DBMS vendors and technologies

Database management system (DBMS) vendors and technologies

January 13, 2006

Hear Curt Monash online – three times!

The world has hardly suffered from a lack of opportunities to hear me speak. I first appeared on radio and TV in 1973, first taught a college course in 1977, and have rarely shut up ever since. But until recently, I hadn’t gotten involved with the various forms of Web broadcasting. Well, that suddenly changed, and this month alone you have three different opportunities to hear me hold forth.

1. John Gallant put me on “The Hot Seat” at Network World’s offices, discussing a few provocative questions about the direction of the software industry. The video/audio may now be found on their site. Sadly, while I could quibble and say the camera angle was a bit unflattering, in essence that is what I really look like these days.

2. I participated in a Webinar for SAP called “Beyond Transactions: The Power of Portals.” The theme was that if you want to build or buy an app that’s mainly about data flowing back and forth between parts of the computer system, traditional technologies are fine. But if you want an app that has rich human contact with information, portals are often a superior technology.

I am told a link will be available within the week. Watch this blog for details.

3. On Wednesday, January 25, at 11 am EST, I am participating in – indeed, doing most of the talking for – a Webinar on Memory-Centric Data Management. The host is Applix. The focus will naturally be on the part they care most about (in-memory MOLAP), but it will also be the first time I speak about an area on which I’ve done a considerable amount of recent writing and research.

You can register for this Webinar here.

December 14, 2005

Oracle’s defensiveness

I was chatting recently with what is probably my favorite guy among senior trade press editors. The subject came up of Oracle’s confrontational attitude towards analysts, and he said they’re the same way with the press — defensive, oddly demanding of control, etc.

Now, my own experiences with Oracle’s PR department have generally been positive. Typically, I have a run-in with analyst relations, and the compromise is to have PR (a separate department) handle me for that particular story instead. But what this tells me is that the main weirdness isn’t at the level of the analyst relations chief; it comes from higher up.

December 14, 2005

Data warehouse appliance market

Philip Howard — who in my opinion usually asks good questions but commonly comes to the wrong conclusions — offers a quick overview of the data warehouse appliance market. Basically, he says Netezza is going strong, a few startups have failed, and the jury is out on a few other vendors.

My research hasn’t been as extensive as his seems to be, but in this case his conclusions sound right to me.

December 10, 2005

Microsoft — is the intensity gone?

More and more Microsofties are complaining that the company is corporate and bureaucratic and, to be specific, empty nights and weekends.

I haven’t visited them for a few years now, and have no special insight into whether it’s true. But I can tell you this: It sure wasn’t that way in the past. I still recall a passionate, raised-voices discussion Bill Gates and I had about industry futures … after midnight … while dressed in black tie … at his girlfriend’s apartment. And that wasn’t an isolated incident.

And this spirit kept up well into the 1990s. I was on the phone with Jon Roskill (an influential marketing manager for Visual Basic, in essence, whatever his exact title is or was) on a Monday, and he commented that he was having trouble getting his head back into work after a long absence. I politely inquired as to the nature of his time off. It turned out he’d left work at 3:30 pm the prior Friday and gone camping for the weekend.

Yes, it seems Microsoft has changed a whole lot over the past decade …

December 9, 2005

SAP’s technical strategy

I just posted an extensive discussion of SAP’s technical strategy over on the DBMS2 blog. Key takeaways include:

1. SAP is serious about SOAs and, in most regards, openness.
2. SAP’s strategy does not gladden the hearts of top-tier DBMS vendors.

I also dinged them for being clueless about how to succeed in text search, but hey — nobody’s perfect, and there’s still time for them to fix the problem.

One interesting aspect of their strategy that did not fit into the above-mentioned server-oriented post is their take on UI. They said again and again and again that it is important to provide a high degree of UI freedom in accessing the same underlying application services. (Except that they usually referred to the services as — no surprise here — “business processes.”) This is a reversal from their prior belief that a transactional screen — or a portal page — was sufficient for everybody.

In general, the enterprise software industry is getting a lot more sophisticated about and competitive in it’s work on UI. I should post about that soon. (The point has come up repeatedly in my work on BI, with SAP, Business Objects, and others.)

December 8, 2005

SAP — the Un-Oracle

I just spent a couple of days at the SAP Analyst “Summit.” And while all large software companies have quite a bit in common, I came away with the renewed feeling that SAP and Oracle are about as different as two huge, competitive software companies in similar businesses can be. Read more

November 21, 2005

Oracle’s perennial confusion about analytic technology

Oracle is badly confused about analytic technology, and indeed long has been. It would be tough for me to coherently explain why without being, well, confusing. So I’ll just list a series of data points, which hopefully should suffice to illustrate the point.

That’s even before getting to Oracle’s problems in data warehousing itself, where it can’t beat Teradata and DB2/mainframe at the very high end, and low-cost options like Netezza are a looming threat as well.

What’s particularly ironic is that some of Oracle’s core marketing pitches have a lot to do with analytics. The whole integrated stack story? Doesn’t make much sense when you’re only talking OLTP; only with analytics in the picture is it coherent. The whole scalability story? A few huge websites and the like aside, that’s mainly about data warehousing now.

Obviously, Oracle has the potential to be a titan in analytics. But it doesn’t have its act at all together yet.

November 21, 2005

Why Oracle doesn’t “get it” about apps

Since the mid-1980s, Oracle has put huge investment and market strength behind its apps efforts. Given those resources, success has been extremely limited. Obviously, there are many reasons for this run of (relative) failure, including a lot of internal management/cultural/political issues. But much of the problem can be summed up in one short phrase: Oracle doesn’t fully understand the importance of business process.

