Oracle, look behind you

Oracle Corporation Canada Inc. has nothing to fear when it comes to remaining the lead vendor in the RDBMS market today, but according to John Shoesmith, the company would be wise to keep an eye on Microsoft Canada Co.

Shoesmith, research manager, Canadian software at International Data Corp. (IDC) Canada, said that although Oracle has been the market leader in this area for years, the company seems to be the most concerned with Microsoft, which ranked fifth in the overall database market in 1998. This is according to IDC Canada’s report The Canadian RDBMS Market: 1998 Results and Overview.

“Microsoft is the one vendor which threatens Oracle in the NT space, obviously, because none of the other vendors are really strong on the NT platform,” Shoesmith said. “I don’t think [Oracle] has too much to worry about right now, but for anyone to say that Microsoft is not a threat in that space would probably be lying.”

According to Danica Pravica, server marketing manager at Oracle Corporation Canada in Mississauga, Ont., the environment will always be competitive and they “keep an eye on everybody.

“I think you have to – you can’t be too arrogant and think that no one can overtake your market,” she said.

But she added that where Oracle competes with Microsoft in the NT market space, for the last three years Oracle has continued to grow.

According to the IDC report, in 1997 and 1998 the RDBMS revenue leader in Canada was Oracle, followed by IBM, Informix, Sybase and Microsoft.

And although Microsoft is fifth on the list, it is experiencing the most growth and is expected to be a strong contender with the release of SQL Server 7.0, a critical upgrade for the company’s success in the overall RDBMS market, Shoesmith said.

According to Michael McKee, marketing manager, database servers at Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont., fifth is not a position he’s willing to “sit by and accept. So we’re going to work really hard and try to move ourselves up in that ranking.

“SQL Server is not the leader but it’s catching up right now,” he said. “So we’re pleased with our growth in numbers and as we move forward we’ll see our revenue numbers start to become absolute competitors as well. So right now the fact is we’re perceived as being early on in the game.”

According to Shoesmith, Oracle doesn’t have much to worry about right now “especially because Microsoft is really pushing in the OLAP space.

“They’re really well positioned for the smaller to mid-sized market companies that are not necessarily putting in an enterprise-wide data warehouse but ones that are in more the data- mart type environments.”

“As well, a lot of organizations are building data warehouses on Unix and Microsoft obviously does not play in that field at all.”

According to the report, the majority of attention in the market today is on data warehousing and, increasingly, electronic commerce.

“I think a lot of the growth in the database market can be attributed to data warehousing,” Shoesmith said. “Database solutions are being driven largely by solution sales and data warehousing is probably the largest one, and e-commerce is a pretty large one as well.”

Pravica concurs with Shoesmith and said the key market drivers right now are Internet and intranet applications, e-commerce, data warehousing and business intelligence, as well as centralized databases.

And Oracle has always been strong in data warehousing and decision support, she said. “And now with the introduction of Oracle 8i, an Internet database, it helps…you do more with your data warehouse and be able to access more information and more customers.”

The BC Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks in Victoria has been using Oracle technology for years, and never really considered Microsoft’s products in the RDBMS space, according to Andrew Faulkner, data warehouse technical architect with the Ministry.

“The decision to go with Oracle technology was made back in the early ’90s,” he said. And four years ago the entire provincial government signed a five year agreement with Oracle, making the company the exclusive provider of multi-user database technology.

“(By going with Oracle), we know we can hire contractors who know Oracle, we can get people from the colleges and the universities who’ve worked on Oracle, we can find third-party tools and we can get support,” Faulkner said.

The BC Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks is currently using Oracle Version 7.3.1 but is looking to upgrade to Oracle 8i within the next few months.

According to Faulkner, because the Ministry currently has 42 HP Unix boxes, there has been one downfall to using Oracle technology.

“There’s been some release issues in the past where the first releases were only available on Sun Solaris and NT,” he said. “Well, we have HP boxes and we have been complaining noisily that waiting six months for them to port over (to HP) didn’t seem reasonable to us.”

But, he added, with Oracle 8i the vendor released a version for HP one month after the Solaris and NT versions were available.