Sybase Chief has Harsh Words for Oracle

Fuelled by the zeal of a man whose company has just beaten Wall Street expectations for the eighth successive quarter, John Chen, chairman, president and chief executive office of Sybase, had some harsh words for database rival Oracle Tuesday afternoon.

Chen slammed Oracle's approach of encouraging customers to build their e-businesses using all-Oracle software, comparing its strategy to that of IBM Corp. from the 1950s to the 1980s, when he said Big Blue locked its customers into a proprietary mainframe operating environment.

"Oracle built their business by attacking IBM on that point, and now they're doing the same thing themselves," Chen said in an interview by telephone with IDG News Service. "Everybody has their place (in the software stack) and for Oracle to make those claims is bullshit, it's turning the clock back."

Sybase's software allows customers to mix and match products from various vendors much more easily than does Oracle's, he claimed. Sybase's online financial applications, for example, will run on an IBM database as well as on Sybase's own platform, he said.

"You can enter or leave the software stack at any point with us; we're not as proprietary as Oracle," Chen claimed. "They have a monolithic model in mind; we have a more heterogeneous model in mind."

Oracle, needless to say, begged to differ.

"With Oracle 9i database and Oracle 9i application server, we've really taken open systems to the next level," said Bob Shimp, senior director of platform marketing at Oracle. "Our entire e-business infrastructure offering is built on industry standards like Java and SQL so that customers can build an e-business rapidly but retain the flexibility to use other technologies as appropriate."

Oracle advises customers to use Oracle's database, middleware and applications software because that allows them to build an e-business more quickly and with less hassle and expense than trying to integrate products from multiple vendors, he said.

"We're absolutely trying to provide a complete infrastructure for running their business, and we can make it faster to implement," but that doesn't mean Oracle locks customers into its products, Shimp said.

Oracle's 9i database will run with an application server from a different vendor, such as IBM Corp.'s WebSphere product, he said. Similarly, Oracle's application server will run on other databases besides 9i.

However, Shimp did acknowledge that Oracle 11i, the company's suite of electronic business applications, will run only with Oracle's database.

Earlier Tuesday, Sybase reported a profit of 30 cents a share for its third fiscal quarter, topping analyst estimates by 5 cents a share. Revenue for the quarter grew 11 percent to $239.1 million.

Sybase, in Emeryville, California, can be reached via the Web at http://www.sybase.com/.

Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached via the Internet at http://www.oracle.com/.

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