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Deconstructing the Oracle SAP ads

Philistines that we are, we always enjoy a good technical cat fight, at least when it teaches us more about the technology in question. And perhaps there is no greater IT kerfuffle these days than the one between Oracle Inc. and SAP AG. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison does not shy from speaking bluntly, and SAP Americas CEO and president Bill McDermott doesn't pull punches either.

Now, both Oracle and SAP are respected Enterprise Resource Planning system providers, so we don't doubt the credibility of either. And both are marketing their Service Oriented Architecture capabilities with much gusto.

Still, we were surprised about the directness of the Oracle advertisements about SAP that have run in the trade pubs recently.

One ad notes that Oracle's new Fusion platform is written in Java, while SAP's new Netweaver platform uses the Advanced Business Application Programming Language, an older, lesser-known SAP-specific language. The insinuation here is that ABAP experts might be difficult to find, you may have to send your IT folks for additional training, and you won't be able to use libraries written by others.

Other ads chide SAP for using a proprietary middleware, having no Lightweight Directory Access Protocol support, and for doing no work on Master Data Management, among other things.

Whew! Quite the list of charges. I caught up with SAP vice president Bill Wohl, who is head of SAP's product and technologies communications group, not so much out of fairness (Hey, SAP can buy their own ads), but just out of sheer curiosity. What did the company execs feel about the taunts, and did they care to respond to any of the allegations?

'Frankly, we don't respond to those ads,' Wohl said. He was more than willing to talk about the overall intent of the campaign, which he characterized as Oracle 'playing loose with the facts.' He just wouldn't go through the allegations line by line, which he said would set off a tit-for-tat battle. (Though he did insist that ABAP is 'one of the world's most successful programming languages' supported by over 30,000 companies worldwide. 'It's not some tired old language,' he said, but noted that users could also deploy Java or .NET. He also mentioned that SAP does have a Master Data Management development program.)

Wohl stressed that the ads are unfair insofar as that they compare an existing platform with one yet to be fully released. SAP's NetWeaver is already available while Fusion is still in development. Then again, Oracle has at least preliminarily clarified its Fusion architecture and how it will bind Siebel, PeopleSoft, the e-Business suite and its other disparate components.

D'oh! We've fallen into the tit-for-tat after all. As for the end-users who have been befuddled by all the back and forth between the two companies, Wohl suggested that they consult third-party experts, such as trusted consultants.

'The worst place to get your information about SAP is from Oracle ads,' he said. Now that's advice we could agree with.

Posted by Joab Jackson

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Mar 31, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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