Oracle: The new industry bad boy?

From wallowing in rubbish to standards politicking, Oracle is getting it on all sides. Critics say bigger troubles loom

In the same week that Oracle suffered through a public relations debacle about disclosures of a dumpster-dredging campaign against Microsoft, the database kingpin celebrated a more private and successful victory over its arch-rival.

Oracle -- with the eager participation of Sun Microsystems -- managed to overturn one of Microsoft's most coveted database benchmark claims. At the Windows 2000 launch in February, chairman Bill Gates proudly announced Microsoft had achieved a world-record transaction processing result with Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2000, running on a dozen Compaq ProLiant servers.

But last Thursday, the Transaction Processing Council voted down the Microsoft-Compaq result, saying it violated a technical data-transparency provision. The TPC, a non-profit consortium whose membership largely comprises systems vendors, publishes transaction processing and database benchmarks -- and its decision toppled Microsoft from the top of the benchmark heap.

Yet several sources claiming familiarity with the TPC standards-body processes say Oracle and Sun have been searching out loopholes to shoot down the Compaq-Microsoft results.

Oracle officials declined comment while Sun did not return phone calls.

TPC chairman Jerrold Buggert acknowledged that the Microsoft-Compaq TPC-C benchmark result had been invalidated by the vote of the general council at a meeting in Oregon last week. (The TPC-C is an industry standard test that measures transaction-processing-system throughput in terms of orders processed per minute.) But he declined comment on how the vote had come to pass, asserting that "all deliberations of the TPC are confidential."

Microsoft, however, was not quite so reticent. "You wouldn't expect these shenanigans from a company that calls itself 'your trusted advisor for e-business'," said Barry Goffe, group manager for Microsoft's Windows DNA platforms. "But we can't even trust them to take out the garbage."

Goffe's quip was in reference to Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison's admission that Oracle had hired a private detective firm to gather information about Microsoft's funding of third-party trade associations and think tanks. Oracle said that Microsoft had paid these organizations, which contend they are independent, to sway public opinion in the software giant's antitrust battle against the US Department of Justice.

To be sure, some sources note that the Microsoft-Compaq configuration was not a replicable, reliable, real-world example of a clustered database system. By the same token, the TPC results for Oracle 8 and Oracle 8i a year ago were produced on cluster configurations featuring a minimum of 12 CPUs, with total hardware and software costs ranging from a minimum of $1.6m to nearly $16m.

Go to Pt II.

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