Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Larry Sure Knows How to Get Press

Going under the assumption (I assume) that no press is bad press, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has attacked IBM's DB2... but he made several factual errors in his rant.

Here are some of the highlight (?) of the claims Ellison made about DB2 during a webcast last week.

Regarding TPC-C benchmarks, Ellison claims to have "(blown) the doors off of IBM. We crushed them." He went on to elaborate saying "In a machine that took up less than 10% the floor space, of IBM's record setting computer. We ran faster, we ran a lot faster: using a tiny fraction of the floor space, a tiny fraction of the power, cost less."

First of all, technicians working in trenches know that benchmarks are not indicative of real life performance. That aside, it is true that Oracle currently has the leading TPC-C benchmark result. Until late in 2009, DB2 enjoyed a massive 49% lead over Oracle. Oracle's most recent results give them a 25% lead (using more than six times as many CPU cores to do it).

Regarding the claim of using less space and power, this is due to Oracle using flash memory and comparing it with an IBM benchmark using conventional disk technology. If Oracle compared its benchmark to an IBM system using flash memory, these claims would not stand.

Later, Ellison claimed that "SAP chooses the Oracle Database to run under SAP in almost all their large accounts." As anyone who follows the computer industry knows, this claim is rather absurd. SAP's customers choose the DBMS to run, not SAP. And if SAP had anything to say about it, they would not recommend Oracle, their biggest competitor in the commercial business applications space. Furthermore, SAP favors DB2 for their own systems. They operate more than a thousand SAP systems, and all of those systems run on DB2.

Perhaps the silliest of Ellison's comments is this: "The Oracle Database scales out, IBM DB2 for Unix does not. Let me see, how many servers can IBM put together for an OLTP application? Let's see, how many can they group together? Um, one. They can have up to one server attacking really big jobs. When they need more capacity, they make that server bigger. And then they take the old server out, put a bigger one in. And when you've got the biggest server, that's it. That's all the can do for OLTP." Ellison also claimed that IBM "can't scale out, they can't do cloud, they can't do clusters, the can't do any of this."

I bet this surprised a lot of DB2 users doing these things with DB2! DB2 Parallel Edition was released in 1995, along with the capability to scale to a system of over a 100 Unix servers. DB2 LUW scalability is proven in many of the world's largest OLTP environments. Consider this press release talking about how DB2 LUW powers one of the largest OLTP systems in the world.

And what about that clustering claim? Evidently Mr. Ellison slept through 2009. IBM DB2 pureScale, released last year, offers powerful, efficient database clustering. For a cluster of 64 nodes, DB2 pureScale maintains 95% efficiency. At 128 nodes, DB2 pureScale maintains 84% efficiency. This is important because if you are growing a cluster to handle bigger workloads, you want your hardware to be doing productive work, not handling system overhead. On the other hand, Oracle RAC has a 100 server limit...

Ellison also made other far-out claims about IBM like "They're so far behind, I don't think they have any chance at all. I'm serious." Ellison also said "They are not competitive in the database business, except on the mainframe."

If this were true, why would Ellison spend any time thinking or talking about IBM. He must be worried, IMHO. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the computer industry has to admire IBM. They have led the industry in developing patents for the last 17 years. In 2009, IBM produced 4914 patents while Oracle did not even place in the top 50 patent leaders. A search of the US Patent office database reveals 1588 patents with "database" in the patent description while Oracle produced only 184 patents.

Hyperbole is one thing, but gross inaccuracy is another. In his latest tirade, Ellison is guilty of both. Oracle makes a good DBMS... pity its CEO doesn't think it can sell it on its own merits without making up stuff about the competition.

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