The battle for the king of the hill in the business applications space has seen escalating tensions between Oracle and SAP in recent months.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Oracle has claimed to have outperformed its competitors, with license revenues from business applications growing by 80 percent in the fourth quarter this year compared to the same period last year. The software giant also claims to have excelled in specific vertical industries like financial services and communications where, for example, Oracle CRM (customer relationship management) software sales grew by 272 percent.
To stay ahead of the game, Oracle has restructured itself around vertical industries such as financial services, manufacturing and communications. "We've reorganized our sales force, consulting and technical organizations to fit into this (new) structure," said Mark Gibbs, senior vice president for applications at Oracle Asia-Pacific.
This reorganization, Gibbs added, was a contributing factor to Oracle's "spectacular growth" in its business applications. "Undeniably, we are growing at least three times faster than SAP in Asia, and significantly higher than the market average," he claimed.
Rival SAP, which reported 22 percent growth in the region during the second quarter this year, has in turn asserted that Oracle has been growing through acquisitions, not organically.
Citing analyst remarks from Merrill Lynch, Colin Sampson, SAP's senior vice president and chief operating officer for Asia-Pacific, said his company is continuing to gain market share, and "growing significantly faster than the rest of the industry".
"If they (Oracle) are growing three times faster than us, then how can we be increasing market share? The arithmetic doesn't work out. Something must be wrong with the math," Sampson said.
"The analysts also expect Oracle to lose market share in the coming years. The growth they are reporting is (due to) their acquisitions instead of organic growth. If you strip away the acquisition growth, their (net) growth would be negative," he claimed.
Alan Tong, IDC's research manager for enterprise applications, does not rule out organic growth within Oracle. After all, he said, the company has seen 300 percent growth for Oracle E-Business Suite Special Edition targeted at SMBs in the fourth quarter last year.
Tong added that while there is no doubt the PeopleSoft acquisition has contributed to Oracle's performance numbers, the company's growth in vertical industries like financial services has been significant as well.
To wrestle customers away from each other, both Oracle and SAP have dangled carrots, including attractive licensing payment plans, free consulting and discounts on maintenance costs.
Oracle's OFF SAP program targets SAP R/3 customers faced with having to re-license and re-implement their applications in their upgrade to mySAP ERP or mySAP Business Suite. It hopes to migrate them to the Oracle E-Business Suite.
SAP R/3, based on the proprietary ABAP programming language, is the German software company's integrated platform for business applications, while the newer mySAP platform runs on open Web services standards.
When contacted by ZDNet Asia, Oracle was not able to provide cases where SAP customers have been successfully poached over, but Gibbs revealed that the program has drawn customer enquiries. He said that 31 percent of the respondents to the OFF SAP program were from the Asia-Pacific. "They've come back asking for interviews and meetings with Oracle," he said.
Criticizing SAP's recent announcements on its customer wins for its Safe Passage program, Gibbs said: "They came up with three customers, and that was nonsense. They weren't Oracle customers. They are falsely representing (the wins), and we certainly won't be doing that."
SAP's Sampson noted that only time will tell if its rival's customers will jump ship, and acknowledged that not everybody will walk over from Oracle. "It's a safe passage, but that's not saying we will capture all (Oracle) customers immediately."
"If they want to migrate to SAP now, we have a rollout strategy for them. We give them credits for their investments. If they don't, we can maintain what they have now for a number of years at 50 percent of the maintenance (cost) they're paying now."
Kristian Steenstrup, research vice president of Gartner, noted that "both companies will have some success with OFF SAP and Safe Passage, but it will only involve a small minority of each other's customers".
"What customers must look at are the terms and conditions, particularly in replacement licenses, because in the world of software, nothing is free," he cautioned.
It's still early days to crown the winner of this ongoing battle, given that Oracle and SAP have their own strengths and weaknesses, he said.