A Data-Tinged Look Back at 2010

As my regular readers know, toward the end of each year I devote an edition of my column to review the significant data and database-related events of the past year. Of course, to meet my deadlines, the column is written before the year is over (this column is being written in November 2010), so please excuse any significant news that may have happened late in the year!

In the first quarter of the 2010 the biggest story was the end of a story begun the previous year - namely, Oracle closing its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. And Oracle's CEO, Larry Ellison claimed that "Our vision for 2010 is the same as IBM's in the 1960s." He talked about how IBM integrated software with its hardware offerings and sold the combination to customers. Oracle's vision for the data center would be the Sun M9000 running Oracle 11g database, Oracle's business applications and Fusion middleware. And Oracle will certify that everything will work together and be optimized for performance. An ambitious plan, but potentially quite lucrative if Oracle is successful.

Nothing piques curiosity and changes the computing landscape quite so forcefully and abruptly as an acquisition. With that in mind, let's review a few of the more notable acquisitions of 2010.

Perhaps the single biggest game-changer in 2010 was SAP's acquisition of Sybase in May 2010 for approximately $5.8 billion. The offer was generous, coming in at a 44 percent premium over Sybase's three-month average stock price. SAP coveted SAP's technology for mobile computing. SAP has been promoting its future as being on mobile devices, such as iPhones, Blackberries, and Droids. Delivering access to business applications over smart phones and other unwired devices is a logical next step for SAP. There is significant growth potential as SAP adds Sybase's mobility capabilities to its business applications.

It will be worth watching to see how SAP manages Sybase's core relational DBMS installed base. Although Sybase ASE has lagged behind the major players (Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft), it still has a significant market share - particularly in the financial services market.

But SAP's acquisition of Sybase was far from the only acquisition-related news of the year. Early in the year (January 5th to be exact) Oracle announced it had acquired data quality vendor Silver Creek Systems. Improving data quality is likely to become a significant business for the database vendors, so this was a wise acquisition for Oracle.

During the year Oracle also bought several other technology companies including AmberPoint, a provider of SOA management capabilities; Convergin, an Israeli-based telco application provider; Phase Forward, an SaaS provider of drug manufacturing software; and Secerno, a database firewall provider. Oracle also purchased the intellectual property assets of Market2Lead, a provider marketing automation software; and technology for prepaid telecommunications billing from eServGlobal.

IBM made several significant data-related acquisitions in 2010, too, the most significant coming in September when it snapped up Netezza, a leader in the data warehouse appliance space. But IBM acquired its share of additional companies over the course of 2010, including National Interest Security Company, adding to IBM's significant analytics capabilities; Initiate Systems, a privately held provider of data integrity software; Cast Iron Systems, a privately held provider of cloud integration software; Sterling Commerce, allowing IBM to further its cloud delivery capabilities; Storwize, a provider of real-time data compression technology; and Unica Corporation, a provider of marketing and web analytics solutions. 

From a technology standpoint, there were several interesting and notable releases during 2010. IBM released DB2 10 for z/OS in October 2010, which brings features such as hashing, temporal support, and out-of-the-box performance improvements. 

In late July, IBM announced the Smart Analytics Optimizer for DB2 for z/OS, which is a high-performance, integrated combination of hardware and software for improving analytic query response. It is based on advanced data in-memory technology and executed on an IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension attached to and managed by the System z server.

In early July Oracle unleashed its Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g (OBIEE) suite. Many Oracle users were eagerly waiting for OBIEE as it had been in development for more than three years. OBIEE is the result of bringing multiple acquired technologies (Hyperion, Siebel, legacy Oracle) together into a single solution. Even so, OBIEE is predominantly based upon Siebel analytics.

In April, Microsoft released SQL Server 2008 R2. Although it sounded like a minor release, it offered many new features. The theme of SQL Server 2008 R2 was self-service BI. This is evidenced by PowerPivot plug-ins for integrating to Excel and Sharepoint, and Report Parts, for publishing sections of reports to a centralized library for reuse. Other significant new features included Master Data Services as well as multiple administrative improvements.


And, of course, there were the daily, weekly, and quarterly travails of quarterly results, lawsuits, and product versions that we've all come to take with a grain of salt, too. But there is only so much room for my column so I had to just cover the highlights. Still, though, it was a busy year in the database world, wasn't it?