IBM fires back at Oracle in middleware fray

IBM releases new benchmarks and launches a new ad campaign against its rival

IBM is returning fire to Oracle in an increasingly heated battle over who has the faster stack of middleware.

Big Blue released new SPECjEnterprise 2010 benchmarking statistics on Friday that it said "demonstrate how businesses using IBM WebSphere middleware on Power 7 hardware can get the lowest cost for performance in the industry." IBM also claimed that it "has proven 76 percent higher performance than Oracle overall."

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In addition, IBM has launched a new website that lays into Oracle on a number of fronts. "Are you overpaying for Oracle Database? Hint. You're overpaying for Oracle Database," one barb reads.

An Oracle spokeswoman could not immediately comment.

While such chest-beating is nothing new in the software industry, and occurs even as Oracle and IBM partner on other fronts (PDF), this particular dispute has a significant backstory.

In September 2009, the TPC (Transaction Processing Performance Council) fined Oracle $10,000 over an advertisement Oracle placed in the Wall Street Journal, which claimed that a system using Oracle hardware and software ran faster than an IBM combination, based on TPC benchmarks.

Oracle said at the time that its benchmark would be released Oct. 14.

Both Oracle and IBM are members of the group, which was "founded to define transaction processing and database benchmarks and to disseminate objective, verifiable TPC performance data to the industry," according to its website.

After IBM complained, the TPC found that Oracle's claim "was not supported because Oracle did not have a TPC result at the time of publication," and ordered the ads pulled.

That incident no doubt had an influence on IBM's current campaign against Oracle, which after its acquisition of Sun Microsystems and move into integrated systems, has become IBM's primary competitor.

"IBM is totally ripped at what it sees as Oracle FUD and outright lies in its marketing and sales messages," said Forrester Research analyst John Rymer via e-mail. "I think Oracle is hurting IBM, and now, bloodied, IBM is starting to fight back."

As for the benchmarks each vendor is wielding, they deserve "zero attention" in Rymer's view. "It is simply too hard to determine what they mean to real applications," he said.

Meanwhile, for all their flag waving, both Oracle and IBM face serious challenges in middleware.

"IBM's challenge is to integrate all its acquisitions in middleware and serve it up as one solution that's simple and low-cost to own," said Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "That's the battle they are waging now, to show they are doing this. Oracle just took BEA and built around it. Neither is easy to do."

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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