SAP, IBM look to charm users with ‘Viper’ database

Ratcheting up their alliance against common foe Oracle Corp., IBM and SAP AG said Thursday that the next version of IBM’s DB2 database will be designated the preferred database for mid-sized users of SAP’s business software.

Customers buying the All-in-One version of the mySAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) software will be able to get the “Viper” edition of DB2 — expected to ship this summer — configured and tuned for best performance, according to Bernie Spang, director of database marketing for IBM.

After IBM and SAP last year released a specially-tuned version of DB2 for all SAP applications, “hundreds” of SAP users either switched from Oracle Database to DB2 or picked DB2 over Oracle in new SAP deployments, said Spang. He declined to be more specific.

“We’re turning the heat up on Oracle,” Spang said. “This should result in thousands of new customers for DB2.”

But one analyst says that SAP’s bundling of DB2 goes back as far as 2001, an arrangement which has produced only mixed results so far. “I am somewhat sceptical of the success of this re-heated initiative,” said James Governor, an analyst with consultancy RedMonk Inc.

“Customers have shown no great desire to kick out Oracle in the database space. SAP and IBM may have won some customers from Oracle, but so far this looks like natural churn rather than an exodus. …So far, the winners have possibly been customers refusing to be pushed into decisions they might regret.”

Besides users looking to migrate as they switch from Unix systems to cheaper Linux-based hardware, IBM and SAP are also targeting users of Siebel, PeopleSoft or J.D. Edwards software. Those companies have all been acquired by Oracle in the last several years, and IBM and SAP hope to snag customers thinking of migrating — despite promises from Oracle that they can continue to run non-Oracle middleware or databases.

One database administrator who runs SAP with Oracle Database on Unix hardware said the news would be unlikely to cause her firm to switch to DB2 “in the near term.”

“We are running smoothly with Oracle, and our staff is very experienced with our current configuration,” she said. Her employer had previously migrated its data warehouse from Oracle Database to DB2 Universal Database. The move saved money and DB2 was “a solid performer with excellent vendor support,” but it also ruffled some feathers among the IT staff.

“If the DB2 price tag were considerably lower than Oracle, then we would look at it more closely. But we would also have to consider the cost of retraining our staff, hiring contractors, etc.,” she said.

Spang did not disclose the price of the bundle, which customers will be able to buy from SAP or its channel partners, who will also provide support. New customers of mySAP All-In-One who get the latest version of DB2 will also get a free year of maintenance.

Thursday’s announcement comes on the eve of Sapphire 2006, SAP’s user conference, which is coming up next week in Orlando, Fla.

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