Oracle pulls Exadata ad claims after IBM’s complaint

BOSTON — Oracle is yanking advertising claims that its Exadata database machine had vastly super performance to IBM’s Power Systems hardware, according to an announcement Tuesday by the National Advertising Division, an industry self-regulatory group.

IBM had challenged Oracle’s claims, which were made in a Wall Street Journal advertisement. The ads stated, “Exadata 20x Faster … Replaces IBM Again” as well as “Giant European Retailer Moves Databases from IBM Power to Exadata … Runs 20 Times Faster,” according to the NAD.

Oracle’s claim of running 20 times faster than Power Systems was overly broad, inferring that Exadata had bested all Power Systems products, IBM had argued in its appeal to the NAD.

However, Oracle characterized its ad as a case study describing the experience of a single customer, and argued the “sophisticated target audience” would glean that nuance, the NAD said.

The NAD ultimately sided with IBM, finding that “at least one reasonable interpretation of the challenged advertisement is that all — or a vast majority — of Exadata systems consistently perform 20 times faster in all or many respects than all — or a vast majority — of IBM Power systems,” it said in a statement. “The message was not supported by the evidence in the record.”

While Oracle agreed to stop running the ad, it also plans to appeal NAD’s decision, which it called “unduly broad,” according to the announcement.

An Oracle spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

IBM is pleased by the NAD’s decision, IBM spokesman Jeff Cross said in an interview. “This was hardly an apples-to-apples comparison,” he added. “This was an apples-to-oranges comparison. They compared a new Exadata to a six-year-old Power System.”

Exadata, first introduced in 2008, combines Oracle software with servers and Infiniband networking.

The Exadata system also was running Oracle’s 11g database whereas the customer was using an earlier version, 10g, on the Power Systems hardware, according to Cross.

One observer took a measured view of Oracle and IBM’s spat.

“Everybody’s guilty of that kind of exaggeration,” said database industry analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. “Oracle tends to be even a little guiltier than others.”

“If your new system can’t outperform somebody else’s old system by a huge factor on at least some queries, you’re doing something wrong,” he added. “Use newer, better hardware; use newer, better software; have a top sales engineer do a great job of tuning it and of course you’ll see huge performance results.”

This is the second ruling by the NAD in favor of IBM over Oracle in recent months. In April, the group recommended that Oracle pull ads containing pricing and performance claims that compared its Oracle SPARC SuperCluster T4-4 computer system to a competing IBM platform.

Oracle disagreed with some of the NAD’s conclusions but dropped the ad, according to the group.

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