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A Data-Tinged Look Back at 2009

by Craig S. Mullins

As per custom, the final DBA Corner column of the year is a review of the most significant data and database-related events of the year. Of course, to meet my deadlines, it is October 2009 as I write this, so please excuse any significant news that may have happened late in the year!

Probably the biggest data-related story of the year is the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle. It all started late in March 2009 when the Wall Street Journal reported that IBM was looking to acquire Sun. But, of course, that never happened. Instead, just when it seemed like nobody was interested in acquiring Sun, Oracle swooped in with an offer of approximately $7.4 billion for Sun.

Why does the acquisition makes sense for Oracle? Both companies sell mostly to larger enterprises. Many of Sun’s servers run Oracle software – database and applications. By adding Sun, Oracle can now offer completely integrated systems – including server, storage, OS, DBMS, middleware, and applications – without having to involve any other vendor.

In the third quarter, even as the acquisition continued to be debated in Europe, Oracle and Sun made a significant cooperative announcement by jointly announcing Exadata V2. Exadata is a database machine based on Sun’s Galaxy line of x64 blade servers and FlashFire technology. The companies claim that Exadata V2 works twice as fast as earlier versions of Exadata, which were based on HP hardware.

The Oracle acquisition of Sun was by no means the only important acquisition this year. Both Oracle and IBM continued their acquisitive ways in 2009.

In addition to Sun, Oracle made four other interesting acquisitions over the course of 2009. In Q1, Oracle acquired mValent, a provider of tracking software for system and configuration changes; and Relsys International, a provider of drug safety and risk management solutions with advanced analytics. In Q2, Oracle acquired Virtual Iron Software, Inc., a provider of server virtualization management software. And in Q3, Oracle acquired data integration vendor Golden Gate Software, Inc.

Though IBM did not make any acquisitions in the first quarter, it was far from quiet this year. In the second quarter, IBM acquired Exeros, a provider of profiling software that uncovers hidden relationships between databases. And in the third quarter, the company made what is probably the second biggest acquisition in the database market this year by snagging data analytics provider, SPSS, Inc. IBM paid $1.2 billion for SPSS, iin effect buying its way into being a major contender in the predictive analytics and data mining space.

What About the Technology?

In the second quarter, IBM announced a new point release of DB2 – Version 9.7. Also known by the code name Cobra, DB2 V9.7 offers some great new functionality, of which the most important is probably its ability to simplify the migration of Oracle applications to DB2. IBM licensed technology from EnterpriseDB, the open source database vendor that makes its living off of mimicking Oracle. These capabilities enable customers to run applications written for Oracle’s database even though they are using DB2 9.7.

In early April Microsoft unleashed the SP1 service pack which rolls up all the fixes since the initial launch of SQL Server 2008. Other than a rollup of fixes, SP1 also introduces at least one new feature called Slipstream, which enables users to install the DBMS and the service pack all at once.

And in early September, Oracle issued Release 2 of its 11g database software, which boasts more than 200 new features. Oracle is hoping the new release will drive customers to upgrade to 11g. Estimates peg 11g uptake at only 10 to 15 percent of Oracle’s installed base.

And Then There’s the Economy

With the overall lackluster economy, the Big Three DBMS vendors all suffered somewhat this year. In July Microsoft reported its fiscal fourth quarter results and it was hard to find any good news in any of Microsoft’s financial results. Most financial measures fell by double digits, including operating income and net income. But the company tried to put a positive spin on things by focusing on expenses, which it managed to reduce. Neither Oracle, nor IBM experienced anything comparable to Microsoft’s poor showing, but their results were nothing to brag about in 2009, either.

And all three announced layoffs during 2009, too. Indeed, in January 2009 Microsoft indicated that it would cut as many as 5,000 jobs by June 2010. IBM does not comment on its layoffs, but Alliance@IBM, (a Communications Workers of America local that does not have sufficient membership to achieve official recognition as a bargaining unit ) estimated that as many as 16,000 employees could be eliminated by IBM in 2009. And Oracle, in early January 2009, cut about 500 jobs in North America, mostly in sales and consulting.


I guess the bottom line of all this news is that the business of managing and analyzing data active and strong. The database marketplace continues to be active and entertaining… and 2010 should be just as interesting!

From Database Trends and Applications, December 2009.

© 2012 Craig S. Mullins,  

December 2009

DBA Corner