The majority of an application can be created by the following three-step process:

1. Design the right database.
2. Automatically generate the add/change/delete/query/report functionality.
3. Add other BI/analytic functionality as needed.

And Part 3 is a relatively recent addition in most cases.

But that’s not the whole story. What’s left over can be described as “business process,” which is where SAP shines. And Oracle underrates business process. To see what I mean, go to SAP’s web site, search on “business process,” and look through the first few pages of results. Then try the same exercise on Oracle’s. There’s a dramatic difference. Siebel’s and Saleforce.com’s sites also talk much more about “business process” than Oracle’s does.

So far as I can tell, Oracle has always believed that if you design the right database — and create the obvious interfaces to it — you’ll have a great application. I remember Larry Ellison seeming to believe that in very early days, before Jeff Walker led the first high-investment Oracle apps effort. The whole CASE-model-based vertical apps strategy of the early 1990s clearly depended on that premise, and probably failed because of the premise’s flaws. And finally, I remember a bizarre conference call in connection with the release of some generation of Oracle’s app dev tools in the late 1990s, which Larry touted as one of the most important events in the entire history of software. I can’t imagine him saying that unless he thought that these tools would automatically generate your apps for you. But they couldn’t actually do that – and the extent to which they couldn’t was almost exactly the extent to which they didn’t capture the business process aspects of the app.

So will Oracle overcome its longstanding business process blind spot, now that it’s made such a huge bet on apps? It well might. But until it does, Oracle’s prospects in the app business aren’t good at all.

Related links

November 21, 2005

Is Oracle headed for hard times?

A lot of you probably remember me writing about Sybase in 1994. (And yes, Tony Percy did admit at least that Gartner sped up its research drastically after I published, so as to follow me into print a month or so later.) Well, I’m not at that level of certainty yet this time. Indeed, I haven’t even sold all my stock in the company I’m worrying about. But I do increasingly find myself wondering: Is Oracle headed for hard times?

My nonobvious reasons for concern fall mainly into three large areas (follow the links for more detail on each):

  1. Oracle may be losing its edge in DBMS. Or at least (to brutally mix my metaphors), there are some cracks in the colossus.
  2. Oracle has never “gotten it” in applications.
  3. Oracle is perennially confused in analytic technology, which is becoming ever more important.

Obvious reasons for concern include the difficulties of integrating large acquisitions, general slow growth and price pressure in the technology sector, and a rolling management transition at the top of the company.

I’m far from ready to call the turn with assurance, however, because Oracle also has some formidable strengths. It indeed holds an excellent position in its core DBMS business, and by the numbers is very strong overall. Charles Phillips was once the best software stock analyst ever, which may make him the single person with the greatest understanding of software industry strategic dynamics. And Larry Ellison, detached as he may seem (and actually be) at times, has an amazing track record of making good decisions before it’s too late.

So I’m not yet predicting that Oracle will fall; I’m just pointing out some of the key issues it has to address if it is to remain prosperous.

October 19, 2005

Subjects in which I’m particularly interested

Throughout my 24-year career as an industry analyst, my top-level question has always been: “What aspects of the industry/sector/market/company are worst understood, or most overlooked?” Most commonly, the answer lies somewhere in the overlapping areas of technology, market positioning, and ongoing sector consolidation. And any discussion of technology and positioning depends heavily upon the way customers actually adopt and use new stuff.

It’s no different now. Most of my efforts recently have been devoted to DBMS (like always), text technologies, and analytics in general. In DBMS I’m making the very strong technological case that vendor consolidation is overrated, and that we’re in an era when 1000 specialty database flowers will bloom. The survivors will eventually all be tied together by XML-based SOAs. (Some of my friends at big DBMS vendors are not very happy with me right now.) My arguments against the prevailing wisdom may be found at a specialty blog on database management techology, called DBMS2. I plan to add more positive comments on the interesting new technologies soon.

In text technologies, there are a whole lot of point products. Despite booms in certain areas, such as text data mining, these are only scraping the surface of user requirements. What’s needed – and surely coming – is a dramatic evolution into one or more much larger product categories. How long that takes is unknown, however; right now the two pillars of the market (search and text data mining) are as industry segments go quite far apart. I also have started a specialty blog to track this area, with the simple name of Text Technologies.

My most active area of research these days is probably analytics. Certainly it’s my oldest interest of the three I cited, dating back to my student years, when I basically focused on decision theory for my dissertation and post-doctoral research. I think that, after decades of false alarms, the center of gravity in enterprise computing has REALLY shifed from OLTP to decision support. At least, that’s true at the larger enterprises; SMB are still playing catchup in the transactional area.

While I think there are lots of interesting technological issues in analytics – and indeed no enterprise analytics vendors’ product line is close to fully-baked – what really matters here is understanding the users. Vendors blithely claim that they’re going to foster a whole cultural transformation, in which top-to-bottom decision-making will suddenly become rational and numerate. Yeah, right. In tracking the evolution of the analytic technology business(es), nothing is more important than being realistic about how this stuff is and will be actually used.

I plan to write about these and other areas in the days and months ahead. Stay tuned – and, as always, if you would like to disagree with or add to what I have to say, please please let me know. My research, as always, depends on you.

← Previous Page

Feed including blog about enterprise technology strategy and public policy Subscribe to the Monash Research feed via RSS or email:


Search our blogs and white papers

Monash Research blogs

User consulting

Building a short list? Refining your strategic plan? We can help.

Vendor advisory

We tell vendors what's happening -- and, more important, what they should do about it.

Monash Research highlights

Learn about white papers, webcasts, and blog highlights, by RSS or email.