Oracle starts marketing drive on database upgrade

Wednesday, July 11, 2007; 1:17 PM

BOSTON (Reuters) - Oracle Corp. (ORCL.O) launched a marketing effort on Wednesday to promote an upgrade to its database software, its latest effort to maintain a market lead against IBM (IBM.N) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O)

Oracle executives told a gathering of analysts and customers in New York that the upgrade adds features that will make their data centers more efficient, saving them money and making them more "green," or environment friendly.

Company president Chuck Phillips cited several examples, including compression technology that allows companies to triple the amount of data on their storage equipment over current software.

"Our friends basically don't have any of this ... this innovation," Phillips said during a presentation that was Webcast. "We don't mind defining the roadmap for them."

Unlike upgrades to consumer software such as Microsoft's Windows operating system, Oracle will not be charging most of its customers for the new software, dubbed Oracle 11g. They will be able to download the product at no charge under the terms of service agreements they purchased when they bought products they are currently using.

Ari Kaplan, chief executive of the Independent Oracle Users Group, said he expects about 35 percent of the more than 20,000 members in his organization to upgrade to the new database over the next year.

Kaplan said that was a much higher rate than for previous upgrades to Oracle's database software.

"These are features that customers have been asking for, in some cases demanding," Kaplan told the audience at the Oracle product launch.

It is common for companies to wait several years after the launch of a major software upgrade to start using it amid concern that their business could suffer if bugs crop up after installation.

Companies generally prefer to wait until the upgrade has been tested in the real world, then try it out in their own test centers and gradually deploy it in their data centers.

The users group is an independent organization that educates members on Oracle technology and also lobbies on behalf of its customers on issues related to its products and policies.

Kaplan and his staff advised Oracle on functions that customers wanted included in the new database and also participated in testing it out.

Market researcher IDC estimates that Oracle last year claimed 44 percent of the $16.5 billion relational database market, as sales rose 15 increase from the prior year.

IBM ranked No. 2 with 22 percent of the market as its database sales rose 12 percent.

Microsoft grew at the fastest clip, with its sales rising 25 percent to $3 billion, and giving the software maker a 17 percent database share, according to IDC, which released the data in April, saying the figures were preliminary.

Sybase (SY.N) ranked fourth with just 3.5 percent of the market and NCR Corp.'s (NCR.N) Teradata unit was fifth with 2.9 percent.

Oracle, based in Redwood City, California, was founded 30 years ago as a database software vendor and that software remains its top-selling product.

In its most-recent fiscal year, which ended May 31, sales of database and related products accounted for 71 percent of its $5.9 billion in new software license revenue.

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