Oracle, SAP working on Exadata support

The project underscores the rivals' complex relationship and stands in contrast to trash talk

Frequent rivals Oracle and SAP are behaving more like "frenemies" when it comes to Oracle's Exadata database machine, high-profile mudslinging notwithstanding.

Exadata version 2 for SAP is now under evaluation and should be certified by early next year, according to a note on Oracle's Web site. Oracle is also seeking early-adopter SAP users for the platform.

Oracle has high hopes for Exadata, which is capable of both data warehousing and OLTP (online transaction processing). Since Exadata was unveiled to great fanfare in 2008, company executives have claimed a burgeoning sales pipeline exists, but publicly named customers using the systems in production have been hard to find. But that could change at this year's OpenWorld conference in September, where at least one Exadata customer showcase is scheduled to be held.

Meanwhile, SAP of late has been pushing its emerging in-memory database technology, and is planning to partner with companies like Hewlett-Packard on appliances that leverage it. SAP CTO Vishal Sikka even trash-talked Exadata during the company's recent Sapphire user conference.

"If you look at the Exadata machine, it has all the layers we have seen since the 1980s in there," he said at the time. "We think differently. We think an in-memory appliance can bring dramatically lower cost. We believe this [presents] a fairly unbelievable reduction of cost and simplification of the layers."

In-memory databases store information within main memory, which can boost performance over reading and writing to disks. SAP will gain additional in-memory technology through the pending acquisition of Sybase.

Larry Ellison, whose company has its own in-memory database technology, has mocked SAP's strategy, calling it "a complete fantasy" that in-memory will supplant traditional databases anytime soon.

Of course, there's a much different reality behind all this public bluster, as a vast number of SAP users have long run their systems on Oracle's database and SAP itself is a major reseller of the platform.

"Whatever senior management is doing to the contrary, cooperation in the trenches is quite sincere," said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. "These large companies assign individuals to cooperate and it really is their job."

SAP could eventually develop a true Exadata rival, but only "in the very long term," he said. "Pre-Sybase, SAP was not a substantial DBMS vendor."

Monash echoed Ellison's remarks. "Someday, either RAM or solid-state based DBMS will replace disk-based ones, but that doesn't mean SAP's technology is going to be a big deal anytime soon," he said.

In other news, SAP is now supporting Oracle Database 11g R2, for applications that use SAP kernel 6.40, 7.x and beyond. The companies' practice has been to delay certifying Oracle's database releases until the second iteration, a process that minimizes upgrade chores for customers.

"SAP has a very careful and dramatic DBMS certification process," Monash said. It's also well-known that the second version of a Oracle database release will be more polished, he added.

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