Oracle's mobile play -- Berkeley DB?

SAP acquired Sybase for its innovation in the mobile data space. Will Oracle leverage its own mobile database offering to compete?

There's been much said and written about SAP's announcement that it plans to acquire Sybase, a company considered a leader and innovator in the mobile data space. SAP is now seen as having a leg up on arch-rival Oracle in the emerging mobile market, which is growing like gangbusters.

What is Oracle's option in this area?  Follow suit and also acquire a mobile database vendor?  It may not have to, as Oracle already has Berkeley DB, the small-footprint embeddable open-source database which the software giant acquired with its acquisition of SleepyCat Software back in 2006. At the time of the acquisition and well after that, the acquisition was seen as an attempt to buy into the open-source space -- but beyond that, many analysts and industry watchers were scratching their heads as to what Oracle intended to do with the small database operation.

Now, the ultimate strategy behind the SleepyCat acquisition may be coming to fore with the growing attention on the mobile computing space, and the need for robust databases that will fit into small client devices.

In fact, it was just at the end of March that Oracle made Oracle Berkeley DB 11g Release 2 available, which added new capabilities for the smartphone space, including the introduction of support for the Android mobile platform.  At the time of the release, I spoke with  Marie-Anne Neimat, vice president of development for Oracle, who noted how Berkeley DB's small footprint  -- less than a megabyte) -- means that it can easily be used in limited-resource devices such as smart phones.

This mobile phone capability also represented a shift for Berkeley DB, Neimat said. “Previous versions of Oracle Berkeley DB have been used in some mobile devices, but the lack of the SQL API was a limiting factor. Oracle Berkeley DB 11gR2 provides a unique advantage; it allows the user to choose a familiar SQL API or the key-value API. This release is ideally suited for high-volume mobile devices, while continuing to support the needs of existing non-SQL applications.” Another enhanced feature is simplified data synchronization using the Oracle Database Lite Mobile Server which enables automatic provisioning and synchronization of Oracle Berkeley DB mobile applications and databases.

Will this become a key Oracle weapon for taking on SAP-Sybase as ERP and database systems get more mobilized?