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Oracle’s Latest Attack Ad – Fizzles!

Blogger: Richard Ptak

Oracle advertThe advertisement appeared on the front page of the May 23rd issue of the WallStreet Journal (WSJ). We confess that we envy the budget that Oracle has for placing these ads in the WSJ. As you can see, the ad attacks IBM’s Power 7+ systems.

Obviously, Oracle believes the cost of a front page ad in the WSJ is money well spent, especially so if they convince the paper’s readers that Oracle solutions are both more powerful and cheaper than IBM’s solutions.

This appears to be a bit of a stretch for Oracle as in our experience their software users do not associate the company with low prices, especially in connection with an Oracle database.

That said; let’s move on to examine the ad details. First, note that the performance figures are given without any attached metrics. Certainly, Oracle’s 27, 843 number (highlighted in red) is much larger compared to IBM’s 10,902 (also in red). But what is being measured? The actual metric is given in the fine print at the bottom of the ad. It is SPECjEnterprise2010 EJOPS. An executive reading the paper should reasonably ask: what does an EJOPS number have to do with my IT operation? The answer: “Not Much”.

The benchmark result quoted by Oracle is an industry standard benchmark created and maintained by SPEC . However, the benchmark focuses on Java operations. We are at a loss to identify any real world installation operation that relates very closely to the benchmark. Thus, the claim that is made in the headline of the ad, namely that Oracle gets 2.6x better performance, is limited to this particular benchmark environment. And, it cannot be generalized to any other environment.

It is also worth pointing out that the body of the ad makes it appear that the benchmark applies to IBM’s Power 7+ and Oracles SPARC T5. However, reading the fine print (at the bottom) you find that the benchmark only compares a single, specific IBM system, the IBM 780 to one specific Oracle system, the T5-8. Therefore, the results do not apply across the board to all Power7+ systems or even all T5 systems.
Finally, we look at the cost quoted in the ad, namely $805,000 for IBM versus $299, 000 for Oracle. The SPEC benchmark upon which the ad is ostensibly based does not include any cost. Therefore, the dollar figure which appears to be associated with the benchmark is, in reality, totally unrelated to it . It is just plugged in by Oracle.

So, let’s just stop for a moment and analyze the number. This appears to be the price just for the server without any software, such as the operating system, database, etc. or necessary hardware (like storage, network, etc.) It is frequently the case for Oracle systems that the software represents the major (and largest) part of the cost. Therefore, without knowing the prices of these additional items, the cost comparison is not informative. What Oracle is doing is roughly equivalent to comparing automobiles by only looking at the cost of the engines. No one would accept such a comparison as valid.

We devoted this time to parsing Oracle’s ad because of where it appeared. In general, WSJ readers are unlikely to be familiar with the technical details of a SPEC benchmark and how to interpret them. We thought it worthwhile to provide some additional insight into what is and isn’t being said.
Now, Oracle may actually be able to put together a credible case of its competitive advantage against IBM. But, this ad definitely does not make that case. However, if Oracle was only trying to attract the attention of executives reading the WSJ, they will likely see this ad as a success. We like to think this analysis helps those executives to put these claims in proper perspective.

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