Over in the Monash Report, I posed the question: Is Oracle losing its edge in DBMS? Here are some of the data points that make me suspect it has. A number of these points also apply to the other large mainstream DBMS vendors; a number, however, do not.
- Oracle lags behind both IBM and Microsoft on native XML. I can’t recall Oracle trailing both those vendors at once on anything as major before.
- I’ve come to believe that memory-centric technology is a really powerful improvement to DBMS. Oracle’s done nothing effective inhouse in this area. Buying TimesTen was a good move, however.
- I’m growing less inclined to excuse the ongoing complexity of Oracle database administration. From the classic Progress DBMS to Solid’s truly zero-DBA system (embed it in telecom equipment without a keyboard or monitor, and it runs for years) to ANTs’ new challenge, there are a whole lot of fairly full-featured RDBMS with a whole lot less knobs and dials. Do they match Oracle’s full functionality? No. But could they handle a lot of the apps which run on Oracle today? In some cases, quite possibly. So why hasn’t Oracle itself come up with a plug-compatible Oracle Lite that truly is lite?
- High-end data warehouse scaling continues to be a problem for Oracle. Yes, the effective upper bound on Oracle database size keeps increasing. But so does the size of the largest data warehouses, and the latter number is definitely greater than the former.
- Microsoft Analysis Services is quite cool. Why hasn’t Oracle done the same thing?
- There are many seemingly major feature advantages that Oracle has failed to exploit. Robust text processing in the DBMS and Virtual Private Database (a cool security feature) are two of the biggest that come to mind. They’ve sold well to customers who were predisposed to want them, but Oracle hasn’t had the stomach to broaden the market for them. Yes, that’s more of a marketing problem than a technical one, but after a decade of squandering your technical advantages, you can find that your people lose the enthusiasm to create more of them. What else has Oracle done in years that is as functionally innovative? Nothing comes to mind.
- The whole apps-vendor-consolidation strategy is often presented along with a huge white flag regarding DBMS market share growth.
- Oracle has never, ever solved its applications product problems. Ditto its BI development problems. Both these fiascos are plausibility arguments for the thesis that the company can NOT reverse bad product philosophy choices, no matter how much market evidence slaps them in the face, and no matter how adaptable the company is in other ways.
- Oracle’s analyst relations have gotten very defensive and insular. To some extent, that happens at most big companies. But I cannot recall a previous time when IBM’s and Microsoft’s DBMS operations were both more accessible than Oracle’s, and I’ve been a DBMS analyst since the industry’s very early days. Often when a company acts this bizarrely, it does so because it has a great deal to hide.
That’s a lot of evidence, even without mentioning threats from the open sourcers and the data warehouse appliance guys. So why am I not wholly convinced yet? Well, reasons include a variety of scalability features, extensibility features that are rivaled only by IBM’s, market share dominance on Linux, and Andy Mendelsohn. That’s a pretty compelling list too. Still, the Oracle colossus is teetering a little bit, and it’s not beyond imagination that some future earthquake could bring it crashing down.