Oracle $US1M website guarantee draws fire

Yet another competitor of Oracle yesterday slammed a $US1 million software performance guarantee by the software giant, calling it a publicity stunt.

          Yet another competitor of Oracle yesterday slammed a $US1 million software performance guarantee by the software giant, calling it a publicity stunt.

          The criticism by BEA Systems came after Oracle added the company to its competitive guarantee of website speed. Oracle chairman and chief executive officer Larry Ellison is guaranteeing that Oracle's Oracle9i Application Server and Oracle8i database software can run faster than Microsoft's SQL Server, IBM's DB2 and now BEA Systems's WebLogic Server.

          If Ellison's company cannot make a client's website run three times faster with its products than with the competitors, he will open his company's coffers and pay the client $US1 million. He initially announced the challenge when Oracle9i was released at Oracle Open World in October.

          "By this, we mean that your website will be able to support at least three times as many page views per second as your old IBM, BEA or Microsoft-based website," reads the Oracle website.

          "If your website does not run at least three times faster than before the change to Oracle technology, we will pay you $1 million."

          The competition, however, is a bit surprised by the announcement and is slamming it.

          "My first thought is that I want to thank Larry Ellison for thinking that we are just as much a threat as IBM or Microsoft," says Bill Coleman, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of BEA Systems, in San Jose, California. "It is a nice publicity stunt."

          Oracle's combination of software and 90 days of consulting is costly, Coleman says. If a BEA customer wants to spend all that money to get the Oracle technology to meet the Oracle challenge, BEA will provide free consultants to optimise their application server "and beat the hell out of them," Coleman says.

          "This is Marketing 101," Coleman says. "If you are the big gorilla, you shouldn't even recognise the existence of the (smaller players.)"

          BEA Systems currently holds the lead in the application server market with 56% of the space, Coleman says, citing a recently released Giga Information Group study. It is followed by IBM with 33%, iPlanet with 3% and Oracle with 1%, he says. BEA Systems would make a much better partner than enemy of Oracle, Coleman says. Oracle disputes the application server market-share numbers.

          IBM, also, does not speak kindly of Oracle's challenge.

          "We are into solving real business problems," saysspokeswoman Lori Bosio. "We are not into publicity stunts like this."

          Oracle is offering an expensive, risky and not technologically feasible offering, she says. IBM's products cost one-third the price of Oracle's database products, Bosio says.

          "Oracle is promoting a one-stop-shopping solution that is a rip and replace," Bosio says. "They do not fit all companies. Their products don't work with open standards. You have to install all their products."

          The terms and conditions alone will cost the customer $US1 million, Bosio says.

          A major consulting company also questioned the value of Oracle's offer. A Gartner Group study released in early December suggests that Oracle's $US1 million guarantee is largely a marketing effort. Taking up the offer risks an outage or disruption to a business' website. It also possesses a significant price tag, and no specific metric is used to prove the server environment is working three times as fast, according to the study written by Jon Rubin, senior analyst of database and systems research.

          "We believe a close look at the terms and conditions should dissuade most enterprises from pursuing the Oracle offer," the Gartner report says.

          About 2300 clients have registered for the guarantee, which draws to a close on January 31, 2001. The $US1 million guarantee should be viewed more as a money-back guarantee if a company does not see its web performance increase threefold, says Scott Clawson, Oracle director of Oracle9i marketing. No client, thus far, has received the $US1 million guarantee.

          Despite its competitor's claims, Oracle is offering a competitively priced solution, Clawson says. Oracle is focused on gaining visibility for its Oracle9i application server product, which has capabilities such as web caching and wireless and portal technology, he says.

          "We believe we are offering more than a Java server," Clawson says.

          As for the question on metrics, Clawson said it is easy to measure if a client's website can handle three times as much traffic or respond to individual users three times as fast.

          Oracle and IBM sit atop the database market. A survey released in May 2000 by Dataquest, a division of Gartner Group, showed that Oracle controlled 31% of the market to IBM's 29%.

          The fine print of the $US1 million website guarantee can be read at Oracle's website.

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