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Oracle offers $1 million challenge--again

The database giant challenges rival BEA Systems by guaranteeing its software runs faster, or Oracle will pay customers $1 million.

Larry Ellison is putting his money where his mouth is--again.

Oracle executives Wednesday will claim that the company's database and e-commerce software will run Web sites three times faster than rival offerings from BEA Systems, or Oracle will pay customers $1 million.

Ellison, Oracle's chief executive, made a similar guarantee in October that Oracle's software would outpace IBM and Microsoft products.

So far, no one has attempted to cash in on Ellison's original offer two months ago, said Scott Clawson, a director of marketing at Oracle.

"We're extending the offer to BEA customers. If you move to Oracle (products), and if you don't see a three-times improvement in performance, we'll pay you $1 million," Clawson said.

Oracle competes against IBM, Microsoft, BEA and others in the market for Internet infrastructure software that helps companies create e-business Web sites. Oracle also competes with IBM and Microsoft in the market for database management software, which stores and retrieves vast amounts of information.

Microsoft at last month's Comdex trade show openly mocked Ellison's original million-dollar challenge by distributing free mugs touting its database software performance and poking fun at Ellison.

Oracle executives said the $1 million guarantee is based on its current 8i database and new 9i application server software for processing e-commerce transactions. BEA recently released a new version of its own application server.

BEA chief executive Bill Coleman called Oracle's move a publicity stunt.

Coleman said the company is willing to help its customers win $1 million from Oracle, which will prove that BEA's technology is better.

"Let's put Larry's money where his mouth is. We'll provide free consulting to help customers win that $1 million," Coleman said. "We want 100 customers to do this, so Oracle can give away $100 million. That will really help their profits."

Coleman added that he doesn't expect any BEA customers to spend the time and effort, however. "If you have an application working, why spend money to bring it up to another application server?"

Oracle's new application server features caching software, which replicates Web site information stored in databases. Oracle executives say the technology helps deliver information to Web surfers faster because sites don't have to retrieve database information each time a request comes in.