Well, another quarter has gone by, and with it, another year. 2002 was a bleak year for the IT industry in general – at least in comparison to the tremendous years of the 1990s.
But bleak does not mean dull and our favorite DBMS vendors continued mixing it up in the final quarter of 2002 – just like they did the rest of the year.
And there was some good new on the horizon from industry pundits at Aberdeen Group. According to a recent report from the Aberdeen analysts the implementation of new database applications will
allow the database market to grow to over $10 billion by 2003. Growth of any kind is welcome in this day and age. But this report also indicated growing parity between the three major DBMS player –
IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. Further Aberdeen pointed out the difficulty, if not impossibility, of standardizing on a single DBMS product.
The bottom line is that selecting a DBMS is not going to get any easier. New and more features and functions are being packed into every new DBMS release. Feature creep has become a feature race
and none of the leading vendors will be slowing down any time soon. So, the DBMS market continues to grow, but our job gets more difficult as the DBMS products cram in new stuff but increasingly
lack any true differentiating features.
News From Redmond
On that drab note let’s move on with the show and take a look at the goings on of our major players this past quarter. Let’s start off by taking a peak at the news over at Microsoft. First off,
in a bit of semi-DBMS-related news, late in December Sun Microsystems won a legal decision against Microsoft is a U.S. district court. The judge ordered Microsoft to include Sun’s version of Java
with the Windows operating system. This ruling was part of an ongoing battle against Microsoft being waged by Sun in which the company claims that Microsoft is using its monopolistic market
position to stall acceptance of Sun’s Java language and platform. This is interesting. Of course, Microsoft should be allowing its customers to utilize Java on Windows platforms. But Sun seems to
be trying to have it both ways, too. Is Java a proprietary platform or is it open?
At any rate, Java and J2EE compete with Microsoft’s propriety .Net platform. Microsoft cobbled together .Net as a response to Java because Java makes it easier for customers to implement across
multiple operating systems. .Net, on the other hand, is a Windows-only development platform for web services. So, both Java/J2EE and .Net make enable developers to build web services. But J2EE
allows developers to deliver applications on any operating system as long as they use Java; .Net allows developers to deliver applications in any language as long as they are delivered on Windows.
Both are useful but neither is nirvana… how about a web services platform that allows deliver in multiple languages and on multiple platforms regardless of operating system? But who would promote
such a thing?
In other news at Microsoft, early in October Microsoft added six core exams to the roster of elective requirements that can count toward the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA)
- (70-305) Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Visual Basic .NET and Visual Studio .NET
- (70-306) Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Visual Basic .NET and Visual Studio .NET
- (70-310) Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Visual Basic .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework
- (70-315) Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Visual C#™ .NET and Visual Studio .NET
- (70-316) Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Visual C# .NET and Visual Studio .NET
- (70-320) Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Visual C# and the Microsoft .NET Framework
With the addition of the six new exams, the MCDBA elective roster now consists of 11 exams. The MCDBA requires completion of one elective exam and three core exams. The core exams include one of
two SQL Server administration exams, one of two SQL Server design exams, and a networking systems exam. For full details on MCDBA go to http://www.microsoft.com/TrainCert/mcp/mcdba/requirements.asp.
In more tangible news, it looks like the first beta code for Yukon, the next generation of SQL Server, will be available as soon as February or March 2003. News reports indicated that Microsoft
would be providing 1,500 customers and partners with the beta code in mid- to late-first quarter of 2003. But Microsoft’s public stance is that the Yukon beta should ship sometime in the first
half of 2003.
The biggest anticipated features of Yukon include tighter integration with Visual Studio .Net, support for Common Language Runtime (CLR), built-in web services support (.Net), and the availability
of both 32- and 64-bit versions.
Additionally, Microsoft has indicated that Liberty, a 64-bit version of the current SQL Server 2000, should be available sometime in April 2003. This coincides with the expected ship date for
Windows.Net Server 2003.
