$US1m Oracle bet may fly here

It seems New Zealand companies may be eligible to take up take up Larry Ellison's million-dollar web server bet - but they'll want to read the fine print first.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in New Zealand will take up Larry Ellison’s million-dollar, but caveat-strewn, web server bet.

Oracle’s flamboyant chief executive has formalised – in the US, anyway - a wager he made orally in an address to the Oracle World conference last month that his gear could triple the speed of a company's web server: “If you have an existing commercial production website based on IBM DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server database technology, and you replace your IBM or Microsoft technology with the Oracle9i application server and the Oracle8i database, we guarantee that your website will run three times faster than it currently does.”

If it fails to reach that benchmark, Oracle will pay the user $US1m, says Ellison on the company’s US website.

Before making the offer in New Zealand, “the company needs to check the legal requirements – how New Zealand law stacks up against such an offer,” says Oracle NZ marketing manager Jayne Pritchard. But the wager is being considered for application locally, she confirms.

Already, however, overseas commentators are picking over the reservations in the offer. After a user registers to accept the challenge, Oracle will “contact you to determine your eligibility,” the text of the offer says. “Eligibility” is not defined beyond the limits in our first paragraph.

“If your website is eligible, we will work with you to assess your website's current performance using IBM DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server and recommend the products and services necessary for you to convert your site so that it runs on the Oracle9i application server and Oracle8i database.

“You will need to purchase the products and services recommended by Oracle, and undertake your best efforts to optimise your website in accordance with our recommendations. Any products or services you purchase from us will be subject to our standard terms and conditions. You are obligated to pay for these products and services even if your website does not run at least three times faster.”

If the initial performance does not come up to speed, Oracle claims 90 days to try to make it reach the benchmark.

Moreover, one US commentator points out, if a user looks like winning, the offer may suddenly evaporate. "We reserve the right to change the conditions and limitations for this offer or withdraw this offer at any time without notice," reads Rule 11 of Oracle’s 12 rules.

Nor can the company tell anyone that Oracle's product failed to pass the three times faster test. The voluble Ellison has gagged his customers.

Rule 12 states: "By registering for this offer or participating, you ... agree that your dealings with us in connections with this offer, including the results of any testing conducted to measure website performance, are confidential, and you may not disclose details or information regarding these dealings to any third party without our prior written permission.”

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