Oracle and Sleepycat

Lisa Vaas in eWeeks March 2006 issue asks why did Oracle buy Sleepycat software. Then, with the help of Oracle staffers she got the “answer”. It sounds like one of those cliche filled sports stars interviews.

LV-“Well Bronko why did you guys buy Sleepycat, famous for the Berkley DB Open Source database?”
Bronko – “Well, Lisa, because of the fit. SleepyCat was a natural fit into our database operations. You see we are in the embedded database market with Oracle Lite. And our Times Ten database covers the large-scale in memory database side.”
LV – “So that means …”
Bronko – “Well, Lisa, that means there is a fit. Sleepycat covers the gap in the middle between the small and the large markets.”
LV – “So the fit is important?”
Bronko – “Well yeah … but to tell you the truth, we also want to continue to dabble in Open Source”
LV – “Oracle seems to have a fascination with Open Source ….”
Bronko – “Well, of course, yeah …customers in this market need to customize the database to meet the market demands. So opensource databases, like Sleepycat, are a perfect fit. So we are going to keep the same team, brand and business model. However, just as big to us is penetration into the Open Source community”
LV – “What kind of penetration is that?”
Bronko – Heh heh heh – well you know I shouldnt be telling you this but Oracle wants to learn and profit from the insights that Open Source community can provide.”
LV – “And that is it ?”
Bronko – ” Well yeah … I have told you already too much. … Jeez this is all under covers – you know up and up and uptight…”
LV – “You can count on me to not go any further with this story than what you have already told me…”
And Lisa was true to her words. We did not find out the size of the embedded database market nor the market share of either Oracle Lite or SleepyCat in that market. Likewise mum is the word on the growth(or lack there of) in market for Oracle Lite. And of course, ditto mum ditto is ditto the word ditto on any comments on where InnoDB, the other big Open Source database purchase made by Oracle, fits into the scheme of things. And of course no word on the degree of fit and interoperability between Sleepycats database and Oracle Lite, InnoDB, Times Ten,Oracle 10g Enterprise, etc. It was almost as if a Sleepycat was out getting “the story” on Sleepycat Software.

Here is the Rest of the Story.

Oracle has to watch 3 things. Along with IBM, Microsoft and Sybase – Oracle is in a dirty street brawl for the dominance of the database and software infrastructure marketplaces (Current big blow – mid-range full databases being given away for free by all 3 vendors less ongoing support except through free online forums manned by staff). But Microsoft is in the power position because, despite Linux, Redmond still controls the operating system infrastructure. And having largely and fairly successfully defended the right in their antitrust forays to bundle/include ANYTHING in their operating system (and by extension in any of their other major software offerings), Microsoft can and doe so. In fact bungling is vital to Microsoft interests because they have a poor record on innovation (Windows follows MacOS, Excel follows 123, PowerPoint is a buy out, Cairo never appears, C# and .NET amount to Java clones, IE and IIS are free for the perpetuity of getting rid of Netscape having failed to identify the pervasive nature of the Web, etc, etc).

But Oracles Ellison knows that Microsoft is a superb follower and mop up artist. Once others have done the hard work of trailblazing in the IT marketpace- Microsoft will certainly know when to move, who the key players are and either buy them out or bundle them out of the market. Bundle out uses Microsofts dominant position in one market to “finance” through free bundling new start-up program(s) in a nearby market. Examples of bundle out are Word Perfect, Lotus, Harvard Graphics and all the desktop Office players bundled out through the dominant position of Windows and coerced OEMs. The slow but sure bundle out of all the OS utility market players as their disk defragmentation, file manager, or whatever software found its way into Windows. Or the current bundle out operation is a complete BI stack of programs (ETL, OLAP, Mining, Reporting, BAM/BPM services) worth tens of thousands of dollars bundled free with SQL Server.

Now the three bundle out operations that Larry is watching for in the database and infrastructure arena is 1)lowend up giveaways, 2)business apps sector dominance (Fusion checks MS Business Apps), and 3)OS infrastucture bundle up. It is the first and last that Sleepycat addresses. SleepyCat is very good software in the embedded marketplace. The embedded segment is at least 10 times bigger in CPUs delivered than the PC desktop + network server markets combined. But Larry knows that all those embedded devices are getting increasingly smarter and more capable. And databases are the key to embeddeds getting smarts. Better protect the low end by buying one of the key players before Microsoft does to Oracle as Oracle did to MySQL with its InnoDB buy.

But Larry also has to watch bundling a database with the OS or making the Windows filesystem databased (Access being so bad it has been good to Oracle which has not been much better on the LITE desktop database). Vistas Yukon or its XML-based ilk could provide a lock on the huge in-migration that has yet to occur in database systems in the health, education, social services, and other sectors through smart devices, the web and the desktop. Its the latter, the desktop in-migration through Yukon bundled as part of the OS in WinFS that has to be watched. Oracle LITE is anything but LITE-hence SleepyCat, MySQL, Sybase SQL Anywhere among others also prosper on the desktop as well as in embeddeds. SleepyCat may very well be deployed to protect against the OS bundling ploy.

And once again, that is the Rest of the Story.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006