News from Redwood Shores
The biggest news from Oracle this past quarter was an apparent end to the sales slump it experienced over the past two years. Late in December Oracle reported quarterly earnings for the quarter
ending November 30, 2002. During that period Oracle reported that it earned close to $535 million, which translates to 10 cents a share. Although this translates to a 3 percent decrease from the
nearly $550 million earned during the same period last year, the results topped the consensus estimate of financial analysts, which was 8 cents per share.
Total revenue for the quarter was $2.31 billion, which also represents a 3 percent decline from the $2.38 billion taken in during the same quarter last year. So, even though both earnings and
revenue were down year over year, Oracle touted the better than expected earnings as a reason for optimism about next year. I guess since Oracle’s earnings have fallen for seven consecutive
quarters, it should be easier for the company to improve on their numbers next year. Of course, I doubt that is the way Oracle would phrase it.
In fact, Oracle CFO Jeff Henley puts it this way: “Even during an economic downturn Oracle’s installed base of customers continues to grow, so our revenues from license update rights continue to
rise. That’s the underlying strength in our business model. That’s what allows us to maintain our profitability at high levels even though we increased research and development spending by 15%.”
Even so, at the same time it announced its earning the company also announced that it would be reorganizing its global sales team to spur performance of its applications business. The application
business was down 34 percent for the quarter at $108 million in sales.
Looking into the future, Oracle reported it expects total earnings for next quarter (ending February 28, 2003) to be in the range of 9 to 10 cents per share. The consensus estimate of financial
analysts is 9 cents.
Another interesting factoid for those of us primarily interested in Oracle’s database business is its robust sales figures for database software. Total revenue from new database licenses and
updates came in at $1.15 billion. This figure shows a nice 4 percent increase from the $1.11 billion the software business earned in last year. “We’re pleased that our database business started
to grow again this quarter,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. “We have never been in a stronger position relative to our competitors.”
Oracle’s second quarter operating margin was 34%, equal to last year. But, we should keep in mind that Oracle reduced its work force by more than 800 folks between August and November. This
reduction in payroll helped to boost its earnings in the past quarter. Most of these cuts were in Oracle’s consulting services group.
Other 4th Quarter News of Note
There were a couple of other small items of database news for the quarter. First up came late in the year. On December 20, 2002 Sybase announced its intention to acquire mobile enterprise software
provider AvantGo for $38 million in cash. AvantGo is a widely distributed application for handheld devices. It is used by around 7 million registered Palm and PocketPC subscribers to receive
branded channels of information optimized for viewing on mobile devices.
The acquisition of AvantGo should be good news for users of Sybase’s mobile database systems. Sybase announced it intentions to integrate the AvantGo technology with its own iAnywhere Solutions, a
subsidary focused on mobile database technology.
And finally, in late November 2002, a federal grand jury indicted Phillip White, the former CEO of Informix, on securities fraud charge. White is accused of concealing one of the biggest accounting
scandals in Silicon Valley history. He has been charged with playing a central role in the fraud at Informix that is believed to have cost investors as much as $1 billion. Federal prosecutors
allege that White misled investors about Informix’s financial outlook, concealed information from Informix’s auditors and lied to the Securities and Exchange Commission. White was ousted as
Informix CEO in July 1997.
Of course, we all know that the Informix database software has since been sold off to IBM Corporation and that the shell of the old Informix company is now known as Ascential.
With all of the wild financial accounting practices at companies like Enron and WorldCom this past year you might have forgotten about the problems at Informix five years ago. As a quick reminder,
the old Informix had to restate $300 million in earnings due to accounting “irregularities” that occurred from 1994 through 1997.
To be fair, Mr. White attorneys stated that “Phil White acted properly and responsibly as CEO of Informix. When Mr. White is ultimately cleared, we hope the public and the media will ask why an
innocent man was forced to answer these baseless charges.”
And with that wonderful news we end another year of the Database Report. 2003 looks like it will be another year of feature bloat, vendor backstabbing, and outrageous claims. And you don’t want to
miss any of that, do you? So be sure to check back with TDAN.com next quarter to hear all the latest news about the DBMS market place.