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Oracle disputes database rankings

The software maker is challenging a study by Gartner Dataquest that says Oracle has lost ground to IBM in the database market.

Oracle is challenging a research report that says the software maker has lost ground to IBM in the database market.

The report, released by Gartner Dataquest on Tuesday, said Oracle had slipped to second place, with about 32 percent market share in the overall database market. IBM had 34.6 percent of the revenue in the overall database market in 2001, according to the report.

But in a statement Wednesday, Oracle said the wrong data was examined in the report and challenged IBM and Microsoft to provide "audited numbers" to analyst firms.

Market share claims are no small matter in the technology sector. Oracle often uses market share statistics to tout its position in the market against rivals such as IBM. While Oracle isn't alone in its market share trash talking, it's one of the front-runners.

"Oracle is challenging assumptions that Oracle is losing market share to competitors given that a review of independent research and the activities of Oracle's install base does not support this," according to the statement, which was attributed to Oracle Chief Financial Officer Jeff Henley.

"The revenue and growth data provided to the industry analysts by the vendors themselves is not independently validated, outside of Oracle's," Henley continued in the statement.

Gartner analyst Betsy Burton, who co-authored the database report, backed the company's research methodology, saying Gartner has a proven track record.

"Our methodology was not questioned in the past by any vendor, including Oracle," Burton said. "We talk to 1,000 clients every single year and use our experience to come up with estimates that accurately reflects what's happening in the marketplace."

Gartner, she said, predicted that Oracle's market share lead was threatened almost two years ago.

"I understand Oracle's reaction right now. They're under a lot of pressure. They're at the end of the quarter and this news comes out," she added. "But for over 18 to 24 months, Gartner has said Oracle's business practices and pricing strategies would affect their revenue. We expected this to happen. Oracle was hurt by belt-tightening, the dot-com backlash, and their credibility was affected by their pricing tactics. Now there's reasonable alternatives in Microsoft and IBM and people are willing to consider alternatives."

Lori Bosio, an IBM spokeswoman, said: "About two years ago, Oracle said, 'IBM's not even a player in the database space.' But since about 18 months ago they have been reacting to our momentum.

"DB2 has grown for 20 consecutive quarters," Bosio added. "We've grown double digits on Unix and Windows. And it's interesting that the details weren't suspect until IBM became No. 1."

Oracle also said that the report examines the overall database market, including older database software running on mainframe systems, instead of the modern database market "comprising Unix, Linux and Windows NT." Oracle said that only IBM benefits from the use of overall market share numbers, since much of Big Blue's database revenue comes from software installed on older systems.

The study found that IBM's DB2 and Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 databases gained market share compared with Oracle's 9i database in all categories, although Oracle still dominated the $3 billion Unix market in 2001.

Microsoft executives would not comment on Gartner's research methodology, but accused its software rival of "whining."

Sheryl Tullis, Microsoft's SQL Server product manager, said Microsoft releases overall server-software revenue each quarter, but doesn't break out specific database sales figures. But Tullis said the company's financial team shares Microsoft's quarterly database revenue growth figures during its quarterly conference call with analysts.

"I just think Oracle is whining. Our financial gurus aren't going to give improper data," Tullis said. "It's amazing to me they think they should have the market lead when they are lowering prices and their SEC filing show they are losing revenue."

News.com's Wylie Wong contributed to this report.