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SAP vs. Oracle: Users speak out

As the battle for business applications supremacy heats up, Oracle users are standing by Larry Ellison and Fusion while SAP customers say NetWeaver will lead the way to victory.

The ongoing fight for business applications supremacy between Oracle and SAP AG has technology professionals taking sides.

Some think that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's vision and solid track record point to victory for the Redwood City, Calif.-based database giant, while others believe that the NetWeaver platform and battle-tested ERP software give SAP the edge.

The so-called battle royal between SAP and Oracle has soared to new heights in recent months. Oracle unveiled more pieces of its Fusion vision early this year. The mixture of service-enabled middleware and applications gained through Oracle's acquisitions of PeopleSoft Corp., J.D. Edwards & Co., Siebel Systems Inc., Retek Inc. and others will be targeted squarely at existing and potential customers of German ERP stalwart, SAP. Meanwhile, SAP is executing a plan to service-enable its entire application suite around its NetWeaver platform.

SearchSAP.com and SearchOracle.com asked industry experts Joshua Greenbaum and Faun deHenry to debate the technology strategies of both software vendors. The columns resulted in an outpouring of impassioned responses from readers -- some in support of Ellison and Oracle's Fusion strategy and some favoring SAP's vertical industry expertise and NetWeaver plans.

Pricing, track record said to give Oracle a boost

Contributor Faun deHenry's contention that SAP is far more expensive to run than Oracle really struck a chord with Burckhard Zoellner, a business analyst with IT training and systems integration consultancy RPC Data South Africa, an Oracle partner.

Zoellner, who says he has worked with both Oracle and SAP users throughout his career, believes that the Nucleus Research study cited by deHenry is right on in its conclusion that Oracle's average three-year total cost of ownership (TCO) is 48% lower than SAP's. The business analyst said that the TCO issue is particularly important to companies in developing areas.

"My feeling is that the pricing from SAP is far too high," Zoellner said. "I know this has been a problem."

Zoellner also said that he disagrees with any argument faulting Oracle for expanding into the business applications market through acquisition rather than purely through internal development. The move makes perfect sense, he said, because from a technological standpoint Oracle has taken its core database business about as far as it can go.

A "fully developed" core database offering means that Oracle's developers will have more time to focus on the development and delivery of the first round of Fusion applications, Zoellner predicted.

"I think the Fusion strategy will get all of the development resources needed," Zoellner said. "Oracle always manages to get their things up and running and get them right."

SAP: The potential SMB leader

The battle is brewing in the small and midsized business (SMB) market where Oracle sells its Special Edition product and SAP sells its All-in-One and Business One suite. In this part of the market, the strength of the partner network rules and SAP may have the edge over Oracle, according to David Kong, a business development manager at Singapore-based ESP Management and Consulting Pte Ltd., an SAP partner.

"The culture in the Oracle Partner relationship does not bode well for any form of industry verticalization," Kong said. "SAP partners are more willing to invest … to get their SAP [All-in-One] solution verticalized compared to an Oracle solution, thus to the end customer; [SAP All-in-One] is essentially a shorter implementation, has a highly knowledgeable partner, and probably a more successful implementation."

The SOA factor

Web services and service oriented architectures are making the battle between Oracle and SAP a moot point, according to Doug Hadden, who serves as director of product management at Ottawa, Canada-based FreeBalance, a financial, budget and human capital management software provider focused on the governments of developing nations.

"The ERP category will become so stale that it wouldn't matter who wins this war; If you look at the footprint of both SAP and Oracle you'll see that they're crossing the boundaries of all sorts of ERP areas," Hadden said "Thanks to SOA and Web services and standards, the assembly of the application at the customer site will become more important than the individual components where they come from."

Never count out Ellison

But Mike Green, an Oracle DBA with Frederick, Md.-based FKI Logistex sees Oracle coming out on top when the dust settles. The strength of its database business and combined Fusion middleware and acquisition technologies will eventually give Oracle a superior product set, he said.

"When Larry sets his sights on something, he'll do what ever it takes to get there," Green said. "I don't think he will ever give up. He's not going to go down without a fight."

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