A Data-Tinged Look Back at 2008

 As per my regular custom, this final column of the year will take a look back at the most significant data and database-related events of the year. It is late October 2008 as I write this, so please excuse any significant news that may have happened late in the year!

The Big Three DBMS vendors—Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM—continued their acquisition-happy ways in 2008. In early January, Oracle agreed to purchase BEA Systems for approximately $8.5 billion. On the same day that Oracle announced its acquisition of BEA, Sun Microsystems stole Oracle’s thunder by announcing its intention to acquire MySQL for approximately $1 billion. In other 1Q acquisition-related news, IBM bought in-memory database provider Solid Information Technology and Microsoft announced its bid to acquire data search company FastSearch & Transfer. In the second quarter, we saw Oracle acquire the e-TEST suite of web application testing products from Empirix, as well as AdminServer, a maker of insurance policy administration software. IBM was busier than Oracle in 2Q, announcing its intentions to acquire FilesX, Diligent, and InfoDyne Corp.

In the third quarter, Oracle acquired Skywire Software, a provider of insurance software and document management business applications, and ClearApp, a maker of application service management software. The most interesting 3Q acquisition though was Microsoft’s acquisition of DATAllegro, a provider of data warehouse appliances.

This acquisition helps to further Microsoft’s agenda of moving SQL Server deeper into large enterprises by improving data warehousing performance. IBM was active in 3Q, too, grabbing up business rules software provider ILOG. In the fourth quarter, Oracle agreed to acquire Advanced Visual Technology, Ltd., a provider of space planning software for retailers, and Primavera Software, a provider of products specialized across several vertical markets.

Other than the avalanche of acquisitions, the next hottest story was probably the ongoing lawsuit between Oracle and SAP. For those who haven’t been following this lawsuit, it all started early in 2007 when Oracle sued SAP claiming that SAP stole Oracle’s trade secrets. Oracle claimed that TomorrowNow, a subsidiary of SAP, had accessed Oracle’s software documentation inappropriately. The long and the short of it is that the trial is not scheduled to begin until February 2010, so this will take years to resolve.

One of the biggest database technology-related news stories of 2008 was the new version of Microsoft SQL Server. The upgraded SQL Server version offers many improvements, including better data compression, improved scalability, and improvements to concurrent workload management. Originally planned for a first quarter 2008 launch, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 was finally released in August. Financially, the Big Three DBMS vendors reported healthy earnings and remain sound, even during increasingly erratic and troublesome economic times—which further bolsters my primary thesis: Database software is perhaps the best foundation for a software company that desires to grow huge and continue growing. Think about it: Can you come up with a software company bigger than Oracle,Microsoft, and IBM?

All in all, it was an eventful year in the database marketplace … and 2009 looks like it should be just as interesting!