oracle can only chop the price of its flagship database so much before it starts looking like Intel. Besides, price chopping in the database world is a short-sighted proposition: Databases tend to run reliably for long periods of time and really dont need to be upgraded on a continual basis. How much different will databases look two years from now? Not much.
Oracles answer is to influence the hardware companies. If the cost of computing is going to come down, its going to be because of the vendors that have a long history of price cutting—namely, Intel and its partners, such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.
Oracle will try to influence these vendors to configure their systems—at bargain prices—with CPU and RAID arrays that optimize the units for Oracles 9i with Real Application Clusters, the technology that allows database applications to run very fast on inexpensive hardware.
There is precedence. Microsoft has been influencing the design of PCs for years, and the company has helped to develop hardware standards that in turn help to sell more copies of Windows.
Oracle is just a newbie in this area, but it appears that infrastructure software companies had better work pretty tightly with the hardware vendors—or be out of business.