The Year in Database Land

Opinion: This year's going down in database history as being notable for a few things: the open-sourcing of any database that blinked, and Oracle leaving tire marks on the road to PeopleSoft.

This years going down in database history as being notable for a few things: the open-sourcing of any database that blinked, and Oracle leaving tire marks on the road to PeopleSoft.

Oracle won the battles

Oracle, in its tireless pursuit to acquire PeopleSoft, grabbed an ungodly amount of attention this past year. Drawn-out court battles had seismic consequences and invaluable insight into how the two companies conduct business.

For example, Oracle Executive Vice President Keith Block admitted in videotaped testimony that the company cuts software costs by as much as 70 percent when competition is fierce enough to warrant it. Anybody who went into licensing negotiations with Oracle this past year and didnt use that information should now be kicking themselves.

In the end, courts in both the United States and the European Union declined to block the deal, in spite of the U.S. Department of Justice having used a good portion of creative imaging to cook up terms nobody had ever heard of before: Remember "high-function software"? With one antitrust obstacle out of the way and one to go, the only other things in the way were the prickly and devotedly anti-Ellison Craig Conway, the poison-pill provision and the Customer Assurance Plan, the last two of which can spoil the deal by tacking on millions to the final price.

PeopleSoft did Oracle the kindness of dumping CEO Conway, citing a lack of confidence following court admissions that Conways statements to shareholders had been somewhat "influenced"—shall we say—by his ardent, religious devotion to anti-Ellison-ism.

After the DOJ gave up the battle and Conway was canned, the European Commission followed suit, caving like a wooden shack with a terminal case of termites and thereby leaving the field clear of antitrust obstacles.

Now were in the endgame, and as the year draws to a close, so too does this takeover attempt. Results of this past weekend were hotly anticipated, as PeopleSoft shareholders voted with their feet on the Oracle bid. Vote they did, with over 60 percent tendering shares by Fridays midnight deadline.

Next up is either a spring 2005 proxy fight, as Oracle tries to take control of PeopleSofts board and forcibly remove the poison pill provision, or the Delaware Chancery Court will do the job for Oracle with its decision to invalidate the provisions at the end of the month.

Oracle has been winning like mad, but so do bullies. I recently talked to a VAR about how tough it is to work with Oracle, since its sales force is so rambunctious. The company has to turn that around, no matter what happens with PeopleSoft, but working better with customers and partners would especially work well for Oracle, as it will be seeking to smooth integration with PeopleSoft following a successful merger.

Kudos goes out to Oracle insiders who want to turn Oracles reputation around. Oracles Rauline Ochs, group vice president for North America Alliance and Channels, is high on that list. In the past year, Ochs championed an initiative to release a set of guidelines on how sales staff should play nice with partners by, among other things, identifying who partners are and working more cooperatively with them.

Oracles smart enough to know what motivates its coin-operated sales reps, though, so the plan is to reward sales staffer role models who grow the channel. The cash awards werent big enough to buy a house in Redwood Shores, but hey, even a whiff of money is still a good motivator.

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