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IBM Promises SAP-Specific Database

Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's SIM Group, touts a version of DB2 optimized for SAP applications that is due out later this quarter.
While Oracle's Larry Ellison does his best to pick a fight with SAP, IBM is working to cement its ties to the ERP kingpin.

On the drawing board from IBM later this quarter is a version of its database specifically tailored to run SAP applications, IBM's top data management executive told CRN.

"We are working on an optimized version of DB2 for SAP," said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM Software's Information Management group. She cited the company's long-running ties with the ERP kingpin but declined further detail except to say IBM will likely discuss the move at its PartnerWorld Conference next month.

An IBM insider said this plan differs from IBM's tradition of benchmarking DB2 running SAP applications because IBM is enabling new features to provide easier configuration and management and better availability of SAP solutions.

Officials from SAP America would not comment. The company can already resell DB2 into its accounts, the bulk of which still run Oracle databases.

As Oracle starts to digest its $10.3 billion buyout of PeopleSoft, a land grab has started among vendors whose products both compete and complement each other. Oracle's PeopleSoft buy gives it credibility in business applications that it had lacked, observers said. But while more than half of PeopleSoft's applications run on Oracle databases, a good percentage also run on DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server. And, PeopleSoft now includes J.D. Edwards, with a strong legacy of applications running on IBM's iSeries (or AS/400) platforms.

As a result, Oracle CEO Ellison, who used to make IBM bashing an art form, has taken to whispering sweet nothings about Big Blue in public places. He has re-stated pledges that Oracle will support customers running Oracle/Peoplesoft wares on IBM middleware and databases. He admitted to analysts this week that improving Oracle's rapport with IBM, is a priority.

On that point, he and Perna can agree. IBM Software has long said it will work with ISVs of all types and focus on customer needs. In an interview last week, she said that focus has paid off—with IBM's database business up 15 percent year over year for its fourth quarter and content management business up 31 percent.

Those are just the sort of numbers the old Ellison would have blasted because IBM will not provide actual figures. In the past he has said IBM obscures its real software sales numbers while Oracle's database business was an open book.

Perna acknowledges that the merged PeopleSoft-Oracle is a huge factor. "They have a lot of people, they've increased the size of their apps market. Our commitment is to continue to support the customers we have. We have thousands of PeopleSoft customers on IBM hardware and software and are committed to continuing to provide support," she said.

She lauded Ellison's and Oracle's public pronouncements of cooperation as well.

On the flipside, Oracle has "a boatload of work to do integrating these companies, cultures, and technologies and we are charging ahead," she said.

As for the proposed SAP-optimized DB2, SAP resellers were bullish. "IBM is a strong partner of SAP. [By] optimizing DB2, it's allowing us to reduce the total cost of ownership of any type of enterprise applications system and provides interoperability across platforms and across the data in the database itself," said Brad Nicolaisen, president of Et Alia, a Milwaukee SAP partner. He added that an SAP-specific DB2 could be very attractive and cost-effective to small and medium-sized companies.

Mike Howard, vice president of sales at Bramasol, a Palo Alto, SAP specialist said the bulk of his customers are running the applications on SQL Server. IBM's move is definitely made to counter Oracle, he noted. "What's important is that SAP runs on all databases so customers have choice," he noted.

IBM shows no sign of letting up on its data management push. it is also working on a 'hybrid' database that would offer native support for relational and unstructured data.

ROCHELLE GARNER contributed to this story.