While SAP has made no secret of its desire to lure customers running Oracle databases over to its own HANA in-memory platform, any doubt that Oracle would fight back has been erased.
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison unveiled an upcoming in-memory option for Oracle's recently released 12c database on Sunday, a bit more than two years after HANA went into general availability. And on Monday, co-President Mark Hurd said emphatically that Oracle customers would be best served by staying put.
"I don't like it when Exadata or the in-memory options get compared with SAP HANA," Hurd said at a press conference during the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco on Monday. "I don't think it's even comparable. HANA has to be programmed. What we told you about [Sunday] has nothing to do with that. You're not rewriting anything. I refute the thesis that they're comparable."
Putting it more bluntly, Hurd said, "Forget them."
Hurd repeated Ellison's assertion that Oracle customers can simply "flip a switch" once the in-memory option is available, and find their analytic and transactional applications running a whole lot faster.
The in-memory option is now in a "pre-beta" stage of development and will be released some time next year, said Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president of database server technologies, during a keynote address earlier Monday.
Hurd was also quick to stress that Oracle has had in-memory capabilities such as the TimesTen caching software for a while now.
He declined to reveal pricing for the upcoming in-memory option, which is likely to be a key lever of opportunity for Oracle to retain database customers who are interested in SAP HANA.
While the in-memory option obviously won't be free of charge, Oracle could apply its traditionally steep discounts off list price and make a compelling case for customers to stick with its database platform rather than undergo a potentially more expensive and risky move to HANA. In turn, Oracle's pricing for the in-memory option could force SAP itself to trim HANA's cost.
Also, while the in-memory option isn't available just yet, using history as a guide, most Oracle database customers running version 11g won't be upgrading to 12c any time soon, preferring to let others take the risk of working out any remaining kinks. That means Oracle has plenty of time to make its case to existing customers.
Overall, the competitive fires between Oracle and SAP seem freshly stoked, evidenced by the tone of a response to Hurd's remarks from Vishal Sikka, who heads up all development at SAP.
"Well, they are right that it is not comparable to HANA," Sikka said in an emailed statement. "The in-memory option they announced completely misses the point because the column store is read-only, and therefore it is a redundant replica of data in the row store, which means redundant storage and at least 5x larger size."
"Plus, it hasn't actually been released yet, so please come back and talk to us when it is available," Sikka added.
There are now 2,000 HANA customers globally, with more than 300 of them interested in running SAP's Business Suite on the platform, according to an SAP spokesman. More than half of all HANA deployments are for non-SAP applications, SAP said.
An SAP spokesman could not say on Monday how many HANA projects today involve successful switches from Oracle.