IBM courts Oracle database users with migration deal

Big Blue offers complimentary assessments and services for Oracle customers interested in a switch

IBM is attempting to lure Oracle database and middleware customers to "move up" to its own software with a new series of enticements, the company announced Friday.

The offerings include a financial analysis showing how much money customers will save by switching from Oracle's products to the IBM DB2 database and WebSphere application server, as well as a "customized technical evaluation and conversion plan to show clients how fast and easy it can be."

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In addition, IBM will perform a proof-of-concept exercise, either at one of its labs or the customer's site, to prove the benefits of switching. Some 100 training courses are also available for Oracle technical staff to help them get up to speed on IBM's technology, according to a statement.

All of these offerings come at no charge to customers, said Bernie Spang, director of strategy at IBM.

Finally, Big Blue is offering a variety of special financing arrangements to Oracle switchers, including one with zero-percent interest for 12 months.

IBM is claiming significant success in its migration efforts. Last year more than 1,000 Oracle database customers "chose DB2 instead, and more than 400 Oracle WebLogic clients chose WebSphere," according to the company. Recent wins include Deutsche Postbank and utility Gazprom Neft.

However, those figures should be viewed in the proper light.

Some customers have made "fairly large-scale" migrations to IBM, Spang said. But others simply chose IBM products over Oracle when starting a new project.

IBM's numbers also do not highlight any IBM customers who may have moved to Oracle or other rival databases in recent times.

Still, the benefits of moving to IBM are significant, Spang contended. Some Oracle customers who switched "have saved in the neighborhood of 30 percent in acquisition costs alone over a three-year period," along with additional operational savings in areas such as power and cooling, Spang said.

While migrating a database is no small task, IBM has made updates to DB2 in recent years that makes the process easier, Spang said. Those improvements include a compatibility layer which is supposed to allow applications written for Oracle run on DB2 with few or no changes.

"That has dramatically changed the economics of making the move," Spang said.

IBM's migration offers underscore the increased competition it has with Oracle, now that Oracle has entered the hardware market through the purchase of Sun Microsystems.

Oracle has been selling customers and prospects on the notion of complete, integrated systems spanning from storage to servers to middleware and business applications. IBM is weaker than Oracle in the last category, particularly for ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

Instead of acquiring or developing its own ERP software, IBM has focused on partnerships with companies such as Lawson Software and SAP, with its hardware and infrastructure software serving as underpinnings for their applications.

IBM's relationship with SAP could experience some friction in coming years, given SAP's ongoing work to port its flagship Business Suite ERP software to the ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise) database it acquired through the purchase of Sybase.

SAP is expected to push its many customers currently running Oracle's database to use Sybase ASE instead in order to save money, but it's unclear whether DB2 will be actively targeted as well.

IBM and SAP's relationship today is quite solid, Spang said, noting that SAP itself runs DB2 in support of its own operations.

An Oracle spokeswoman declined comment.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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