The tech industry loves “co-opetition” where competing vendors willingly work together when it is beneficial for themselves and their customers. Generally, the co-opetition dynamic works as advertised with some strategic relationships going back for decades. That said, co-opetition partners occasionally get on the wrong side of one another, especially when one oversteps the bounds of wise judgement.
The relationship between Oracle and IBM qualifies as a cautionary tale in this regard. The pair have collaborated closely for years with the latter’s mainframe and Power Systems supporting the former’s database solutions for thousands of enterprise customers. Those solutions have steadily progressed despite IBM developing and delivering its own enterprise-grade DB2 database offerings.
However, in 2012-13, Oracle ran a series of high profile ads claiming its SPARC-based servers were faster, cheaper and better than IBM’s Power 7+ systems. Thing was, Oracle reached those favorable conclusions by comparing its new servers with IBM servers and benchmarking data that were years out of date.
The result was a clear attempt to use bogus fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to injure a competitor. IBM complained to the watchdog National Advertising Division (NAD) which chastised and fined Oracle which withdrew the ads. But that didn’t stop the company from running a fourth campaign that resulted in NAD referring the ad to the FTC for consideration.
Rather than stewing about the issue or waiting for bureaucrats to act, IBM achieved with innovative tools what Oracle was attempting with FUD: to deliver reliable, attractively priced alternatives to Oracle’s far costlier products. Over the past few months, IBM has put that strategy to work with its new DB2 Direct solutions and achieved eye-opening, even stunning success.
Database migration pain and process
Enterprise database migrations are often painful but why is that the case? Mainly due to the complexity and business criticality of the assets involved.
Choosing a database platform has ramifications that can extend across the organization for years. As a business grows and evolves, its databases tend to expand to the point that they intersect with, influence and, ideally, enhance virtually every part of the organization.
It’s not surprising that the idea of disturbing, let alone replacing existing database platforms is anathema for most companies. To avoid potentially painful disruptions, customers maintain often costly relationships with existing database vendors.
As a result, databases can become what are essentially “Roach Motels” for many enterprises, where customers check in but they don’t check out. Not everyone is happy with this situation. But while alternative proprietary and open source databases have arisen over the past decade, few have been able to loosen the hold traditional database vendors have on customers and markets.
IBM’s DB2 Direct
Oracle is obviously a significant player in this space but IBM’s new DB2 Direct offerings could shift the competitive balance. Why so? Due to IBM’s technical innovations and its remarkably aggressive pricing model.
For example, the latest version of DB2 supports native and new PL/SQL compatibility features that reduce migration complexity significantly. Those include advanced support for triggers, new scalar features and declared types and procedures within a local scope. Add in the 98 percent plus compatibility between DB2 and Oracle customers’ application code, and migrating is simpler and less disruptive than ever before.
The pricing for DB2 Direct is equally or even more innovative, relying on what IBM calls Virtual Processor Cores (VPC) as units of measurement for DB2 licensing. VPCs aren’t tied to any specific chip architectures or server platforms, and they can be used in on-premises systems, public cloud platforms and hybrid cloud services.
Standardized VPC pricing makes DB2 Direct easy to understand and manage. Plus, IBM charges a flat DB2 Direct fee that includes the software license, plus subscription and support costs that together are a small fraction of Oracle’s software license alone. That already low IBM fee drops by nearly 80 percent in the second year of the contract, and grows at a far lower and slower rate than Oracle’s offerings.
The result for customers is a radical reimagining of database CAPEX and OPEX that results in phenomenally inexpensive enterprise-grade solutions. IBM notes that in many cases DB2 Direct cost 90 percent plus less than what Oracle charges for comparable database licenses, subscriptions and support.
Think about that for a minute: 90 percent plus less.
These savings and innovations are not being ignored by former Oracle customers who have successfully migrated to IBM DB2, including Audi AG, Coca Cola and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India.
There isn’t a straight line you can draw between IBM’s DB2 Direct and unsubstantiated FUD the company endured from Oracle. IBM offered database migration solutions for years before the launch of DB2 Direct. However, the new PL/SQL compatibility features and Virtual Processor Core-based licensing make DB2 Direct far easier to understand and manage than earlier offerings.
That said, IBM’s new pricing model simply blows the doors off Oracle’s and most every other enterprise-grade database platform. In fact, DB2 Direct is a superb example of the fact that innovation can touch far more areas than technology alone and deliver far deeper benefits. Numerous former-Oracle, now IBM customers already understand that point, and it’s likely that many more will join them in the months ahead.