Larry Ellison threw a press conference Tuesday to show off the new database he actually announced back in September 2013, called the In-Memory Option for the Oracle database.
The big news today was that this database will finally be available for purchase next month.
Ellison didn’t have a choice but to spend the last nine months touting the new product, which will likely sell well once it’s available. Ellison describes the “In-Memory Option” like it’s a magic pill. Swallow it and all of your Oracle database applications will instantly run faster, with no mess, fuss, or recoding.
Arch rival SAP has now been selling a competing product, the HANA database, for years. Over the past three years, SAP has made HANA the centrepiece of its future, even though SAP’s bread-and-butter product is really still its enterprise accounting applications, not databases.
But you wouldn’t know that from SAP’s annual customer conference held earlier this month. The HANA database was the star. The company trotted out huge HANA customers to give testimonials (Burberry, Bangkok Airways, ConAgra, John Deere, Mercedes), huge partnerships to sell HANA (Accenture, HP, Dell), and announced upgrades to its HANA cloud service.
Having a winning database product that nips at Oracle’s heels is clearly deeply satisfying for SAP founder Hasso Plattner. His rivalry with Ellison is one of the oldest and most epic in the tech industry. The two companies trash-talk each other in public; SAP has written songs making fun of Oracle; Plattner once even mooned Larry Ellison’s boat on the high seas.
By itself HANA’s success isn’t a serious threat to Oracle’s dominance in the database market. Oracle still owned 48% of the traditional database market by the end of 2013, according to Gartner. Databases are the lifeblood of a company’s IT systems, and they don’t lightly yank them out and replace them.
But in-memory databases are revolutionizing the database market and Oracle didn’t have a credible answer to HANA; or to the in-memory database recently released by an even more important rival, Microsoft; or to hot up-and-coming startups like MemSQL, whose founders hail from Facebook and Microsoft.
Oracle has been selling an in-memory product called TimesTen, a company acquired in 2005. That database was built back in the day when computer memory was expensive.
What Oracle has done with this new in-memory database could and should be huge for the company because it works with all of a customer’s existing apps. Oracle has some 300,000 database customers, any of whom can use it, vice president of product management Tim Shetler told ZDNet:
We would expect that within a year we would have more companies running on the Oracle in-memory option perhaps than all the others [competitors] combined.
If that proves even partially true, this product could also have a ripple effect across Oracle’s other business units, which really need something to spark growth.
Enterprises who want the in-memory option will need to upgrade to Oracle’s latest database, called the 12c. They may also choose to buy Oracle’s special computer servers designed to run the new database, driving revenues for Oracle’s hardware business, which has struggled since Oracle acquired it by buying Sun in 2010.