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Oracle Shatters Barrier But IBM Begs to Differ

Oracle Corp.'s announcement Monday that it had become the first firm to shatter the 31-bit address constraints barrier for IBM Corp.'s flagship mainframe operating system OS/390 has left folks at the rival giant scratching their heads.

This is understandable considering the fact that IBM announced more than a year ago that it had broken the barrier with its DB2 Universal Database Server for OS/390, version 6.0.

Specifically, IBM Senior Program Manager Jeff Jones said he found this extremely odd upon hearing a rumor about just that last week. Jones, who swears IBM shattered the address constraints barrier in June of 1999, said he thought Oracle might just be firing off a defensive salvo.

"This seems to be a response to our announcement that we planned to invest $200 million to market software that would lower the cost of running big databases," Jones told InternetNews.com. "I can't imagine that they are getting more out of OS/390 than we are."

But Oracle's Vice President of the Enterprise Platforms Division Dave Dargo said this not the case whatsoever.

"I can see how they [IBM] would think that we are responding, but we aren't making an announcement about what we're going to do -- we've gone and done it," Dargo said. "We are very confident that we have gone beyond what IBM's DB2 has done."

Dargo stressed the play is not aimed specifically at DB2, or at IBM's more than $1 billion investment in database software to remain ahead of the competition. He pointed out that while IBM's marketing strategy is spread out over the next four or five years, Oracle has spent a similar amount of time in developing its latest dependent interface.

What exactly has Oracle done? After four years of testing in laboratories, the firm has waged an attack on IBM's substantially larger database mainframe grasp. This, depending on what studies one looks at, is somewhere between 75 percent and 95 percent. Oracle thinks all of that can change with its new Operating System Dependent Interface (OSDI) with multi-address space capability -- it is faster and can manage more data than IBM's DB2.

Oracle's Dargo said he tested Oracle for the OS/390 at IBM's labs, where he said it crushed the 31-bit addressing constraints through by using multiple address spaces. This testing demonstrated over 31,000 active database threads running against a single instance of Oracle on OS/390. This scalability improvement is approximately 15 times IBM's previous benchmarks, which Dargo said he personally tested and found to be 2,000 threads.

But Jones said this is not accurate. He said that while 2,000 was certainly an "artificial limit" at one point, that subsequent versions of DB2 have serviced up to as many as 150,000 threads. Specifically, he said Ford Motor Co. was a firm that used more than 2,000.

"We've certainly experimented with pooling threads and transaction management since 1992," Jones said. "I mean, what they are doing will certainly help their customers, but there is nothing new in what they've done. They seem to be trying to draw to an area where they are lagging."

Yet Oracle claims the deal is significant for them -- now firms need not rely on IBM anymore for their database mainframes -- the OS has been removed from the equation, according to Vernon Turner, vice president, Global Enterprise Server Solutions, IDC.

"By taking the operating system out of the equation, Oracle can capture new workloads from the mainframe and integrate with older systems," Turner said. "The opportunity and the timing of the opportunity couldn't be better."

Now those who possess the OS/390 may run thousands of Oracle's programs on IBM's hardware. In addition, Oracle for the OS/390 has been launched for other operating systems -- Unix, Windows and Linux.