Oracle targets Windows database market

Oracle hopes to take on Microsoft to claim a larger share of the market for databases sold on the Windows operating system.

Oracle hopes to take on Microsoft to claim a larger share of the market for databases sold on the Windows operating system.

Oracle president Chuck Phillips admitted that while Oracle's database is known for performance and its ability to scale, the company has battled a reputation for complexity and high costs compared with Microsoft.

Oracle 10g, the latest upgrade to Oracle's database being rolled out this month, has ease-of-use improvements that will be attractive to customers such as smaller businesses with less database expertise. Phillips said it will help make Oracle more competitive with Microsoft's SQL Server database on the Windows platform.

The ease-of-use features, which include reducing the database from six CDs to one and adding wizards for partitioning and other set-up tasks, will allow Oracle to bundle its software preinstalled on servers from the likes of Dell. "We couldn't do that before because it was too much work for our hardware partners," Phillips said.

On the pricing front, Oracle released a version of its database in October priced at $5,995 per CPU, or $195 per named user for a minimum of five users. Standard Edition One is for single-processor servers only and lacks some features of Oracle's high-end database, which is priced at $40,000 per CPU.

"This is the first time ever we've had the same list price per processor as Microsoft," Phillips said.

Microsoft's SQL Server database starts at $4,999 per processor, about $1,000 less than Oracle's. "All I can say is, stay tuned," he added.

Oracle has spent much of the last year promoting its software on Intel-based servers running Linux.

"It probably cost us something on Windows because we said Linux so much that people presumed we don't do Windows. Now that we have a reputation on Linux we can afford to go after some Windows market share as well," Phillips said.

"We love Linux but there's money to be made here so we're going to go after it," he added. "We have a presence in the Windows market but it should be much bigger.  . . . There's no need for us to be defensive on Windows any more."

Microsoft trails behind Oracle and IBM in the overall database market but its share is growing the fastest, according to Gartner figures for 2002, the most recent year available.

Microsoft's share of new licence sales grew 17% that year, giving it 18% of the $6.6bn total market. Oracle's share dropped 20.5%, which meant it slipped into second place behind IBM.

Gartner said Microsoft's growth was helped by cost-conscious enterprise buyers, and by improved scalability capabilities in its SQL Server 2000 database.

Oracle is also working hard to promote grid computing, where groups of servers and storage equipment are lashed together to make better use of resources.

"We're doing some things to proliferate grid. We're taking bundles of database and grid software into the channel. We want this to be a mass market technology, not just a high-end thing," Phillips said.

James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service

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