Oracle is holding its own in the open-source database space, while not seeing any competition in the enterprise database market from open-source companies, Bob Shimp, the vice president of Oracles technology business unit, told eWEEK July 31.
It is also not seeing increased competition as a result of Red Hats acquisition of JBoss earlier in 2006. But all of that does not mean that Oracle, headquartered in Redwood Shores, Calif., is becoming complacent or scaling back its focus on Linux and open-source development work, Shimp said.
“The open-source databases have been around for some 10 years and are applicable primarily in instances where there are highly partitionable small database applications, often caching or Web site catalogs with heavy reads and transactional processing,” he said.
Oracle entered that specialized area of the market when it acquired Sleepycat Software and its Berkeley DB product earlier this year, Shimp said.
The Berkeley DB product is doing well in that space, Shimp said, adding that the most notable thing for customers was that nothing had changed, which was what the company wanted.
“We wanted to have the Berkeley DB product line complement our existing offerings to customers while making no changes that the community would even notice,” he said, noting that the acquisition had helped Oracle reach smaller customers that it might not have been able to before, as well as contribute enterprise technologies to the community to help make those projects more easily available to enterprise customers.
“The end result has been a win-win for everyone, as we provide a lot more value to customers, and enterprises are adopting and adapting both types of technologies for running their business,” Shimp said.
Berkeley DB is a popular and good technology for caching, middle-tier databases and embedded database applications, and “we have to compete aggressively in places like the embedded database business, which is growing rapidly,” he said.
But Oracle is not seeing any of the open-source databases even remotely approaching the enterprise database market as yet, he said.
“There are just too many capabilities needed that they just dont compete in, and if you look at the general database market overall, you will find that other category—besides Oracle, IBM and Microsoft—this has continually shrunk over time as there were more capabilities being built into the enterprise database applications that they have to cover,” he said.
But that means that industry players like Oracle have to constantly raise the bar and deliver new value “or you deserve to be overtaken by someone else,” Shimp said.
Asked how Oracles relationship with Red Hat may have changed since Red Hat acquired JBoss, which Oracle was reported to have been considering buying, Shimp said there had been no change whatsoever.
“There is almost no company in the software industry that you can name that Oracle doesnt both compete with and partner with, and our relationship with Red Hat is no different [from] those we have with Microsoft or IBM or [Hewlett-Packard] or anybody else. We have learned how to successfully manage those relationships and grow the business, and our Linux business is very strategic to us and we are going to ensure that it is highly successful, no matter what it takes,” he said.
Asked if that deal had changed the competitive landscape for Oracle, Shimp said he had not seen any greater traction for JBoss in the marketplace, adding that it basically remains an application server that is popular among open-source proponents.
Oracle has also ported many of its middleware components directly onto JBoss because customers wanted that, “But we have not seen them gain any significant advantage from the Red Hat acquisition per se,” he said.
Shimp said Oracle has a fundamental philosophy, which is that everything has to be based on open standards and that its products support other brands of product, and, while there were advantages for customers in having a complete integrated stack from Oracle, “we dont force people to make an all-or-nothing choice,” he said.
“We also go to market with vertical industry solutions, and you will continue to see us develop more offerings along those lines that really minimize and obviate the need to talk about whats in the stack but rather solve specific business problems. Thats another part of our strategy. So how open-source and commercial technologies play into that will evolve over time,” Shimp said.
With regard to the companys relationship with Sun Microsystems, Shimp said Oracle was using Suns technology to develop a small number of its applications, but added that all of its database and middleware development work is done on Linux. “Only a very small number of our developers are doing Solaris platform work,” he said.
But Oracle is excited about Suns commitment to open-source Java, as this could be a “game changer in the industry, and people have been looking for that for a long time,” he said, cautioning that it remains to be seen how this will be fully implemented.
“The devil is in the details and we will wait and see exactly what technology gets which open-source license and then take a view,” he said, noting that having access to Javas source code would allow Oracle to provide extensions, improvements and possibly better support.
With regard to other new technologies Oracle was looking at working on and contributing to the Linux kernel in the future, Shimp said it was considering I/O architectures, security software and virtualization.
“But we are not doing this on our own. We do not create a load of code and then throw it over the wall and then try and strong-arm it into being accepted by the open-source community. Our focus is on being part of the larger team that helps to drive consensus in the community around some of these issues,” he said.
“I think we bring valuable perspective on how customers in large enterprises do these things, but it has to be driven by consensus on whats in the best interests of the community as a whole,” Shimp said.
Oracle is also working on Zend Core for Oracle, a product featuring integration between Oracle and PHP, he said.
In addition, Oracle has successfully managed to get the Oracle Cluster File System technology, an open-standard file system, adopted as part of the Linux 2.6 kernel, the first such technology to be included in the kernel. “This was a big step and it took us a couple of years of effort, design work and co-operation with the kernel maintainers to get there,” Shimp said.