Microsoft and Oracle executives continued their long-running war of words last week during a debate about the future of database technology at IT Expo in Birmingham.
Fresh from the launch of Oracle8, Ken Jacobs, Oracle VP of product planning, arrived 15 minutes late, keeping five other panellists and an audience of about 200 waiting. But he wasted no time in accusing Microsoft of complicating systems managers' lives with a proliferation of different databases and management techniques caused by Microsoft's fat client software.
"We want to integrate around the database, not around the file system," said Jacobs. "You create management and administration problems with multiple stores. If you put it all in one store, you can do a much better job of management and performance. Do I want my email in one place, documents in another place, objects in a third place and relational data in a fourth? We believe its possible to integrate all these in a single store without a load of glueware in between."
Debate chairman Mike Ferguson, MD of Database Associates moved the discussion on from availability to scalability, but Jacobs couldn't resist sniping at Microsoft's recent scalability day, a PR exercise to show the scalability of NT.
Pat Helland, Microsoft product manager and architect of Viper, boasted that Microsoft had shown NT systems running 1 billion transactions a day with 1Tb of data online. Jacobs claimed that at the demo of Oracle8, the company had 50,000 concurrent users accessing a database of email messages "not the lightweight transactions Microsoft had", and had shown "10 times the number of transactions in a tenth of the time."
Speakers from Sybase, Informix, Computer Associates and IBM tried to reconcile the two viewpoints while taking the opportunity to plug their own products. But at one point CA VP Peter Matthews said: "I feel like I'm at Wimbledon watching this get batted back and forth."
Jacobs was on the offensive again when the subject switched to manageability. Helland suggested that database administrators should use more hardware to reduce TCO: "We shouldn't be afraid to add a little hardware to the solution. Hardware is cheap compared to people."
Jacobs agreed - momentarily - then took up the anti-Gates cudgels again.
"It's the distributed architecture that introduces more management complexity. Use more hardware by all means, but make sure its bigger centralised hardware, not more server units."
Naturally, with the subject on manageability, Jacobs couldn't pass up the opportunity to plug the NC at the expense of the Wintel PC. "It's the fat client that's part of the problem. What we need is thin clients that require little or no administration, that get the complexity off the desktop and onto a professionally managed network."
"I don't know of anyone who wants an NC on their desk, they want NCs on other people's," retorted Helland.
The debate also covered data warehousing and object extensibility.
It's difficult to say who won the debate. The losers were the 200 or so Expo attendees who had come to hear about the future of technology which is vital to their business, not more marketing rhetoric.
"When these two companies share a platform we expect a fight," said one attendee. "That's what half the people here came to see."
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