When I first wrote about the phenomenon back in the summer of 2005, I used the terms dating to characterize the relationship, as opposed to a trip to the altarthe two partners were close, but no closer than some of the other coopetition relationships in the market. But after some recent comments by Oracle President Charles Philips, Im wondering if these two companies are contemplating getting even more serious. Very serious.
The first indication of how serious things may become was a comment in answer to the question of whether Oracles forthcoming Fusion Applications would be available on IBMs DB2. For those of you who dont know the history of Oracles applications strategy, even thinking of running an Oracle application on something other than the Oracle database would be tantamount to France declaring that English was now its official commercial language. Some things, however sensible they may seem, simply arent done.
And yet here was Charles Philips telling industry analysts that Oracle had given IBM the specifications for how it would like DB2 to work with Fusion, and that whether IBM wanted to work towards those specs and effectively license DB2 for Fusion Applications was now up to IBM: The ball is in their court, Philips said.
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The suggestion that there was a ball and a court, and a game called DB2 for Fusion that could one day be played was delivered in Philips trademark calm demeanor, but it was one of those statements that, if it ever came to fruition, would be looked back at as a major bombshell that could rewrite industry dynamics in dramatic fashion. Which Ill go into in a minute.
Because there was one other little gem about IBM that Philips let slip, which is that IBM is giving Oracle advice on what companies it should buy. The kind of company that IBM wants Oracle to buy, obviously, is one that needs a lot of IBM hardware for its software products. And needs a lot of IBM services as well. Services as in implementation and systems integration that Philips told the analysts he was less and less interested in delivering, in favor of his partners like IBM.
So here we have a huge overlap in customer base now being augmented by direct talks about breaking down an almost twenty-year old barrier against outside databases. And some apparently serious input about what companies Oracle can buy to help increase the synergies between Oracle and IBM on both the hardware and services side of IBMs business. That by itself is pretty darn blockbusting.
But its even more dramatic when you think of where the top four IT companies are headed today. SAP and Microsoft are doing a serious coopetition dance, with a lot of cooperation but also a large degree of ambivalence about how to resolve the nasty little problem of what new SAPs mid-market Business ByDesign offering is going to do to Microsofts mid-market Dynamics product line. Oracle and Microsoft are doing a little common work on a number of fronts, one of which is Office connectivity to Oracle, but in most areas, from database to applications to middleware to Web 2.0., Oracle and Microsoft are deeply competitive.